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POLITICAL LESSONS FROM THE MAS COMMUNITY
Brian MacFarlane’s mas offers us a powerful concept to fashion, to design, to choreograph our political life. The masman creates the philosophy, the format, the concepts, and the people execute the dance, the theatre, the mas. And why were the people performing so jubilantly, so exuberantly in this particular band? The men, the women, the civil servant, the executive, the ordinary citizen? The ordinary workaday citizen, coming in from of tired labour, at government desks, work gangs, factory floors, raising families, shopping in the sweaty markets, pricey malls, walking the exhausting streets. The ordinary citizen was given a format, a shape, a destiny. A role. And the role was concretised by an actual costume, not just a rag around the bosom and loin; but a moving, living design, a mas-piece renewed with significance, rich detail, movement. And a piece connected to all the other pieces in the section, a section connected to the other sections, and all the sections connected to the overall design, choreography. The people felt a part of the entire format, movement, plan of the band.
And they loved themselves, and played their thing, and fell into the choreography, loving themselves and the part they played within the entire system. And the head masman was not there, the authority, in everything, dominating. He was there, at the beginning, almost like a symbol, and a little at the end, just to acknowledge, to say thanks. No vulgar domination of the whole, stealing of the limelight, inopportune opportunism. Also, the Dimanche Gras Calypso Monarch offered, as it ought to have done, political direction. Most of the songs were without the exuberant powers of wit, satire, irony. Many were biased along partisan lines. But there was enough truth to pick from untruth, and the political directorate ought to have paid heed. There were clinical interpretations of the performance of the People’s Partnership Government, true and exact critiques. As Sparrow sang in his immortal calypso, Jean and Dinah, “Calypsonian too smart for that.” You cannot fool the calypsonian. She/he will find out your weakness, your tiniest flaw, make you pay.
On the whole, on this political stage, there was not nastiness; the temper was more civil, salutary, offering warning shots. Any leadership ought to have listened. And listened carefully. It is more appropriate to listen to the calypsonian, respectfully, and give distance. And take heed. Rather than offer overbearing motherings and sisterings. And be chums. And bosom buddies. The estate of the calypsonian must remain discreet from the estate of parliamentary politics. Just listen, sift sense from nonsense, and take heed. Also, the steel pan. The powerful drums of the community. The deep, powerful moving growl of Africa and the suburban niches of Trinidad. That pan has created a new sound on the planet. It has put the sound together from disused stuff, rejected drums from the lucrative oil industry. It has put these sounds into the fabric of ideas, themes, notes, motifs. It has brought nation communities together, to sponsor, to compose, to arrange, to road-march, to flag-wave, to beat iron; to plan, rehearse, transport and play the drums. And to judge, to dance, to listen. Pan is precious for community and nation reformation. It creates community, enterprise, viability. And that is why the State and the corporation must be kept away from buying it, taming it, owning it.
So really, it is not just about the money, the $2 million or $800 for panmen and women. It is about creating the political design, choreography, formats, for the people to play within them; about genuine listening; and about respecting the distance between yourself and the other estates in the social hierarchy.
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