Humankind, perhaps even before we became humans, have always enjoyed good orgies that might have encompassed excessive eating, drinking, dancing, singing, music, uninhibited forbidden sex, as well as the odd human sacrifice, the eating of enemies – and each other – and a dash of religious hocus pocus to keep the pot boiling. Carnival has all that and more.
Just the other day, I happened to hear someone spouting about how important Carnival is to our Tourism Industry, how necessary it is to the promotion of our culture, how vital it is to each Saint Lucian’s sense of individual freedom of expression, how pivotal it is to our foreign earnings and balance of payments – I tell you, this person was talking serious crap – when I was struck by the thought “By golly, he’s right!”
So if Carnival is so important, necessary, vital and pivotal, why don’t we make more of it? Now before I continue, let me explain that there will have to be two different but related carnivals; there will be The Carnival, which will be The Annual Celebration of Carnival for the people but open to all to enjoy, and there will be The Weekly Carnival for the sake of our tourist industry, our cultural exposure, our ongoing freedom of expression and our foreign earnings and balance of payments. Of course, the fly in this particular jar of ointment is that people will have to work, regularly, assiduously and in a determined, disciplined, focused way. In fact, what I am proposing is the birth of a whole new industry that can spawn a plethora of new work opportunities.
Firstly, each year, the private sector and government somehow manage to find money to sponsor a couple of days of bacchanal that basically give nothing in return. It might come as a surprise to Digicel, Flow and Lime, but drunken revelers probably do not use their cell phones more because of the money they receive from telecommunications companies. And as far as the Brewery is concerned, it might come as startling news to hear that people who have drunk a couple of beers and are having a good time are going to drink more beer whether the Brewery is sponsoring them or not. The Government and Private Sector have to see a return on their investments.
Secondly, tourists do not go to town to watch Carnival if they can help it. And if they do, they are appalled by the noise – they can watch and hear much better organized, better sounding music concerts and festivals back home – intrigued and perhaps offended by the lewdness of it all – but then again, there is ‘better’ stuff on-line, and frankly disgusted by the lack of facilities – they can watch a driver relieving himself by the roadside any day and do not need to see it at the harbor-side on Carnival day.
Thirdly, Carnival has no positive economic impact. Carnival does not encourage Saint Lucians to part with money, unless of course, you count the thousands they shell out for their costumes. Carnival does not allow for ‘sales’ outlets to flourish. The list goes on but this is not the place for it.
Now, imagine a weekly carnival parade held at Rodney Bay Village from the Bay Gardens Beach Resort to the Malls (or vice versa) every Friday evening directly after work, which would give revelers time to continue eating, drinking and partying in the Village or elsewhere – Gros Islet, for example.
Imagine too, that we have, say, 16 active bands, which would be far too many for our weekly parade. Imagine instead, that these fictitious 16 bands were to work in teams of 4, each team taking on the responsibility for the parade one week in each month. This way, we would have a different parade each week for every month, which would mean that each band would have to perform 12 or 13 times each year depending on how you count your months, calendar or lunar. The music would be muted, that is, real music with sufficient decibels to allow spectators in the immediate environment to enjoy it.
Such an arrangement would encourage a sense of camaraderie among participants, create a continuity in the artistic process, make better use of resources (including costumes), offer sales opportunities to visitors for local artistes, entrepreneurs and artisans, provide a much-needed ‘Uniquely St Lucian’ product to our Tourism Industry, offer sponsors greater, more frequent, market exposure and allow St Lucia to become, at least for a while until others would imitate our success, the Carnival Country.
This last point is vital to our survival. St Lucia has a lousy, possibly undeserved, reputation for violence, corruption and crime at the moment. We desperately need to become the happy, smiling, safe and secure, in every sense the Sunshine State of the Caribbean. We need to attract investors. Ok, I may be off my rocker, but we need some serious new thinking here, Folks!