Post 323.

Could Carnival produce less garbage?

Somewhere, in the midst of all the music and coming together, is it possible for the right people to commit in the right way to make it happen?

No one cares once feteing starts until crossing the stage culminates, but a little leadership in the lead up could change our whole country. Carnival, after all, could be so collective, so representative of who we are, if only we see who our best could be.

I’ve walked around with Ziya or accompanied her through Kiddies’ Carnival thinking that, no matter how I’d like to teach her what responsibility means, the landscape socializes her to not care, to not even notice, to assume that discarding any and everything is without consequence, and to think that this is a privilege she should take for granted.

She’s simultaneously learning to selectively see who her people are and what her culture condones – an all too common problem whether in relation to garbage, violence or corruption.

I’d blame government for their lack of leadership and for sitting in the audience to hear calypso like its 1968, reproducing a tradition of nothing changing while the garbage piles up around them, but I’m convinced not seat in Cabinet, or in Opposition, actually cares about such blame. Imagine, not one national initiative or effort has successfully transformed our Carnival footprint in all these years.

Where does everyone think all that excessive plastic and Styrofoam goes on a small island that dumps it in our neighbour’s backyard, in rivers or in the ocean? This isn’t just about our global impact, it’s also about our pride in and care of our one twin-island home.

Every Styrofoam box that held fries and every cup that briefly contained corn soup will be poisoning our ecosystem after we are all dead, and our great grandchildren are left to suffer from the carelessness of our mess.

If the government decided that it would work with the private sector to coordinate availability of and emphasis on paper plates and cups to transform our social practices, and if they collaborated with the big profit-making bands and all-inclusive fetes to significantly reduce their footprint, then Carnival could fulfill the potential for not only its own beauty, but also as a maker of history on the anthropocene’s world stage.

The garbage we leave behind in the fete and on the road gets cleaned up and disappears from our immediate view and our short-term memory. However, it ends up somewhere and it remains the responsibility of each of us to catch up with a planet that needs us to no longer culturally celebrate an out-of-timing backwardness.

Every single one of us could demand better from our band, from the NCC, and from the Cabinet. All it takes is will, coordination, alternatives, and a little investment beyond the individual into an idea of a collective, and transformations that seem impossible can happen overnight.

As you jump up in the next week, take a second to look around at your feet, and at the garbage surrounding you. It’s such a different sight from the emphasis on dressing up and looking good, from playing a beautiful mas and playing your sequined and colourful body, but it’s where our real self – under the make-up and masquerade – is most visible.

How does it look? How do you think its looks to another generation learning that this is our greatest show on earth?

Every year, I wonder when Carnival will do it differently from the year before. I wonder if maybe we will do it out of love for our country or for the little children.

This year, as I walked through the space that means so much to so many, I wondered if, buoyed by music and spirit, we might chip away from our past and do it for something so close to our heart as our beloved Savannah grass.


Post 114.

Socialisation of children is a path of continual decision-making about your approach to truth. These decisions are not made in isolation, but involve both parents, and often grandparents and other family. Not everyone always agrees, but children either need to be spared conflicting information or advised about how to deal with different views, which is part of learning about the reality they are growing into.

Ziya’s school is non-denominational, but twice a day they pray, starting with the words, ‘Dear Father’. Of course, because I’ve given little thought to schooling, other than where she will learn through play, never be beaten and feel respected and empowered, the whole question of prayer never occurred to me. I’m atheist, but if I was to pray, it would likely start with the words, ‘Dear Mother’, because I can’t conceive how God, like humans who create life, could have anything other than breasts, womb and a vagina.

As an anthropologist, I think that humans create conceptions of God or gods and goddesses that match their own worldview. In a world that wasn’t founded on male domination or where we considered gender to be more flexible, our gods could also have feminine aspects or goddesses could have male incarnations or God could instead be imagined as a Mother figure to revere, as with many cultures that have existed across place and time whose beliefs are as valid as we consider our own.

As a mother, I teach Ziya to see a walk through a forest as a moment for meditation and those peaceful places where rivers meet seas as sites for kneeling quietly to breathe, listen and feel. Sometimes, we say good night to the trees, birds, animals and the earth because it is these that I think are deities of life and the complex, mysterious abundance of creation.

As a parent, I’m not going to tell her Santa Clause is real, but I’m going to let her encounter the world as it exists and learn to ask questions about why. I’m not going to teach her about God, but no doubt everyone else will and when she asks what I believe, I’ll be truthful because that’s how she will know she has to make up her own mind too. Now that Zi’s in school, I have less control over the ideas she will encounter. That means it’s my job to have new conversations with her.

As a citizen in our multi-religious society, I don’t have a policy of censorship. Ziya’s not going to be harmed by prayer, even to a male God that I don’t believe in, which simply reminds her to be good, kind, grateful and conscientious. She should be exposed to other beliefs, learn what they can offer to her and live harmoniously with others holding different beliefs from her own. I think that when you learn about religion, you are also learning about culture, gender, philosophy and the sacred, just as you can learn about the need to question rather than blindly believe, to seek answers in history, and to reflect on what kinds of ideas and power order the world.

I wish that some days her prayer started, ‘Dear Mother’ just as it does ‘Dear Father’ because, frankly none of us can definitively say it’s one or the other, and because I see male headship and domination in the hidden curriculum greeting her everywhere she turns. In my own and her everyday negotiations with ‘truth’, I’m charting a journey not everyone will agree to. Hopefully, the open-mindedness I would like to bring is what others will also.