Fail or Prevail? The Choice Is Yours

Fail or Prevail? The Choice Is Yours

By N Oji Mzilikazi

(Originally published in Montreal Community Contact Volume 21, Number 13)

June 23, 2011


Sometimes I feel like
Throwing my hands up in the air
Sometimes I feel like saying
Lord I just don’t care
But you’ve got the love I need
To see me through.

The Source ft. Candi Staton – You Got The Love

Lately, I’ve been encountering folks close to the edge, verily on the verge of losing faith. I’m talking about ordinary people contended to be merely the Indians as opposed to being chiefs. They aren’t heroes. Don’t even want to be.

In fact, they’ll be the first to hightail it if or when things get outta hand. They are the people who go say dey eh see, but is the first ones to talk ’bout what dey aint see. Dey so mauvais-langue, sometimes ah man does have to ask dem if dey have court clothes. Whey yuh go do? Yuh cah get vex with dem. Actually yuh could, but I cah get vex. Dem is my people.

Dey happy to be rum-shop politicians. A lil drink in their head, and they can analyse and solve all the problems in the world. As de old folks does say, “Sense make before book.” “If yuh give Jim he gym boots and Jack he jacket, yuh must give Bagwansingh he bag.” So while no big highfalutin words does come out ah deh mouth, just plenty cuss, one has to respect the sense dey does make when dey making sense. And right now dey making plenty sense.

They feel betrayed, and by everybody. They expect their betters – those who went to “grammar” school and “big” school and have title and position to their name would do a better job in protecting and serving the community.

As much as I try to explain to them, that as ideal as those things are, the bottom line is reality and human nature can play havoc with principles, honour and integrity. People are by nature selfish and greedy, and when the complexity and politics of leadership meets greed, ideological backwardness and political blindness, pure ineffectiveness and commess is the result, dey doh get it.

I can empathise with them. God knows I’ve been down the road of frustration and bitterness over community apathy and traitorous leadership many times. Have thrown my hands up, but lucky me, blind faith in faith and a cultivated philosophical foundation have repeatedly pulled me away from the brink of darkness and despair.

Still, that “saving grace” didn’t mollify the sense that “we still eh ready yet.” Consider Jamaica Day, Carifiesta and our Steelband festival all on the same day this year, and both Jamaica Day and the pan jamboree in Parc Jean Drapeau.

On Wednesday, July 13, 2005, I watched Montreal City Hall Councillor Marcel Tremblay, the mayor’s brother on the evening news.  He stated that the $200,000 spent on Carifiesta in terms of police security, securing the parade route, clean up and so on was not worth the five hours of parade.

Continuing, he suggested moving the parade to Parc Jean Drapeau on Ile St Helene. And as if he was doing our community a favour with the proposal, he said that nobody, not even the Old Port wanted the 40,000 (Black) people that the parade attracts.

It is not today City Hall has plans about finding ways and means to contain its Black/West Indian citizens. Look at “Trinidad Day” at Angrignon Park. For the past few years, fencing have attendees kettled like cattle, so in the event of anything, the venue can be sealed shut with everyone inside. Drinking alcohol is restricted to the bar area.

There is no kettling at the Jazz Festival. One could walk anywhere on site with their alcohol. Parc Jean Drapeau affords kittling in that there is only way in and out of Ile St Helene. Its metro can be shut down to avoid ‘escape.”

Beyond that, except for Les Fêtes Créoles Internationales de Montréal, and Festival International du Merengue de Montréal at Parc Jean Drapeau, all Caribbean/Black festival at the 2005 Intercultural Festival was a flop, both in terms of attendance and community business. I’m talking about Jamaica Day, Barbados Day, the two-day Soca festival, and the Eastern Caribbean Day. So what would propel Jamaica Day to return to that site?

For as long as I can remember, the Steel Band Festival was held in Émilie Gamelin Park aka Berri Square. The beauty of the location is that passersby, both on foot or in their cars who had no inkling of what was taking place would find themselves dawn to the beautiful music. By moving it to Parc Jean Drapeau, only steel pan enthusiasts would go to the venue. So what would propel its organisers to accept that location? Factor in Carifiesta is on the same day.

Fans of Carifiesta are also fans of reggae and Jamaica Day. Carifiesta and Jamaica Day also allow community party promoters and community businesses to make money on both days. A small Black community, major soca and reggae activities on the same day… what a bam bam!

Is leadership so thankful for the $2 City Hall sends their way, they are afraid to say no, mount logical, moral and perhaps legal arguments and objections?

To be continued.

Cannibalization In Maturity

Cannibalization In Maturity

By N Oji Mzilikazi

(Originally published in Montreal Community Contact Volume 21, Number 12)

June 10, 2011

The sage Lao Tzu declared, “When things reach maturity, they decay of themselves. Thus a fruit ripen on a vine or tree will fall, ostensibly to die. History proves Lao Tzu’s observation to be true. Civilization, empires and societies attained a level of greatness, and poof! In one fell swoop or agonizing crawl they were no more; consigned to the dustbins of olden times and workplace for archaeologist.

The biblical Tower of Babel tells of man, clearly in a technological or advanced state building a structure to reach God. For such impertinence, God confounds man. Lost was the commonality of language and singleness of purpose. Individualism took root, and the selfishness and self-centeredness associated with that state resulted in everyone speaking a different language, leaving the ambitious project incomplete.

That biblical tale encapsulates the devolution that takes place upon reaching the pinnacle of evolution- the cannibalization that occurs in maturity. A dance that continues to be played out in a multitude of ways, and which oftentimes escapes our observation.

Consider a person coming from nothing, and who though hard work, perseverance or luck was able to build something of worth. Decades later, inheritors who never knew a day of hard work or the meaning of privations are in charge. Ignorant or uncaring about the sacrifices it took to establish their inheritance, their attitudes and values wrecks and destroys what their forbearers clawed, struggled and fought for to build and defend.

Better yet, consider the many in our community who came here as immigrants or whose parents and or family members pooled their meagre resources, took bank loans, borrowed from friends to send them abroad to study or for a better life.

Years later, they are established and or enjoying relatively comfortable living. Caught up in life’s ease, either they or their children failed to transmit their knowledge and values that got them to where they are. The end result is their children or grandchildren being handicapped, underperforming and underachieving, and having no concept of honour, loyalty, fealty, duty to family and community.

I once read that to indulge in a life of pleasure/debauchery, and to avoid serving in the army, the sons of Roman nobles would have their right thumbs amputated. The inability to hold a sword or use the bow and arrow meant in the face of barbarians, they couldn’t contribute to any defence whatsoever. They were thus liability and subject to be easy casualties.

Technology has made life and living so much easier that ease could be equated to being a deadly disease, and our “advanced” society casualties.

Cooking as in preparing food from scratch is increasing becoming a dying skill. We eat frozen, out of a box, in restaurants and at fast food joints; their commercially and chemically laced food changing our metabolism, damaging and destabilising our bodies. Then there is wonderment about the huge increase in obesity rates. To obfuscate, scientists indebted to Big Pharma and the food industry points to the existence of a “fat gene.”

To display cultural sophistication, many who grew up with knowledge of “bush”/aryurvedic medicine traded it in for scientific remedies. Yet, with 100 different things on pharmacy shelves for the common cold they complain about their inefficacy. They are quick to recount how back home they could’ve used this herb or that concoction and in no time the cold was gone, or they would make a poultice for this or that. Meanwhile, they aren’t interested in passing their knowledge down.

For all the pleasure derived from watching television, playing video games on mobile devices and the like, the boon of the Internet, computer technology and social media, we have become more sedentary and socially inept. The engaging nature of the technology has us sitting in a chair for hours and with a huge “do not disturb” body language sign. The lack of activity and simple exercise like walking facilitates poor health and obesity.

While the facelessness of the web affords talkativeness with anyone in any part of the world, lost is the ease of face to face or group interaction, as well as participation in same. We can now work at home, study at home, form friendships online, meet, date and marry someone from an online encounter, even be murdered through it.

Corporate greed in exploiting natural resources and dismissive attitudes to environmental economics have brought us to the brink of a far-reaching ecological crisis. We now have threats to biodiversity, species on the verge of being extinct, and bodies of water we cannot drink, fish in or swim. With overpopulation overtaxing land, marine resources and electricity, the threat of serious food shortages and power outages hang like the Sword of Damocles.

Chemicals, pathogens and contaminants in the food supply have resulted in hormone disrupting toxins in our bodies, the birth of new illnesses and diseases. Even as genetic research shows so much promise, solution, cures, and the only thing left to clone are humans, global warming and ice caps melting portends new dangers. Throw in the ongoing threat of terrorism and war, and mankind is on the verge of reset.