Carnival: It’s not a pillow fight or garden party

The Plain Times Editorial – April 27, 2019
 
Salimbi Gill

Tis the season! We’re talking about Easter – the religious holiday – and Spicemas, the annual carnival celebration in Grenada.

Our concern with Easter is not just about reports of dwindling attendance at some churches for services that commemorate a central belief of Christianity; the belief that Just Christ, as God on earth, died, resurrected and is alive today. The truth is, it’s impossible to be a genuine Christian without accepting and believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The other part of our Easter concern relates to those Grenadians who prefer to spend some, or most, of the long Easter weekend, beginning on Good Friday, at beaches nationwide. It’s almost becoming habitual for a drowning to occur at one of these beach excursions. A couple years ago, we lost a media colleague, Hilderbrand James. On Easter Monday, 2018, tragedy struck when toddler Caleb Frazer died by drowning at Grand Anse Beach.

And, this year, a St David family is left mourning following the untimely passing at sea last Monday of 29-year-old Jevon Ferguson. At the time, Ferguson and relatives and friends were visiting a beach at Malmount.

There are a few things that can be done to reduce, and even try to eliminate, incidents of drowning at beaches across Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Many have appealed for the posting of more lifeguards at our beaches. Grenada is dotted with beaches; so, even with a positive response to this appeal, it may not be possible to station lifeguards at every beach.

A second consideration might be for government to restrict, at major holiday periods, bathing at distances away from the shoreline at certain beaches.

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A third option might be Grenadians taking greater personal responsibility for their safety while on beach excursions. And fourthly, Grenadians ought to dispense of the notion – borne of either pride or ignorance or both – that we all are “Tarzans’’ of the sea and everyone is a great swimmer. The two things we have in abundance, as a nation, are land and water. And, to some, it naturally must follow that each and every Grenadian knows something about agriculture and also is able to swim. Neither of these is true.

And, even for those who can swim – and fancy themselves “strong swimmers’’ – they may know next to nothing about changing sea currents and how seawater behaves, and what they ought to do should they find themselves in difficulty while in the water.

There is a group of people on a mission to try and ensure that all Grenadians, children and adults, learn the way of swimming. One of the initiatives Deb Eastwood and the Grenada Youth Adventurers (GYA) is free swim lessons during “National Learn to Swim Week’’ every April. We recommend that Grenadians contact GYA for tips and lessons, even if you believe you’re a robust swimmer. As well, parents of young children could consider signing up their kids to be members of one of the swimming clubs affiliated to the Grenada Amateur Swimming Association. The lessons will be useful to their overall wellbeing, whether or not they become national swimmers.

As mentioned earlier, we now also into the annual season of carnival and the customary accompanying complaints from those who are aggrieved that today’s festival is nothing as “long ago’’, and are offended by the bacchanal in carnival. We, too, at The Plain Times, are turned off by some of what we witness at carnival; in the music, dance and revelling. But, we continue to hold the position that only about three responses should be adopted; and, censoring is not one. History is replete with examples of attempts at carnival censorship, especially the music that often is blamed for all manner of evil in the society. But, censorship never has worked effectively. What certainly will work more effectively is a total ban on carnival by the authorities to satisfy the sensibilities and tastes of the segment of the population that is offended by carnival. On the other hand, carnival ain’t simply a cultural event; it’s also an economic bonanza for the nation. So, we ban carnival and be prepared to suffer an economic fallout.

Another simple approach to carnival could be to avoid, as much as is possible, listening to the calypso and soca of the season; steer clear of attending shows and stay indoors on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. That way, there shouldn’t be any complaints of having to watch too much wining on the streets or the “indecent nakedness’’ of masqueraders.

And finally, we may choose to accept carnival for what it was from its inception – beginning with newly liberated enslaved Africans – and what, essentially, it continues to be: an hedonistic festival with freedom of expression that allows masqueraders to make the comfortable uncomfortable; and an opportunity for them to mock and parody societal norms and those who are gatekeepers of those norms.

The constant hankering by some for a kind of “dress code’’ for masqueraders, for “decorum’’ and “decency’’ – whatever that means in a carnival context; or, the calls for a limit to the number of Jab Jabs, are misguided. It’s unfeasible. It’s akin to attending a cricket game and chastising a player for bowling bouncers at 100 miles an hour and not being more civil and bowling at a slower pace, keeping the ball below the player’s knee. It’s cricket – not a pillow fight! An NFL game in the US, with players tumbling over one another, and a hockey match, with players knocking the teeth out of one another’s mouth, is not a pillow fight or a garden party. And, neither is carnival.

We ought to quit trying to make carnival something it never was meant to be. If one is in search of ballerinas, don’t go to a carnival. You won’t find them there. Try purchasing tickets to the ballet.

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