Sunday 25th February , 2007

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T&T spirit trumps prophets of doom

The Merry Monarch has ended his glorious reign confounding the countless Cassandras that Carnival 2007 would have been calamitous largely because of crime and resistance to change; shifting Carnival’s focal point from the stage to the streets.

Instead, citizens and visitors alike have enjoyed a safe, clean Carnival, with its share of controversy over Cro Cro’s winning calypso, which Tuco has dismissed, and accusations of sampling against Barbadian Biggie Irie’s winning selection, which he dismisses. (What would Carnival be without it?)

The conviviality was clearly evident from the images and utterances of masqueraders and spectators. Nor was it lost on the media. This newspaper last Thursday editorialised: “Take a bow T&T: That Carnival 2K7 exceeded expectations seems to be the predominant sentiment of many of its active participants and comes in the face of the many prophets of doom and gloom who were waiting to tear T&T’s annual pre-Lenten festival to shreds…

“Another major achievement of the year’s Carnival is the fact that while it was held against the backdrop of significant and heightened security fears, most participants in, and spectators of, the festival were able to enjoy themselves free from fear.

“For this, the nation owes a debt of gratitude to the law enforcement agencies who worked overtime to ensure that, for most, Carnival 2007 was safe and secure.”

“Proud Carnival tradition lives on” was the Express’ opinion last Wednesday: “A glance at the individuals and the groups that held the spotlight over the last three weeks makes one thing crystal clear. Despite all the tendency for self-ridicule, for fault-finding and for serious guessing there remains an enormous amount of commitment to Carnival in all forms…

“The grand climax of Carnival ’07 saw also massive turnouts from some of the bigger bands, as well as enthusiastic participation from the medium and smaller outfits who kept faith with the Carnival idea.

“Such decisions, such determination from those thousands of ordinary people, represented perhaps the greatest rebuff to any notion that crime or any other facet of a perceived sense of a national unease would dampen this spirit”

Those of us who try to understand the people of this small, infinitely complex country would not have been surprised. The joie de vivre that is innate in us, often contemptuously referred to as evidence of our un-responsibility, is not.

It incorporates the essence of our Trinbagonianess and speaks to a sense of limits among the vast majority of us. While there undoubtedly exists our tendency to lawlessness eg littering, noise pollution, bad driving, we do hold the line on the major issues.

This explains why T&T did not descend into chaos during the security upheavals of 1970 and 1990, the bogus “refugee crisis” of the late eighties, which in reality was a crude attempt by some to exploit Canadian immigration laws.

It explains the calm that prevailed during the period of the 18:18 hung Parliament that failed to elect a Speaker simply because the UNC Leader Basdeo Panday, unilaterally, repudiated the Crowne Plaza Accord he negotiated with the PNM Leader to resolve this unprecedented situation.

Instead of chaos, the rule of law and responsible government prevailed, and no backlash occurred in the wake of the refugees’ attempt to sully the country’s good name internationally. Flexible though we may be, the people of T&T have limits.

These limits and the authorities’ serious work, in particular the security services, so often made scapegoats, resulted in crime not spoiling Carnival 2007.

Remarkably, neither did change. Recall all the dire predictions following the removal of Carnival judging from the Savannah stage to the streets, holding the Panorama Finals in San Fernando and the Dimanche Gras at the Jean Pierre Complex. None materialised.

To the contrary, there has been a thumbs up for every one of the changes and calls from bandleaders, masqueraders and spectators for next year’s Carnival to retain this year’s changes.

What was the secret to this swift embrace of change? The answer was the same in every case: the better management of the pre-Carnival events at their new locations; the smoother flow of bands at competition sites given the absence of congestion, resulting in more mas-playing time for the revellers.

NCC’s Chairman, Keston Nancoo, attributes this outcome to the discipline of events management from planning to implementation.

No explanation for the success of Carnival 2007 could exclude those who came after—the sanitation workers. The transformation of the City by Ash Wednesday morning, when mounds of garbage seemingly disappeared, was truly remarkable and could only have been possible because of their dedication. They too have earned our gratitude.

Not so the Cassandras who, fortunately, cannot now say I told you so. But would any of them now come forward and admit they were too judgmental about their country and its institutions? Would, eg the Travel Agents’ Association and its president issue a post-Carnival statement in light of their disturbing pre-Carnival comments about crime?

Surely the time has come for us to demonstrate our maturity by resisting the temptation to take a simplistic, one-dimensional view of things, often because they reflect our bias.

Thus there are those who, because of this would readily express the view that Carnival bands were smaller because of crime. Such people would find it inconvenient to accept an equally rational alternative explanation that inflationary increases in costume prices were adversely affecting participation. Fortunately, their influence is limited.

Perhaps Commissioner Paul summed up Carnival 2007 best: “From the evaluation conducted primarily given by those who participated and to a large extent by those who looked on, they did evaluate this year’s Carnival as a success… In fact, those who missed Carnival would have regretted missing one of the best Carnivals ever.”

In other words the spirit of T&T prevailed.

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