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Ringbang Religion

Denis Solomon • 1,072 words

“Ringbang” was the name given to a musical extravaganza promoted by the Tobago House of Assembly to mark the new millennium and supposedly to put Tobago on the map through international television. It lost millions of dollars.

The fete season is back again (does it ever go away?) and on top of my natural antipathy to noise and crowds, I am more distressed than ever by the relentless vulgarisation and stultification of the young population by the bread and circuses with which they are increasingly regaled.

As I write this I am conscious of sounding like the traditional old fogey and killjoy. In several respects I have been an old fogey since my youth. I freely admit it. Fetes are not my bag, and that may well be a fault in me, not in the fetes. But killjoy I swear I am not, and regular readers of this column will support me in that statement. There is nothing I abhor more than suppression of natural instincts, sexual hypocrisy, or limitation of personal freedoms by State or religious authorities with power-driven agendas. Above all, the naked or provocatively-clad female body is A-OK with me.

In its place. Saucy display and discreet celebration of sex are one thing. But abandonment of self-discipline and self-respect are another. The State has as much responsibility for promoting taste and reticence as for sponsoring enjoyment and recreation.

Look at the press photographs that have come out of this year’s incipient spate of orgiastic revelry. In the Guardian of December 27 there is a shot of a young woman wining against a BRC fence. As part of what seems to be the regulation costume of what I understand is an annual “pyjama party”, she is wearing a flimsy pair of red thong panties and a suspender-belt supporting black stockings. Her “pyjamas” are no more than a diaphanous top.

In last Thursday’s Guardian there is a huge picture of a young woman similarly but even more skimpily attired (at first glance she seems to be wearing nothing below the waist at all) simulating doggie-style sexual congress with the vigorous assistance of Machel Montano.

Friday’s Guardian carries on its first three pages not one but four photos of something called the “Vibe CT 105 FM Motorcade”. One of them shows four people capering and gesticulating in the crowd that reportedly followed the motorcade at various points between Arima and Port of Spain. The Guardian’s caption described them as “these four women”. In fact they were not women at all but girls in their early teens. They wore the same expressions of vacuous hilarity as could be seen on the faces of the young men surrounding them.

Now these girls were modestly clad, and for all I know they may have come out of their respectable homes a few minutes earlier to have a little jump-up as the motorcade passed. Yet there is still an analogy between them and the women pictured at the “pyjama party”. What is objectionable is not their behaviour but the ever more frequent opportunity for it. It is not bad for them to indulge their high spirits. It is bad for the State to allow, indeed encourage them to do it, on the street and in the middle of the day, with no greater excuse than the “launching” of the so-called “road march season” – a national festivity that appears on no official calendar. I do not think it is a good thing for anybody, whether Vibe CT or Tidco, to be able so easily to organise, day or night, endless successions of noisy events that turn the whole country into a mindless twenty-four-hour-a-day discotheque. In fact Tidco is worse, because with events like the World Beat Show it not only keeps half of the capital city awake for several nights running, but as a public authority it puts the seal of approval on the insistent promotion of what columnist Bukka Rennie calls “the show, the exhibition, that exhilarates for a fleeting moment but leaves nothing fundamental after all is said and done”.

It can only be harmful for young people, already practically devoid of serious frames of reference, to grow up in a society openly dedicated to persistent escapism, a society which makes an industry out of the artificial stimulation of unproductive emotions. As Barbadian entertainer Edwin Yearwood said, in Trinidad people live for their Carnival. The trouble is, he meant it as a compliment.

I’m not going to trot out the usual argument against women wearing skimpy clothes – that they stimulate men and cause rape. They stimulate me, and I like it, but I wouldn’t know how to go about raping anyone. The display of attractive goods does not justify breaking and entering. Men as well as women must learn self-restraint and self-respect, and the responsibility for curbing rape is men’s, not women’s.

No, the social consequences of unrestrained dedication to frenzied amusements are quite different. Look at the photos again. First, study the ethnic composition of the crowds, and notice that the route of the “Motorcade” was to Port of Spain from Arima, not from Couva or Chaguanas. Yes, feting and bacchanal is largely an Afro-Trinidadian activity. And yet when Sat Maharaj says that Indians get ahead by work and study while Africans only fete and complain, everybody in the Eastern Corridor is up in arms.

Secondly, compare the photos of the Vibe CT Motorcade with the “March for Jesus” that took place along the same route, in, as the Express described it, “a Carnival-like atmosphere complete with music and floats”. If we’re not into secular forms of mutual masturbation, we’re into religious ones. And no one sees the connection: that the frenzied winings of the fete addicts, the wailings of the Spiritual Baptists and the chanting of the happy-clappy Charismatics are all part of the same syndrome of cut-price ecstasy. That the least stable and prosperous countries are those where there is the most religion, and vice versa.

Our whole population is so tightly locked into these pseudo-spiritual parameters that those young people who reject the feting and wining and seek a more disciplined framework for their lives, have to look for it in another pseudo-religious organisation, a state within a state that purports to provide what the real state has denied, but which is the most anti-social, dangerous, power-driven and ultimately futile of all.

Copyright © • Denis Solomon • Trinidad and Tobago Humanist Association • www.humanist.org.tt/humanist/forum/solomonPage Top