Cracking the jab jab whip

Debbie Jacob -
Debbie Jacob -

Debbie Jacob

THE WEEK before Carnival Monday has always been the most challenging time for me to write a column. This space feels like a no-man’s land. On one side of this strange, empty place are the Carnival revellers stomping and wining their way to Ash Wednesday. Lost in an unexplainable glee, they block every personal worry and national concern from sight.

On the other side of no-man’s land are those disgruntled souls who randomly rant about the festival to vent their frustrations about so much time being wasted on meaningless frivolity. They’re the cynical souls who voice their concerns about “Carnival mentality.”

Those of us occupying no-man’s land balance hope and despair; joy and frustration. We view Carnival as a lens for understanding our complex history and culture, and we cling to idealistic notions that we can harness Carnival’s energy to create year-long national pride, creativity and inclusivity. We visualise Carnival as a weapon to fight prejudice, anger and inefficiency and lament that the promise of Carnival never materialises during the rest of the year. We are eternal optimists.

And so, as usual, I wonder what to talk about when so many people don’t want to think about any subject that isn’t Carnival-related. This week, you can speculate on a calypso monarch or predict the Road March, but no one wants to hear about crime, inflation and poverty.

Right or wrong, Carnival serves as our respite from fear. It either curbs or fuels our anger. But should it excuse us from considering the less fortunate in our country? The majority of people can’t afford skimpy Carnival costumes or fete tickets that cost thousands of dollars.

I’m not even sure what Carnival means any more. How much of our treasured tradition is left in this annual festival? Are calypsoes as clever and meaningful as they once were or is that just nostalgia washing over me? How many Carnival bands are authentic representations of street theatre? How well are we measuring the economic impact of Carnival on our country?

I get that we don’t feel the need to discuss the direction of this country during Carnival. I disagree with that casual dismissal, but I get it. Still, it’s difficult to understand why we don’t have more probing conversations about the purpose of Carnival.

Does anyone donning a bathing suit masquerading as a costume connect Carnival to our history? And if Carnival is an important link to our history, what are we doing in our schools for the rest of the year to harness that enthusiasm for history?

Is Carnival just a gigantic link in an endless chain of events that has no buckle?

Sometimes I wonder if Carnival is a rehearsal for the apathy that defines the rest of the year. Does Carnival hone our skill to tune out what we don’t want to face so that we don’t pay attention to the inefficiency and wrongdoing going on around us?

Diehard revellers feel rooted in our culture when they play mas and that euphoria appears to numb their post-Carnival senses so that they are willing to put up with the inefficiency and rudeness in the “real” world where public servants often reign with a petty sense of power.

And what about our penchant for road rage and not standing in lines? Doesn’t Carnival teach people to stay in their section?

Carnival is supposed to be the great equaliser, but what happens when people return to their jobs in the public and private sectors only to face spiteful bosses who operate with no fear of repercussions?

Shame on senior management who know about the demoralising and bullying behaviour that goes on in the workplace, but take no responsibility for fixing it.

Why does it seem impossible to get rid of public servants who are an embarrassment to their profession and undermine citizens' faith in this country? What will it take for us to insist on the leadership we expect during Carnival? Don’t we believe that we deserve better, and if we believe this, do we not realise we must insist on it?

I get that you are partying this week and gearing up for Carnival Monday and Tuesday, but take these questions and put them in a box to unpack after Carnival.

Rest on Ash Wednesday and when you get your second wind, face this country’s issues with the same zeal you used to play mas. It’s time to crack the whip out here to get everyone’s attention. I know some jab jabs willing to lend us their whips until the next Carnival.


"Cracking the jab jab whip"

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