I grew up thinking of America as this homogenically superficial space fuelled by ignorance and ultra-arrogance imposed by the sound of mad dogs and gun shots in the background. A war within itself.
In the politics and economics of the past thirty years, the trajectory of individualism is a response to the controversy of sharing all, in post anti communism, Cold War era.
This skewed anti reality brewed the covering of the reduction of basic human rights, presented as anti-terror securities to the average folk, and messed up the minds and values of many alike. This was easily absorbed by a weak societal structure in the US that without free access to health, education or meaningful work opportunities, beyond the concept of self-sale, left people scraping by for the ‘mana’. The lack of cultural references, families or friendships providing emotional support systems can not be bought by insurance companies.
In adulthood, we are all paving our way on our own but the multilayered toxicity of American neoliberalism has easily spread a virus with the language of non sense – what people can’t understand conceptually, can’t analyse and therefore are open to manipulation, misinterpretation, abhorrent expressions – they don’t even make sense to those that speak of them.
Today, this translates into the extremist mini-anti-cultures surviving by a bashing each others’ existence in perpetuation.
Bunches of incoherent folks at each other’s throats, caricaturing a very simple and singular dimension as a version of society. We can critique the social movements for not establishing fundamental change but they are not ripping cultures apart or marginalising what holds as a resource of existence to the average folk.
For many on the outside of US, the scene is hopeless and bleak. For many on the outside, we can’t help but romantisize for a mind shift by the immense phoenix like male figures that despite the union’s level of absence in communal conscience, they have held a string light for long enough to beam their connection with and faith in humanity and in hope for a realignment of the American dream. They have the knowledge that one’s resources are equally owned and interconnected by everyone on the planet. Physical and emotional cultural references matter, the intangible connections energise the common pool.
Ultimately, isolationists are believing that by fighting everyone off to protect their patch of land, they will not end up finding out they are fighting against themselves, which they know its not only unsustainable, but plain self destructive and stupid. Sum it up in the simple lesson of the flowers and the bees.
My gratitude goes out to the two American men that know too well where the concept of the American dream really can stem from and what it could really translate into in the daily routes of American self identification. It is a work that will take a generation or two, and these men hold the tortch for the way there.
If it wasn’t for the neo liberalism that is driving vacant messages with questionable ethics, the alt-right and visibly present far right are continuously on attack of the basic principles that make us human, and therefore civilized.
There is a lot of anger, and even more so the internet and free flow of information has opened Pandora’s box. Corrupt regimes and individuals have been revealed, whilst governments have their resources diminished and police and health services struggling to deliver fairness. Law maybe the only dynamic challenge to all of this.
And now art is under attack, again.
I remember when following the financial crisis local government budgets were slashed letting thousands of staff go.
Youth services and cultural activities were the first to go and the arts council was told it has to raise the funds itself and from corporations. This the sector frowned upon and questioned the viability of independence in the circumstances.
Luckily the arts sector, used its creativity, and survived.
However we now have another attack under the wider hostile environment agenda.
The Guardian newspaper reported dozen authors who were planning to attend this year’s Edinburgh international book festival have had their visas refused. The ultimate right to creativity, refused.
How does this hostile policy justify this? For they really believe we will silence our human nature to this extend? And what next, will they shut down the Internet so we can no longer share?
What is the cost of this to society and why they feel the need to isolate?
The ones kept inside, as always are the ones that have the key.
Many days in the past two years I have woken up with the feeling we are living in parallel universes. Politicians continue to offend sensibility on a daily basis, polirising public opinion, whilst we stand aside watching on, the theatre of the insane. Our reality has become not too different from the Hunger Games, or many apocalypse-in-process themed movies.
Since Brexit, Trump being voted in, Putin and Erdogan, the troubles in Venezuela, Congo and Honduras to name a few, it is apparent that politicians aim to hold onto power, often to further their personal financial interests, on a wage funded by tax payer’s money.
Having gained power with dubious populist campaign sentiments, these politicians have also grabbed power with well versed catch-phrase marketing, tricking electorates with empty promises, whilst reducing their rights, and further pushing them into poverty.
However we have also seen the popularity and rise of progressive movements through the mist of this adversity. These have sown the seeds of change, pushing back on the dark principles of those autocrats. #metoo, #timesup, #FBPE and reports from non governmental organisations such us Doctors of the World, Human Rights Watch and Global Witness among other, have exposed witnesses in the political system, corruption, and promote accountability.
In London, knife crime amongst the young has escalated to uncontrollable levels, with police cuts, closure of youth services and social care, leading many with the inability to escape and furthermore to extremes and desperation.
Would any of the people affected be likely to join these movements or is their anger at a point where they are more likely to be pushed to extremes?
And how many times does this need to repeat to feel real in order of recognizing violence is not a resolution tactic, sometimes even when it is in defense.
Is activism and progressive thinking a middle-class will?
Artists and creatives around the world will surely emerge with an engaging and metaphorical message. That is the traffic light defining we live in intolerable political times.
Tracey Emin made her stand with the neon writing at St Pancras station. And that is all good willed and valuable. Many others follow.
However I can’t help but wonder how the most marginalised will gain a voice again. And who will care enough to listen, and for what reason.
For anyone finding themselves in Trinidad for carnival this time of the year, there is one thing you will be doing for sure: drinking all day, and some more.
Even without the alcohol, Trini carnival is a mind boggling experience. You would have passed the long queues at arrivals at Port of Spain International without being fleeced by some dodgy border official, through to the non descriptive arrivals hall, maybe welcomed by the sound of steel pan, if you are lucky.
Police man, J’ouvert morning, St James, Port of Spain, Trinidad (2006-2011)
Masquerade, POS, Trinidad
Costume downtown Port of Spain taken between 2006 and 2011
Father and son, J’ouvert, St James, Port of Spain, Trinidad
Jab, Carnival, St Anne’s, Trinidad
Boy costume on kiddies day, POS, Trinidad
Costume detail, POS, Trinidad
Girls in masquerade, Port of Spain (20016-11), Trinidad
Blue Devil on Carnival Tuesday, Savannah, Port of Spain, Trinidad
Finding yourself in Port of Spain or Arima or San Fernando, in the morning, among the peeps taking the slow moving vibes about their business, requires a couple of cheeky doubles on your way to your business of visiting mas camps, passing steel pan yards, buying tickets for all inclusive fetes in town.
The fetes would have been happening for over a month prior and mas camps are just making small size adjustments, with hours before bands hitting the road.
J’ouvert, the morning of carnival. Fear the blue devils blowing fires and hustling you with their tricks. Start 1am at St James. Dress in your worse, you will land somewhere around downtown even worse for wear, at sunrise or well after. The only things you need: drink, money to buy more drink, and someone to give you a ride home to your nearest friendly friend’s breakfast welcome and bed. Just don’t follow some guys up to Laventille, there are other places to drive through for that waterfall sobering bath.
With Jouvert done you are well on your way through the Trini carnival experience. If you can, climb up the hills of Paramin for their local jab jab Moko Jumbies J’ouvert. It is really out of this world walking between the village corners for yet another jab performance literally crawling down or up the steepest roads and paths you will ever see. If not grown up in the north coast, only drive in a jeep and with a local driver. Family cars driven by tourists abandon all hope. Taxi maxi, privately hired is another respectable method of arrival. I fell in love at jab in Paramin.
North Coast is not too far if you want to wash the petrol and paint off your skin with a sea bath. Just don’t drink and drive.
Carnival Monday and Tuesday are kiddies and adults days respectively. I don’t think there is much difference other than the kiddies go through town from what I remember whereas adults move faster to the Savannah and St Anne’s. Unquestionably you will see the best, biggest, most elegantly handcrafted pieces of mas on those days. For medium and large costumes the sheer weight of them on the masqueraders is a notable achievement in itself. When I first went to Trini Peter Minshal was the winning name of masquerade. Incredibly really talented artists have made Trinidad their home. Chris Ofili and Peter Doig are some among those.
I always thought of Ash Wednesday as an anti climax, not for one cause I stayed in the North Coast were thousands of people descent to hang out en mass by any sound system audible from anytime 8am onwards, to also whine and drink.
Then a fight kicks off, and another, so less people hang around and it all becomes sort of local again. Handed back to the really slow paced sunny humid sweet tasting bake n shark self. For the small but safe surf, head to Las Cuevas.