THANK GOD IT’S FRIDAY
Free your mind and your a-- will follow.
– George Clinton
THE EMANCIPATION Day holiday falling (rising? uprising?) in effectively a three-day workweek – because so many people would have taken Monday off, it would be noticeable in the lack of traffic – is a script that could only have been written in TT, the first nation in the world to accord Emancipation Day a public holiday. But, a la George Clinton and Funkadelic, I wonder how much of freedom is really just freeness for the Trinidadian?
Why, in any Trini function nowadays, are there usually more people in platinum VIP than general admission? For the Trini, the only thing that declares inherent personal worth more than not paying to get in at all is not paying to get into VIP. The more the Trini doesn’t pay, the better he feels about himself. Trinis would rather storm VIP than be seen to accept a free general admission ticket. Know your value by knowing how much you can get for nothing.
Tobagonians are no longer immune from the freedom-is-freeness trap. In Tobago, getting and keeping a “government work” while keeping your private gig is the modus operandi for all. If everyone works for the Tobago House of Assembly and someone else, both full-time, which employer is more likely to get the shaft? A free person would rather not steal from the State but a freeness person is convinced he’s entitled to it.
In this three-day Emancipation workweek, then, I don’t need a pass to see Barbie and/or Oppenheimer at the IMax to feel the glow of self-satisfaction (perhaps produced or induced by the kindness of others). This week, like every day of life since my diagnosis last September and my surgery to remove the tumour from my oesophagus last December, I’m more than happy to be merely cancer-free.
Free your tumour and your mind and your a-- will follow.
Every Emancipation Day, I have the same three or four thoughts and usually don’t bother to express them, suspecting, as I do, that most Trini minds will be utterly closed to them; stupidity is often followed by irony and, the greater the one, the more of the other.
For example, it’s plain stupid (as I see it) to celebrate emancipation by formally abandoning Christian or Muslim religious beliefs and taking up traditional African ones. No matter how enthusiastic one gets about it, there is no benefit to be gained by swapping one superstition for another. You might as well be ignored by one God as a pantheon.
Again, it seems as pointless to me to celebrate emancipation as it does arrival. When the arrival holiday was first mooted, the greatest “debate” around it was whether it should be called Indian Arrival Day or simply Arrival Day. The inclusive term won out but it would have made just as much sense to have changed this week’s holiday to African Emancipation Day.
Or not to have bothered with either holiday at all.
Because, in the end, we will always choose freeness over freedom, unless we can parlay freedom into Lloyd Best’s un-responsibility (which, Best explained, was far worse than mere irresponsibility).
The greatest irony in a country that invented the Emancipation Day holiday is that we have, happily, willingly and repeatedly, chosen to divide ourselves into two political parties along the fault lines of the two largest racial groupings. Add the first-past-the-post electoral system and, even in emancipation week, we are entirely content to ignore the most African aspect of ourselves.
And this is the last thought I always have and don’t bother to express on Emancipation Day/three-day-workweek: the Rastafarians, perhaps the only group to have come up with a genuine indigenous Caribbean notion of identity, are completely unrepresented in our society, except for reggae music, weed and roasted peanuts.
You can count on one hand the Rastas who have been in Cabinet.
In a place that really was free of mental slavery, we would never countenance a group so important to our identity to be entirely left out.
But we would rather stay with first past the post and no Rastafari than even talk about proportional representation and Lloyd Best’s Big Macco Senate.
Which is a thought that always leads me to keep my red (white and black) a-- quart.
BC Pires will be brought before and punished by the House Un-Trinidadian Affairs Committee