26 Nov 2009

The important things

I have never been one who thought that our "Carnival mentality" was necessarily a bad thing. Think about it.

Every year we have five months at maximum to produce Carnival bands replete with costumes of great beauty and intricacy, and we manage to do it. We also manage to have many Carnival fetes, all of which involve the fairly complicated logistics of managing live bands, sound engineers, lighting technicians, catering and bar supplies and multiple portapotties. Then there's Christmas and all the "putting away" people do—purchasing new furniture, making new curtains, having old furniture varnished and/or reupholstered—all of it decided on, arranged for and completed in time for Christmas morning. Never mind the pastelle making, the sorrel making and well, you get my point. All these things we manage as if they were nothing and yet we, as a nation, are stymied by the production of a few hundred thousand passports? We are a nation of geniuses (both artistic and academic) and we cannot manage to establish a reasonable passport production process?You have to be kidding me! We could move thousands of masqueraders (wit nuff rum in dey head) around town but we can't do this? Please!

But I have a hypothesis for why this is so: it's because it's not a fete, it's not Christmas "putting away," it's not Carnival Tuesday 5 pm with miles to go before last lap. Passports are just not that important. Take the Carnival fete. Feting is extremely important to our society. It is the oil that makes all hinges work. Passports, on the other hand, are just business and are therefore unimportant and unworthy of our best efforts. When a fete is bad, you hear about it. And guess what? Next time you take your fete business elsewhere. When it comes to passports, on the other hand, we know the whole things is a hot, smoking mess but there's only one game in town. You can't exactly go to the competition and get your passport from a supplier who is using better systems and processes, nor indeed can you go to some other office where the service is better and the staff friendlier and more responsive to your needs.

Who is it that said in a kaiso "we like it so?" I think it was the Mighty Sparrow. He didn't mean it literally, it was said very much tongue-in-cheek, but now I wonder if maybe he was right. Maybe we do like it like this. We are born into this chaos, we live with it and then some of us migrate and succeed. Maybe it's best things remain chaotic, as they seem to make us better able to take advantage of organisation elsewhere in the world. (That too is tongue-in-cheek...or is it?) So what to do? I wish I knew.

Right about now I looking for another country to belong to (to which some will say, "Well go nah," having missed my point entirely) because this is so sad, so pathetic it brings tears to my eyes. Why the tears? Because I know we can do better than this (see paragraph one for evidence). The question for the sociologists is why don't we want to? Why do we hate ourselves and each other so much that this chaos is the best we think we deserve? What makes us so undeserving of good systems and respectful customer service in any venue other than a fete or a mas' camp? If I had the answer to that question I would be a rich woman indeed...and then maybe I could just pay the premium for expedited passport processing.

Liesl S Semper
Via e-mail

How true is this???