Post 266.

‘Sans humanite’ is our most identifiable cultural refrain, crossing centuries with its compelling, swaying echo of dark humor, stoicism, lament, and aspiration. The cry expresses a desire for recognition, and seeks audience identification with lyrical sparring with pain, for to be a victor in conditions of defeat is to hold your humanity like your bois, and to be seen defying forces that thrive off breaking its strength.

Just to stay on your feet, answering back, fighting, insisting on the fact of your existence is to make demands which matter on the larger collective watching, cheering or calling for your head and blood. It’s a big deal; a call for acknowledgement that you are human too.

Such insistence is fundamentally important, even when it will hardly change dominant institutions, structures and elites, because in the skies between heaven and earth are ever-circling corbeaux, and you might not reach that holy place that honors the God in you if, before your final ascent, your spirit first gets torn apart limb by limb.

How to be a victor in conditions of defeat? How to hold your humanity firm as a bois? How to escape that oppressive shadow of corbeaux following you?

Insist on fairness and refuse advantage by setting humanity as our first ground rule.

Long before conceptions of rights formally established the terms of our still unjust order, notions of fairness trod the land, wafting like breeze against curtains, warm like the smell of homemade bread; carrying in the last notes of rum shop conversation, evaporating in the cool night along with salty tears; and dusting off fruit and vegetables like remnants of garden soil as police and vendors negotiate the informal line between committing a minor crime and making an honest dollar.

Legal scholars will tell you that people are more likely to accept judgments against them, with which they may still disagree, if they feel they have been treated fairly in the process of administering justice. People will turn their lives around if the opportunity they are given is truly fair, with all that encompasses.

Women will stay rather than leave if the deal they are asked to accept truly honors their sovereign and independent humanity, and offers only what is fair.

Enemies might find a middle way out of senseless killing if a sense of fairness can establish just enough mutual trust and cooperation. Elites may act out of greater social responsibility if they recognize that that there is wider profit in fairness, and putting people first.

On this new day with its invitation to a new year, there is no solution to our troubles ahead if ‘sans humanite’ remains the best description of our state and our selves.

Lawyers will continue to debate the crisis in the judiciary and create no greater fairness for those most experiencing its injustice. Cabinet will shadowbox with financiers, contracts and corruption, hitting the public below the belt, while telling us to tighten, tighten. Women will continue to die while state agencies avoid those changes necessary to give them a fair chance at love and life.

Keep refusing such advantage. Fairness is the one ideal we all understand, which can make us more humane, which might still save us from ourselves.

I could talk about necessary resolutions, reform and implementation, civic values, and programmes to nurture something other than the crushing of integrity under government boots.

But, still on our feet, our bois is the smooth, hard weapon of fairness, and its power can hold us accountable to each other as individuals and across institutions. Without fairness, advantage, with all the deaths that it brings, will continue to rule.

‘Sans humanite’ may be our most identifiable cultural refrain, but corbeaux are circling, and their shadow is filling us with terror and doubt. Fairness and humanity must be our answer from today. They are strengths neither our society nor spirits can live without.

Post 138.

Every parent can identify with my joy at Ziya’s first time in a Carnival school show. Morning was filled with traditional characters, limbo for the children, a parade of the bands organized by the theme, ‘To protect and to serve’, and old time kaiso.

Zi played in the clearly ironic mas section, ‘The Flying Squad’. Her class’ lyrics were, ‘We have to learn our ABC, but it really hard you see/ We try to look at the news, but dat giving we the blues’ and later on ‘It have de UNC, PNM and ILP/ We hear about CIA and then they say is DEA’ and so on, ending with ‘sans humanite’.

Look music, politics and picong in our national curriculum. It needs to be said, bless teachers whose labour of love helps our children to love learning, themselves and each other, and who provide those moments that you revisit when your baby has grown up, hopefully to be a better person than you.

That dusk, on my way home, I picked up my neighbour at Mount Hope Hospital. She was rightfully fuming about the $2 million dollar soca and chutney prizes, and about her friend whose husband has been having seizures and can’t get an appointment for a MRI until April. 2015. By then, he could be worse off or dead. My neighbour was planning a fundraiser after the fete spree was finally over, and was hoping they would make as much as $3000, not enough to fully access private health care, less than the cost of some mas costumes, but an act of love and a help. My neighbour’s heartbreak at her friend’s weeping was a reminder that the tragedy of ‘sans humanite’ isn’t only an old time refrain.

On the road for Jouvay, I thought I heard the same melody drift over our heads while 3 Canal’s Laventille Rhythm Section carried me to daybreak. It returned me to reflection about how the light of morning can be turned to the dark of evening by the injustice of our inhumanity. Unlike the prettiness of Monday and Tuesday, Jouvay is a time for contemplation of, indeed confrontation with, our darkness, the jostle of devils and jumbies, repression and resistance. As I meditated, yes in the midst of the mud mas, on the way ahead come Ash Wednesday, I saw two women chipping joyously with their children in the band.

All these police in riot gear like we really at risk of revolution, all this terror and mistrust, and here these mothers are, fearlessly, lovingly, relentlessly teaching their children about music, politics, picong and people, about making sure that we can all be together and okay in the bass-heavy dead of night, pressed in between the hammer of iron, unprotected by the apartheid of rope, and surrounded by bodies of every kind, practicing freedom in every form before soberly washing it away.

This is how dutty mas can restore our faith in ourselves when hospitals fail to be places of safety and caring while Jouvay bands fail to be places of danger or crime. Where do we find our humanity and where do we look for community when we are left without? If grinding pressure is our daily struggle, when are those moments when we turn the whole world upside down? How can we teach our children both the ABC and to do better than us with their love, their words, their money, their institutions and their freedom? We want them to get more than the blues from the news, and to do more than just sing out against the true meaning of sans humanite.