July 11, 2014


One of the biggest winners of this year’s Vincy Mas was Delroy ‘Fireman’ Hooper, who captured the Ragga Soca and Soca Monarch’s titles and whose song ‘Unruly’ ran away with the Road March. ‘Fireman’s two popular songs, ‘Unruly’ and ‘Rum Meeting,’ seemed to have captured the essence of the Vincentian soul. ‘Rum Meetings’ are not new! What is new is that even women are developing a sort of ‘machismo’ image of which ‘rum meetings’ are a part.{{more}} To say that you were out drinking all night is to convey a kind of machismo image that even women are embracing. Of course this is a broad generalisation and applies only to a minority of women. I will not pursue this further because my focus is on the issue of being ‘Unruly.’

Fireman was looking at Carnival, but whether or not we subscribe to the issue of ‘permanent Carnival’, with some people being perpetual masqueraders, we have to admit that outside of Carnival we are an unruly bunch. It appears that over the long weekend there were two murders and one suicide, that suicide apparently related to the murder in Bequia, where a woman died and a man was hospitalised. But even more than that, a number of vehicles were broken into on Saturday night. In one case one car was actually carried away and was found later abandoned somewhere. I have not heard of any household break-ins, but these are hardly ever reported, as if they have become part of the accustomed trials of daily living with which we have to put up. There are already 22 declared homicides for the year and we are now only into July. This matter is so serious that some special task force needs to be put in place and extraordinary measures introduced to stem the tide of what is now getting out of hand. Prayers are undoubtedly important, but we, as a people, have to do our part, especially at a time when many of us seem to be no longer motivated by religious ideals. I do not accept the prevailing defence that it is happening all over the world. So what if? That is to cop out. We have to do what we have to do to secure our safety and provide an atmosphere that will allow us to live peaceful and productive lives.

But let us go beyond that and admit that the whole atmosphere that drives our unruly behaviour has to be addressed. When I looked at the thousands of people at J’Ouvert and in Kingstown on other days, I realised the seriousness of our situation. The young people in particular stood out, the hundreds of them, at J’Ouvert. I looked at their faces and tried to imagine how many are unemployed and how many have lost their sense of hope. Among all other things Carnival does provide an outlet for our daily troubles, frustrations and loss of hope. The ‘rum meetings’ allow you to briefly mask your fears, frustrations and troubles. They don’t solve your problems or those of the nation.

On the Wednesday after Carnival the mask would have been removed from some of us and the realities of living would continue to stare us in our faces. Parents are now faced with the challenge of equipping their children for school, something that is becoming increasingly difficult to do and outside the reach of so many. How many of the hundreds of young people who have graduated from the many schools and other educational institutions who have to face the job market will be able to find employment. We tend when we are looking at this to take parents out of the equation, but I wonder about the number of parents who have invested everything they have, including their emotional state, into their children’s education, hoping that their sons or daughters would soon find jobs to assist with the family income and to provide for their own growth into adulthood. Unemployment demeans an individual and if not dealt with quickly will produce a generation that feels it has nothing to contribute and would have lost all hope. The young people are our present and our future. They have skills, hopes and aspirations and anything that retards these will be to the detriment of our country as a whole. We cannot afford a lost generation. Unemployment is only one part of the package, but an important one, for employment brings a sense of fulfilment and self worth that are necessary ingredients to a successful life and to their ability to make a contribution to national life.

Let us borrow from and add to Shakespeare: “All the world’s a stage; At first the infant Mewling and pucking in the nurse’s arms; Then the whining school boy with his satchel and shining morning face… And then the Young man and woman waiting to make their contributions to national life…!” How do we contribute to this journey? What is next on our national agenda? Carnival is over. Do we simply sit back and wait for another festivity that we will celebrate to turn our attention away from the pressing and depressing national situation? Or do we, as a people, accept that we have a problem, that the issue spans many aspects of the nation’s life? We have recognised that young people are significant players in this ‘unruly’ state. They are part of the solution, too, but we have to prepare with them the kind of stage that will allow them to play their part. It is the only way to avoid this epidemic of unruliness that we have created and encouraged. It will not go by itself.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.