Gordon Robinson | Carnival, rock and come out a mi life!
Praise be to God I've survived yet another Carnival Sunday.
This one was the worst yet. I expected the crash, bang, clatter assault that is perpetrated annually on residential neighbourhoods and was almost pleasantly surprised when it began earlier than usual, circa 10:30 a.m. As usual, I hunkered down with windows sealed and air-conditioning at full blast and weathered the noise storm until it passed. Like a plot twist in a horror movie, the monster returned suddenly and unexpectedly a couple of hours later as the family was sitting down to Sunday lunch. Another volley was launched, with missiles landing near enough to cause the walls to shake.
So we suffered a silent Sunday lunch. I retreated to Twitter to express my disapproval for the inconsiderate, insensitive, loud, noisy home invasion disguised as 'fun'. Who tell me to dare to trouble Trouble? I received several withering responses, the best of which are reproduced here. Oh, by the way, I did refer to carnival as an imported foreign culture (which it is) and said I could see no upside to it at all.
"@dpos_smith: I guess in the process to avoid being hypocritical, we should get rid of all imported cultures as well. So much for our National motto. #steups."
No, sir. I'd only ban those that insist on invading my home on a Sunday morning and again at lunchtime.
"@zacharding: Last year 1 band 17 trucks, this year 4 bands, 32 trucks! Hotels overbooked, #Airbnb full, a kaleidoscope of #tourists Kingston on show!"
Next year, 10 band; 70 trucks? The year after? Lord, deliver us! This seems to me to highlight, not explain away, the problem. Carnival needs its own space and should stop invading mine.
"@zacharding: Unstoppable. 25,000+ visitors through Kingston airport in April = 34% increase = UPSIDE! We also export culture. It's a global world."
Yep. Get out di way, residents. The Juggernaut is increasing more than 30 per cent annually. Soon, unbearable Sunday noise will be with you all day. Upside!
Now a short conversation among three, at least two of which appear reasonably balanced. The Tout not so much.
"@simoncrosskill: How many people lamenting the growing popularity of carnival have been to a reggae week event?
Good question, Simon!
@TheTerribleTout replying to @Petchary @simoncrosskill
Therein lies the rub. Those who fancy Reggae Week can go to it and its events. Like it or not, Carnival comes to YOU!"
Next, the most inane of the replies:
"@NardaGraham Will #caenival ever be truly Jamaican? For some reason, it just doesn't seem to be organic to our culture at all.
It nuh matter! Get sumting an wave!"
So there you have it. The ultimate in absurdity but capturing the essence of Jamaica carnival.
"It nuh matter! Get sumting an' wave!" as Anthony Weiner, the 25,000th visitor for April, said to the Jamaican immigration officer when asked about the purpose of his visit. This is where the nation that stood up to South Africa in the 1970s while the Big Boys played footsie has reached. This is where the country that forced the great Eric Williams to say "one from 10 leaves nought" has settled. "It nuh matter! Get sumting an' wave!" Barf.
One last thing (said Lieutenant Colombo) from my most balanced critic, the following exchange:
"@TheTerribleTout: Therein lies the rub. Those who fancy Reggae Week can go to it & its events. Like it or not, Carnival comes to YOU!
OK, so you have never suffered from weekly (not annual) dancehall sessions, screamed obscenities and all, next door to your own home ... ?
Yes, I have, & called the police every time. Emma, I will NOT apologise for expecting my home to be a sanctuary from the outside world, especially from unwanted noise.
Btw I get the intrusion I don't get the comparison with reggae or dancehall not having similar privilege.
I was just questioning that you cannot avoid carnival noise. Same applies to dancehall noise, for many.
True. I just know you're not saying that it's ok because people can't avoid it?
Er, no ... Just pointing to the fact that it's not merely a carnival thing and it's just once a year!"
We just can't help making excuses for the most reprehensible intrusions upon persons' privacy, no matter how contorted one must twist one's moral compass to arrive at the excuse. Whatever happened to zero tolerance for domestic abuse?
The worst part of the entire carnival madness is the horrific hypocrisy. In an intelligently argued column, Patria-Kaye Aarons pointed out ('Why can't we dagger to dancehall?, April 25) first that the imported nature of the event and the foreign nature of the culture creating it is unarguable:
"Since its launch in Jamaica in 1990, this season, more than ever, carnival here mirrored what transpires in ... Trinidad and Tobago. An increasing number of persons now routinely leave 'yaad' and head to Trinidad to experience the authentic revelry in bacchanal central, complete with the attendant sunup to sundown party scene. And they take these ideas back and implement them here."
The devil, as usual with us, lies in the implementation. One hundred per cent of Trinidad carnival regulars interviewed by me assure me that the explicit sexuality on display every Carnival Sunday in Jamaica is nowhere to be found in Trinidad carnival, where the emphasis is on 'jump and wine' and good, old-fashioned fun. We have imported our culture and our interpretation of the Trinidadian 'get on bad' to produce a bastard child of Trini carnival. Even if some of us were inclined to "get sumting an wave", we'd be forced to cover our children's eyes while doing so.
Patria-Kaye has also noticed the sinister expansion of this phenomenon known to @zacharding as "upside". She writes: "What was once a few isolated soca parties and a single Byron Lee-led road march ... have become breakfast parties and j'ouverts and Friday night fÍtes and all of four simultaneous road marches in city Kingston travelling along different routes. Hope Zoo to Half-Way Tree was on lockdown."
But at $50,000-plus a pop for a costume designed for the sort of public disclosure of assets of which Phillip Paulwell would be proud, exactly who do we think is partaking in this bawdy, tawdry display of slackness? Not our ghetto youth. Many who screamed bloody murder on social media when the 5K Sigma Run for Charity caused minor inconvenience on the roads squealed and yelled with pleasure at every bump, wine, and grind of this year's carnival. Why?
Back to Patria:
"I strongly doubt a dancehall equivalent would ever get approval from the [KSAMC]. Can you imagine if the promoters of Hot Mondays, Container Tuesdays, Weddy Weddy, and Bembe all approached the good mayor and requested he close the streets in the heart of the city to vehicular traffic so that ghetto people could put on swimsuits and dagger each other across town drinking Boom and blaring Kartel? Oh, the horror!"
Yet, carnival's defence is to ask me if I've never been disturbed by dancehall music. Yes, I have, and if it lasts too long, I call the police, who appear instantly and preventatively detain promoter and 'selecta'. Last Sunday, police lined streets to ensure protection for the bawdy bunch while Minister Grange, all smiles, watched maternally and took selfies with Alison Hinds. Meanwhile, above the Jacks Hill bush along Skyline Drive, patrons of Dub Club dance, the promoter, and his selector were pepper-sprayed and arrested. The charge? Breach of the Noise Abatement Act.
The solution to the distasteful dichotomy Patria-Kaye highlights is understanding that disturbing residential neighbourhoods is just plain WRONG, whether it's uptown carnival folk or downtown dancehall cartels doing the disturbing. Rebel Salute is held in a central location where people pay and travel to enjoy. So are Sumfest, Sunsplash, Jazz and Blues, etc. Why can't carnival rent the Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium and its extensive environs and hold their parades and parties there or somewhere along the North Coast Highway? Why are residents who paid top dollar for their private homes forced to feel like spoilsports for wanting their short time at home after a long workweek to be quiet and peaceful? Why, every time, must the lowest common denominator trump the rights of its neighbours?
Peace and love.
- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.