Tuesday 22nd February, 2005



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Fun or abomination?

By Balgobin Ramdeen

When I was a boy my parents would take my siblings and me on Carnival days to Cunapo, which was the name commonly used for Sangre Grande. We went “to see mas.”

We lived in what has recently been described by a journalist in a daily newspaper as “Sangre Chiquito, a nice place to be.” That was in the thirties. It was a family day out for enjoyment and clean fun.

We had no huge bands with expensive costumes. There was the ole mas, the jab jab, the stickmen, the small bands going up and down the one-street town.

We did not even have sno-cones. We had snowball where each order was filled by the vendor shaving his block of ice and crowning it with delicious syrup.

Those were the “ole time days” when, if a jab molassi approached, from the time the tin pan beat was heard, the head of the family had a penny or two ready to put in the collector’s hand so the obscene wining would not be prolonged in the presence of the females in the family.

All the masqueraders were fully garbed in colourful costumes—except for the repugnant jab molassi. Today he has become art and culture, evidence of our descent into the pit!

In those days young lovers met in secret. Young people respected their elders. Girls and women were shy and had a sense of modesty and propriety. No female would dare dress like a tart or walk half-naked in public.

I love Nappy Mayers’ song Bring Back the Ole Time Days. What nostalgic memories he evokes!

In the fifties I went to England. I was shocked to see young couples kissing in public, on the pavements in the parks, on public transport. I saw females wearing trousers and wondered at the biblical injunctions which forbade such things. As colonial masters they had come to lay down the standard of behaviour for us colonials. I was aghast.

Then in the sixties at Hyde Park where the “Flower People”—the young, the carefree, the social rebels—held a concert. And there was a lovely young girl walking through the crowd stark naked! It was the time of social revolution when the young were discarding the norms and values set by the older generation.

But they still retained some values. The Profumo scandal showed that some acts of indiscretion and immorality would not be overlooked. If you lied to Parliament—out you went. We, in this so-called land of calypso, have cultivated all the bad habits from the “white” countries and very little, if any, of their virtues.

We are rapidly losing paradise. In the days of yore when men worked for 35 cents a day, getting two or three days work a week in the cocoa plantation in Sangre Chiquito, and women 25 cents a day if they were lucky to get a day or two a week of work, there was morality and dignity, even among the poorest of the poor. Women prized their femininity.

If the labourers who lived in the estate barracks or in chattel houses saw two dogs joined together in copulation in the road or in any place, they would go to the standpipe, fill a bucket of water and throw it on he dogs, causing them to separate, before the eyes of children could behold such a sight! Gone are those days of decency! Then we had a sense of shame.

The more affluent the members of society have become the more “educated” they claim to be, the more they have ascended the social and political ladder—the more shameless their vulgarity, their lewdness, the obscenity of their behaviour displayed on Carnival days! They feel they must descend into the gutter to be “with it.” They join their peers!

The television, an accommodating partner in this descent into the gutter, beams into every home scenes where couples lie on the stage “dressed” in the skimpiest costume of beads, and simulate the sex act.

Others exhibit the new fad of pretending to have anal sex, sometimes a line of them in an apparent orgy. Somebody should throw a bucket of water on them. Some of the sweating women raise their leg in the air and whirl around. To cool down?

Small wonder that when masqueraders are sexually aroused in this manner, what with the flow of alcohol and the sound of loud music, there is an explosion of pregnancies and births post-Carnival. How many acts of adultery take place? In that moment of madness, how many become infected with Aids? At what cost to our country and our health services?

We are descending lower and lower into the vortex of this maelstrom of decadence and sin because we are, as Naipaul contemptuously called us, mimic men. We blindly follow what we think are 2020 white nations, we move with “the crowd,” we want to be “with it,” we suffer from a sense of inferiority complex.

And those who should be the shepherds guiding the flock? They will have to give a serious account of their stewardship on the day of their judgment! They have remained dumb when they should have spoken out to halt the growing obscenity which we call Carnival today.

Lest they lose some of their flock to the marauding newcomers of American cults, they have remained silent. Going to church on Ash Wednesday will not wash away our sins.

We are making the people of Sodom and Gomorrah look like saints. Perhaps the Prime Minister will join the mighty host of prayerful penitents. And we will sing “See the mighty host advancing.”

May God save our nation.

Balgobin Ramdeen is a former MP



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