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Ban Gramoxone; Carnival or Rum-I-Val?

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My focus this week is on two social issues of current-day relevance, but I cannot help but comment, with some amusement, on some reactions to my appeal in last week’s column, for us to avoid making our national approach to the Garifuna a shameful game of political football.

Amusing it is to hear some in the media attempting to use my disagreement with the reaction of Prime Minister Gonsalves to the promise by the Leader of the Opposition to confer honorary citizenship on Garifunas in the diaspora. But this is nothing new, for both political parties,{{more}} through their media spokespersons, have in the past conveniently picked out comments from this column in order to justify support for this or that position. Of course, they also ignore those comments not favourable to their cause. But those of us, in the privileged position to have a platform for the airing of views, must do so fearlessly, and not be blinded by our own biases or personal preferences.

What I find sad, is that this public criticism of the PM’s reaction is being taken as an endorsement of Mr Eustace’s position. Far from it! The issue needs careful thought and consideration in the context of our reassessment of our heritage and history. As indicated last week, the matter of reparations and our attitude towards it, not some vote-catching promises, are central to us and our Garifuna/Callinago legacy. It does not help to bring the Garifuna leaders on party platforms in the run-up to elections. That is the type of political football which we must avoid. The Garifuna issue is NOT a partisan one and our Garifuna leaders in the diaspora must avoid this trap at all times.

Domestic violence rooted in attitudes towards women

The major talking-point this week has been the brutal murder of a Chateaubelair woman by her reputed former boyfriend and his subsequent recourse to suicide. It has once more raised the red flag about domestic violence and how best to combat it.

Sadly, too many of our reactions reveal that we are still guided by emotions and not sufficiently focused on getting to the root of the problem – our attitudes towards women in our society. It is only when domestic violence reaches a tragic stage that we erupt in outrage, but on an everyday level, domestic violence, as long as it does not reach extreme proportions, is the subject of juicy gossip, even on the political stage.

There is still acceptance that it is right to take recourse to violence when one feels aggrieved in domestic situations. Most worryingly, even among younger, better educated persons, one witnesses this recourse to violence when faced with personal challenges. Legislation may be on the books, but enforcement is another matter. The women of our country need support from the menfolk on this issue, in channelling the national discourse in a positive direction and in mobilisation at all levels to combat this scourge.

One final comment related to the Chateaubelair issue. Once again, an alleged murderer used gramoxone (paraquat), as a means of escaping justice. Even youngsters are now going this route. The substance is environmentally damaging and is banned in many countries. How much longer must we put up with its pollution of soil, rivers and sea? Why is it so readily available that even youngsters have access? Is it not time for our authorities to take a firm stand and ban it here too

Carnival or Rumival?

I count myself among those former lovers of Carnival who have become disillusioned by the way we have transformed it from an important national social festival, albeit with all its excesses, into a glorification of all that we should be avoiding. More and more, the social content of Carnival, the humour, the social commentary, the positive expression of our artistic creativity, has been replaced by the pagan ‘bacchanalia’- a massive orgy or drunken feast.

The original content of Carnival has all but been obliterated as we speed along the destructive path to hell. That’s why we are intent on being the “hottest Carnival”. With it has come our “worst behaviour”, extolled in song, and our literal praise and practice of “duttiness”. There is nothing wrong with having fun and “freeing up” oneself, but we are taking the exhortations too literally. Our young people with no sense of what Carnival is all about, are rapidly sucked into this vortex of lewdness, displayed publicly and shamelessly.

To add to this, has come the glorification of alcohol consumption, the “rumification” of our Festival. Song after song goad us in this direction. Is this where we want to go? Can we truly go down this road and call it a “National Festival”, without desecrating the term?

Post-Carnival we need a long, hard rethink. We cannot allow those concerned with only how profitable the festival can be for them, and not with the social cost to the nation, to lead us down this path.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social com-mentator.

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