Election bell ring, Ms. Democracy

Dem a di don, to di biz we av di key
put di don to di key and turn him inna donkey
—Ting a Ling, Shabba Ranks

The election bell ring. It wake up Democracy from a deep drunken sleep. She sit up and watch the clock and steups. A long watery one. The kind of special steups you save for when you in government office for an hour trying to do something that should take five minutes.
Democracy put on the radio to see who else dead in the night. She listen to the bacchanal. She switch and listen to the fearmongers.
She smile and shake her head at the callers. Near hysterics with the latest piece of stupidness that just get revealed.
She wonder if nothing else going on in this forceripe little island except for badjohns with guns and badjohns with seats in Parliament.
They coming for her just now. They coming to dress her up pretty and loud for a few weeks and parade her about like a trophy wife.
Democracy wish she could say half the things that in her head and heart to say. That could turn things around and make a difference to the lives of those who need it the most.
The ones who depending on the government or the opposition to actually represent them and engage them in creating a brighter future.
Democracy take a sip of her coffee watching the clouds gather on the hills. This is a sweet time of the day when the light is perfect.
The hills used to be so green. But is development, nah. Is development and the need for housing that have less trees on the hills and rivers on mud running down her street.
It had a time when she used to try and make a difference. She used to talk.
They say she is a trouble aker. They say she trying to make confusion. They say she trying to stop people from eating a food.
Democracy, hush yuh firetrucking mouth so I could make a lil kickback.
They don’t know who is me or what? Like they forget the meaning of my name. Like they forget that is because of me they reach anywhere in the first place.
She give up on fighting them now. She give up because the licks starting to take a toll. The emotional abuse starting to make her forget the meaning of her own name.
Democracy is good at hiding the bruises now. She learn how to do that long time. She eat so much licks in her time that she know how to turn her face so that when the lash pass it wouldn’t leave too big a mark. Not too bad.
Democracy go on Facebook. She watch her newsfeed and roll her eyes at the political blogs. She not really sure why she following them in the first place.
A set of idlers who like to hide behind they computer and pontificate about what wrong with Trinidad.
But if she were to call them and ask them to come and help her out, they woulda start to stutter and well, ahm in her ears and tell her how it eh really have nothing she could do.
See? We’re so free here. We give you a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea and you should be grateful for that.
She going to spend the next few weeks wining for rum and roti.
Democracy watch herself long and hard in the mirror. She not looking too bad. She could still smile and convince people that she is beautiful. She could still make a show that she matters and is of value.
The money they paying her to show up, well she could make a good living on that. She could go away every now and again. She could buy nice things and go on the Avenue and lime.
Democracy figure is compensation enough for her pains.
They coming for her just now. They coming to show her off in the papers. On the hustings. She getting some good gigs for the next few weeks.
Is like Carnival time when they does play local music on the radio.
After elections she going to disappear just like soca. Until next time.
The rain falling again.
The sky weeping tears on her behalf. Endless tears. The sky have more water than Wasa, that’s for sure. She can’t cry now. She smile at her face in the mirror. She skin her teeth and practise kissing babies. She swallow hard to get rid of the lump in her throat.
Now that the election bell ring. How it go look if Democracy looking bad?

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The Bacchanal Now Start

They cah stop the bacchanal

They cah stop the festival

Nutting cah stop the carnival

Because tis the season to wine

Hold someting and wine

Hold somebody and wine

I telling yuh

Wining Season, Machel Montano

Who needs to play mas when there are people playing it on TV for us? A big big mas. Even before Carnival Monday and Tuesday. This kind of mas is the one to beat all cockfight. This kind of mas is even more exclusive than all the bikini bands with rope around them charging more money for a miniscule piece of cloth than most Trinbagonians stand to make for the first three months of the year. Only certain people could play this kind of mas. Big, high people playing a big big mas they call the Commission of Enquiry. And the rest of the country like burrokeets, getting ridden through the badly paved roads. The rest of the country could only play a donkey mas while their money jumping up like so many soca fans in a big fete. But who needs Carnival in this place where leaders could play mas with democracy? Watch the whole thing unfold like a Minshall tableau on the now gone Savannah stage. Watch the whole thing move in slow motion with high falutin’ Pierrot speechifiying in big English accent. Watch lawyers carré, dance a big dance with your money. Hear the Professor dreaden them like a King Kootoo doing a bluest devil jook. This is a big big mas and you don’t even need the jackass costume they give you. All you need to do is sit down and watch. Because this is real mas in all it’s mind boggling shiny splendour. This is mas in yuh masses. And sometimes you have to look twice because you not sure if it is a masquerade or mass hysteria, or masturbation. You not sure if to laugh or cry at how your leaders wining down on your right to know what they do with your money. You not sure if this is serious or just more entertainment. You not sure if you’re supposed to get vex and start to riot or hold your head and wine down low, lower than the price of oil. You not sure if all this bacchanal and long reports on the nightly news is just to distract you from the fact that we now have a budget deficit and we not getting anywhere near the proper royalties for natural gas. This big mas and noise come like last Carnival when the big sequins band push the 90-year-old blind Midnight Robber out of the way. Because this mas is the mas to beat all cockfight. Meanwhile Alcoa reported a 929 million US dollar loss and pull up brakes on several of their smelter projects in Iceland. Environmentalists breathing a sigh of relief that the economic decline has saved them from more unnecessary destruction of Europe’s last remaining wilderness. Meanwhile they just laid off 250 bauxite workers in Jamaica, because the global price of aluminum has plummeted so drastically. Meanwhile Rio Tinto Alcan just announced the closure of their Angelesey smelter in Wales, the largest single energy user in all of Great Britain. 14,000 jobs gone there to reduce capital spending by £5 billion.Meanwhile a decision is expected in the case against Alutrint this month, which has been in court since October, without so much as a sideways glance from the media. But aluminum is just as much of a nice mas as Udecott. Definitely not as sexy. Environment and mineral resources and small communities being bullied off their land is not as sexy. It not ready for the big stage yet. Let that stay on the back burners. Let us focus on the bigger better, louder, shinier mas. Because this mas is much more important. This mas is affecting the bottom line of many people who thought they were going to be getting a lot more out of this government. This mas is about the elite—some black skins in white masks, some wild Indians, some foreign drunken sailors on shore leave looking for Jean and Dinah in the construction industry. And all of them want to protect their bottom line and their right to wine. Meanwhile the lack of investigative journalists means the government could continue to play mas with the global financial crisis and say what they want without anybody bothering to question their robber talk. The bacchanal now start. But from the look of things, this masquerade will never end.

Who Sets the Standards?

I no be gentleman at all
I be Africa man, original

Gentleman, Fela Kuti

I wonder if people objected to the term ‘wajang’ because it’s a pejorative or because they didn’t take well to the Prime Minister using a word from our creole to describe the behaviour of one of his ministers.

The prevailing notion is that wajang behaviour is not acceptable. But it’s interesting that we have actual words to describe patterns of behaviour that are peculiar to us.

Like tabanca, perhaps wajang behaviour is an indigenous expression of true emotion.

But it begs the question, who decides what is appropriate behaviour for us?

Who is creating a set of moral codes that refers to our specific Trinidad and Tobago cultural experience?

Is it that wajang behaviour is wrong or is it just that Papa Patos is so caught up with being something that has less and less to do with our true nature that he considers this behaviour unacceptable?

If we are a wajang nation, by all means, let us embrace it.

Wajang behaviour has been part of our history of triumph over adversity.

Wajang behaviour refers not just to emotive outbursts, but financial, political and cultural wajangness as well.

So who’s afraid to be a wajang? Who is afraid of showing passion for our country, for our money, for our environment, just because some stiff-necked fool says that that is not appropriate?

I mean, have these people ever listened to parliamentary debates from jolly old England that sound like an East London fish market? Have they not seen fights break out in Japanese parliament? Have they no sense that perhaps a parliamentarian is a warrior on behalf of his constituents?

Thing is, I personally would prefer an honest wajang to a polite thief.

I would prefer a loud rabble rousing anarchist who matched his or her words to action. I would rather a laugh than a fake skin-teeth.

I mean it took a piece of wajang behaviour for all these people who have been sitting quietly with information or suspicions about Udecott to finally come forward and start demanding that the company be investigated.

Perhaps if we all got in touch with our inner wajang, we might have a better grasp of what is valuable to us.

It takes wajang behaviour like blocking roads and burning tyres for people to get noticed. Wajang behaviour is crucial to the way we do things here, so let’s not deny it.

I wonder about our notions of civilisation. Who is carving out our own sense of civilisation from the sweat and frustration of all our various peoples? We want to be developed without fighting wars, without shedding our blood, without fighting to define who we are and what we stand for. We want to be developed without confronting our wajangness. This is foolish. This is impossible.

Every civilisation has its wajangs on whom it depended to set its parameters and values.

I would rather connect with my inner wajang than twist my mind, body and spirit into someone else’s notions of what is acceptable.

Which is not to say that I subscribe to the sentiment on the street, the anger always close to the skin waiting for the smallest slight to launch into a colourful and eloquent description of somebody’s mother.

But I wonder about this civilisation we are building, if that is what we’re building amidst all the concrete edifices.

Who sets the standards for our behaviour? Who decides what we can or can’t say?

And if you can’t be honest and open in your communication amongst your peers, where can you be honest and open? If you can’t express yourself in your own language, in the rhythm of your own tongue, then whose are you supposed to use?

Right or wrong or indifferent, who decides what behaviour is acceptable to us?

The rich people are too rich to care and the poor people have nothing to lose. So who are pretending for? Who are we trying to bend ourselves to accommodate? And more importantly, why are we trying to be who we aren’t?

It reeks of a slave mentality, a mimic man obsession with being like the other. It ensures that we stay underdeveloped in thought and deed, in spite of all the shiny new buildings.