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Shaking away REALITY
Shake shake with all your might now
If you do it, do it right now
Put your hands on your hip, yeah
Come on and let your backbone slip
Move your body like your hip
And just shake
God have mercy now!
Early in the morning
Early in the evening
All night long, y’all!
Shake, Otis Redding
Why the hell they shaking they don’t know. The Harlem Shake viral video phenomenon has birthed a slew of Trinidad versions.
I guess the format relates well to the Trinibagonian psyche—one masked person dancing while everyone acts like nothing is happening. And then all of a sudden, chaos breaks out and everyone is shaking disjointedly, an undignified mass of crazy, feeling pleased with themselves for the achievement of the heights of silliness. I’m trying to get it. Really I am.
The people on Facebook who are a lot smarter than me say it really doesn’t warrant that much analysis. It’s just a stupid internet meme that is going to die a natural death like all the others before it. Still, I watch these videos with growing horror. The one that upsets me the most is the one where there is a barebacked homeless man dancing on the streets.
It is the signature callousness and lack of humanity of taking someone else’s failings and making them into a joke that I can’t stand. It is the openness to kicks and the easy descent into jokiness that upsets me. And all of these people who have time to shoot and edit these Harlem Shake videos, don’t they have anything else to do?
But when even TV6 reporters are taking time out of their busy news day to shoot their own version of the Harlem Shake meme, then maybe there isn’t enough happening here. No heads will roll there. But someone’s head will be published on the front page of the Express and Newsday. While we shake and laugh, people’s heads are being found in drains.
I guess it’s a logical response. Like the laughter that comes in the most intense part of a play. To break the tension. To trivialise the moment, because if we took that sadness to its real conclusion, we would really start to shake. Some of us are shaking with fear. Some of us are shaking with anger. Crime plan after crime plan failing. We’re shaking to reflect the chaotic state of our country.
We’re shaking in stupid viral videos to ignore all the things we can’t seem to shake. We can’t shake useless politicians. We can’t shake complacency. We can’t shake the reality that despite a relatively comfortable standard of living for some, there isn’t enough for all. We can’t shake the greed and lack of interest in creating communities instead of consumers. We can’t shake the reality of the statistic—68 murders in 52 days.
We can’t shake crude oil out of fish nets. We can’t shake dishonesty out of the corrupt. We can’t shake a sleeping people awake. You can’t shake the venom out of the snakes. The real meme is the nation’s politics. The template that’s been followed for decades. This latest Government creating their own version of the same story.
One useless Minister of National Security yapping on about Jah knows what. While the rest of the parliament goes about their business as if nothing is wrong. And then everything turns ole mas. Because there is no crime plan. People beating up on the ground. Mothers screaming for their dead children. A head found in one place, a body in the next. Everything out-a-timing.
All to the heavy bass of gun shots barking in the night and the hyena-like laughter of those who sell more papers for printing bodiless heads. Shake away while the madness continues. Everybody having a time shaking up and the country jumping up. In the midst of it all, one beacon of light shines. A simple story about a youth man called Sule who got caught on camera helping an elderly woman carry her groceries home.
I wonder if any of the Harlem Shakers will make a meme out of that. I wonder if those of us who have the skills and the disposable incomes and the empty cars in traffic will dare to imitate the Trinbagonians who offer themselves in service to their communities?
I guess those things are neither fun nor funny. I guess there is no entertainment value in being a good citizen. And a young man like Sule will never make a front page. Mostly because he’s one of the few in this country who hasn’t lost his head.
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