Who's killing Carnival
As Carnival activities go into the final week this week we can already anticipate the many calls for a complete revamping of that pre-Lenten festival when it all ends with Tiway Vaval on Ash Wednesday. That call comes every year.
Usually after another lukewarm performance for Carnival we all talk about changes to the festival, about the need to create another event to compliment the relatively successful World Creole Music Festival but all we do in response to the analyses is to tweak some of the fringes of some of the elements of the event: like switching Carnival Monday's events to Tuesday, adding a Bouyon Monarch competition, putting pan on the beach. Yet we expect success.
That according Albert Einstein is a definition of insanity: that is, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So by Einstein's reckoning the people who organize Carnival in Dominica are mad. Tony Robbins described the same phenomenon even more beautifully; he says: "If you do what you're always done, you'll get what you're always gotten." But at the end of the Carnival event you will also hear tourism officials say the event was absolutely successful.
As we have said before these statements by government officials are intended to delude the masses into a false sense of euphoria. It reminds us of the potentially manic sense of happiness represented in lyrics in the Bobby McFerrin's 1988 hit song: Don't Worry Be Happy.
"Here's a little song I wrote You might want to sing it note for note Don't Worry, Be Happy."
For instance, tourism officials describe Dominica's carnival as the best in the world. Those of us who disagree with would probably argue that the officials exaggerated confidence is typical of recent statements of our political leaders. These politicians seem to have perfected the art of making positive statements about negative situations. Maybe they have deluded themselves in believing that their deliberate distortions of reality will somehow become everyone's perception. You hear these statements every day. Government is of the view that the economy is booming; agriculture is vibrant; the brain drain is reversing; unemployment and poverty are quickly becoming problems of the past; okay, the economy may be on the decline but Tropical Storm Erika is the culprit. And here's the gem: our carnival is better than Trinidad's. Are we serious?
For more than 20 years we have been saying "Don't Worry Be Happy" about the state of carnival in terms of people's participation in the event and the festival's dwindling contribution to tourism arrivals. In response, over the last few years a number of persons have been clamoring for change. Although, based on their current silence, they seem to have given up on the call for change.
In 2010 Alwyn Bully, the then Chairman of Dominica's Carnival Development Committee and the country's former National Cultural Advisor (as well as UNESCO's Regional Cultural adviser) reiterated calls to address a date change for this country's carnival celebrations and called for the formation of a committee to discuss the ramifications of a new date for carnival. He has been singing that little tune for a while and he continues in our feature on page two of this issue of the Sun. At about the same time, Pat Aaron the veteran calypso writer also called for a change in the date of carnival. These are only two of the many voices calling for changes to the carnival product but no one in authority seems to be listening. In fact, Mr. Collin Piper, the CEO of the Discover Dominica Authority intimated in 2014 that change is not an option as far as a new date for carnival is concerned. Matter done; forward we go into insanity.
As an example of how things change and still remain the same, we reported as far back as February 2004, that the then Minister of Tourism, Charles Severin, promised to assess the need for revamping Dominica's Carnival; but not even the committee that was expected to recommend changes to the Minister was appointed. And no one noticed, no one cared. The process continued six years later; in 2010 Bully said he is planning to set up a committee after Carnival to examine proposals for improving the festival. No committee, no improvement- doing the same things, expecting different results- madness.
It is obvious that Dominicans are caught between the desire to hold on to that Catholic-originated event, which seems to have gone amok, and the need to create a tourism product with the potential to attract hundreds of foreigners to our shores. The Catholic Church is also caught in a dilemma. Understandably, the Church wants to maintain its tradition but at the same time it wishes to be disassociated from the image of licentiousness, violence and drunkenness that pervades carnival. Every year, Bishop Gabriel Malzaire, God bless him, speaks passionately about the excesses of Carnival but the show goes on, the party can't stop.
No one's listening, Bishop Malzaire. It is obvious that date of Carnival has to be changed if your church is to avoid the connection and association with the bacchanal of Carnival.
So the reasons for the change of date for Carnival are overwhelmingly obvious and since we're mentioned those many times before we won't repeat them here.
By the way, we heard last week that the Bahamas is adding a second Carnival to its tourism calendar- that one is scheduled in May.