I’m not sure I feel the same angst that Ralph Maraj (a fellow columnist), former Archbishop Joseph Harris, Raymond Tim Kee (deceased), Ken Gordon and others feel about the debilitating effects carnival has on the moral and ethical standards of our people.
Maraj laments: “Our society is threatened when tens of thousands of people approach nudity, one step away from copulating in the street. This corrosive cultural debasement eats away at the bowels of the nation, weakens the social fabric, nurtures generation after generation of drifting young adults, driven mostly by pleasure and materialism, so devoid of intellectual and spiritual depth that they could celebrate every day without commitment whatsoever to society and the community. (Sunday Express, February 6.)
Maraj also places a heavy responsibility on our calypsonians and chutney singers whom he calls “the carriers of a generational cultural disease that has eaten away at society for decades, producing soullessness and an epidemic of annual teenage pregnancies, child abuse, domestic violence, corruption, school violence, crime, drug abuse, alcoholism and more”.
This is a profound indictment of those griots and troubadours who, in many ways, served as guardians of our indigenous culture.
These singers represent only a small slice of what the French sociologist Émile Durkheim calls the collective conscience (la conscience collective), “a set of beliefs and feelings common to the average citizens of the same society”.
Society as a whole bears the burden of the evils that Maraj and others have described.
Piloting the Whistleblower Protection Bill, the Prime Minister said: “Many think of murder and violence when they think of crime [but] white-collar crime was just as insidious. There are hundreds of thousands of people who will never see a million dollars in their lifetime. But there are others in nice white cotton shirts, nice polished shoes, in air conditioning, eating the best, drinking the best, driving the best, taking the best and they are actually the cancer of our society. (Saturday Express, February 5.)
The prime minister said he had to drive around in an armored car before the 2015 election because people wanted to assassinate him. He described corruption in our society as “a balloon that just keeps getting bigger and bigger”.
One can look at the headlines in our newspapers any day of the week and see the slippery decline of our society: “Police Investigate AG,” to which the AG replies, “Let’s Go.” Or, “Rowley slams ‘dotish’ union leaders”, “Endless murders: One of 4 children sprayed with bullets”, or, “Pathologist asks medical board to investigate allegations of plagiarism in affidavit of court signed by CMO in cremation issue,” or “Union leader accuses PM of lying in ESOP deal.”
I don’t know what problems Maraj and others have with the human body or human nudity, but they see it as the source of our problems.
Carnival is a feast of the flesh. When Constantine, the Roman Emperor, converted to Christianity in 313 AD, he did so on the condition that his followers be allowed to perform their original rites for two days (Carnival Monday and Tuesday) and reconcile with the demands of their new religion (Christianity) on Ash Wednesday.
Being nearly naked in the streets on carnival day or twirling on other revelers aren’t the worst sins you can think of.
Thinking of social degradation, it would be wise to consider Queen Elizabeth’s decree that Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, an adulteress or horny woman, will hold the title of queen consort once Prince Charles is made king of Britain.
Equally questionable is the behavior of Prince Andrew, the Queen’s son, who is being sued by a woman who says she “sexually abused” her.
Prince Harry, the Queen’s grandson, and his wife, Meghan, accused the Royal Family of “callous and racist behavior towards them” (The New York Times, February 6).
A month ago, Ishwhar Manoo (we used to call him Goo), a neighbor of mine for over 70 years, was returning from an exercise in the Orange Grove savannah, when he was shot dead. I believe Goo would rather have encountered 100 naked women or 16 Vestals than be confronted by a man with a gun sent to kill him.
The singing of calypsos, almost naked women or fornication are not the real problems of our society. Our major problem is an imbalance in our social order that manifests in the killings, robberies, kidnappings and corruption that manifests in our daily dealings.
Durkheim designates these social ills as a form of anomie, an abnormal form of division of labor that ends up weakening the social cohesion of a people.
These problems affect all of society. Our cultural warriors and Carnival revelers only expose the flaws in our society.
We can better understand our social problems if we examine how we allocate our economic resources, the benefits we provide to those who control them, and if we listen to the insistent demand for social justice from our fellow citizens.
Each group needs to feel that they are treated fairly and that we appreciate their contributions to society.
—Professor Cudjoe’s email address is [email protected]
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