Las Lap for J’Ouvert

BC Pires -
BC Pires -



PROBABLY the shortest statement ever made on Trinidadian national identity and attitudes came from the country’s best rock ’n’ roll band, Jointpop, who asked in song, simply: “Why Trini so?”

Indeed, lead singer-songwriter Gary Hector’s chorus could replace the entire sociology section of the UWI Library: “Of all the things we can do,” sang Hector, “and of all the things (we can choose)/We choose Crack, Pitbull & Gun/Some very strange people.”

At our current worst moment since the pandemic began, with covid19 killing people in double figures every firetrucking day of life (and death), Trinidadians choose to get enraged about whether the vaccines are safe enough to take!

Refusing to take the vaccine because you’re worried about the health risk – and, ergo, actively courting the virus itself – is like arguing over whether police engaged in a shootout with bandits should return fire with fines instead of bullets.

When all is said and done, you may indeed have a point about the efficacy of fines in discouraging criminal behaviour. But you will also be dead.

Even if you get 30 “likes” on Facebook from people who don’t know there is a difference between “your” and “you’re.” People who wouldn’t recognise what sodium chloride is, even as they demand salt, but yet feel they know more about science than Dr Fauci!

It would be hilarious if it weren’t tragic, but the Trinidadian ever-readiness to ignore the fabric of any argument and rip apart the hem took over the national debate this week.


Decades after Coke stopped being sold in glass bottles at all, the preferred Trini debate remains, “Which tastes better: small Cokes or big Cokes?” If I had a dollar for every time I sat through that quarrel over lunch, I’d be eating lobster at every meal. A small-Cokes advocate over age 50 would have to be held back from drop-kick-and-hurry-lash.

Small Cokes/big Cokes keeps its dominant place in what passes for Trinidadian intellectual discourse precisely because it involves no thinking whatever but nevertheless allows every participant to adopt a passionate stance “till they dead.” It’s not so much a debate as a clash of attitudes – no, a clash of two antagonists with the same attitude, whose major distinctive characteristic is that it doesn’t so much play to the gallery as simply gallery.

And, this week, Trinis, gallerying themselves, were up in arms and sworn to (make-as-eef) battle to the death to make sure an American actor named Michael B Jordan (Creed, Black Panther) did not appropriate the entirety of Trinidadian cultural identity by naming his new rum brand “J’Ouvert.”

We ent taking firetrucking dat!

It didn’t matter that most of the Trinis slamming his bold-face-ity almost certainly thought he was the or “A” Michael Jordan, the basketball player (and probably burned their Chicago Bulls shirts in a paroxysm of patriotism).

It didn’t matter that the B Michael Jordan apologised on Wednesday and promised to rename his product.

Most of all, it didn’t matter that Trinidad Carnival itself, what Minsh used to call “the Mas,, is now effectively owned by one man, the Trinidad Jeff Bezos of the all-inclusive Stoosh Carnival.

Or that “Trinidad Carnival” now arrives in Trinidadian mas camps in a cardboard shoebox from China, complete with writing in Chinese characters on the outside.

It didn’t matter that the very firetrucking J’Ouvert itself, which used to be the greatest spiritual, mental and – crucially – socio-economic cleanser in the country (and, en passant, the world), is now just one more empty event that makes a charade out of Minshall’s mas, and means nothing lasting to anyone at all, except the very small group that turned the highpoint of our culture into their bottom line.

No. All that matters to the Trinidadian is how long they can play themselves and how much they can wine on someone else. Trinidadians prefer to “win” a meaningless debate than take issue with the most important aspects of themselves.

J’Ouvert could die. But we won’t let anyone else destroy the spirit of Trinidad by calling their rum that.

Of all the things we could do, of all the things we could choose, we choose crap, BS and fun.

Some very strange people in true.

BC Pires has walked and wined this road many times before. Read the full version of this column on Saturday at


"Las Lap for J’Ouvert"

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