Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What Charlie Do?


I suspect for many around the world there was a period just about a couple weeks ago when we were wondering about a guy named Charlie Hebdo and why he did something that would lead to him having such a horrible ending. It was to get worse cause not only would Mr Hebdo have died alone but along with some police officers and others at an editorial meeting for a magazine in France that does something that being called satire. Many of us would not have known you can dedicate a magazine to satire if we even understand what that intellectual brand of political entertainment is and why it matters.

The history between the French and the Muslims is long and rich. It was the Arabs who introduced lavish fabrics and scents to the Europeans, it is an entrenched relationship and one on which little light is spread. This is not just true for the French and the Arabs.

Satire is defined "as the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues." Calypso is pure satire, at times. We have long understood satire here and employed its use. Examples from the recent Carnival season would be Monarch Chucky's The Rose and Heather Mcintosh's Ah Gone.

If in France your are killed for being satirical what are its costs in Trinidad and Tobago? There again lies that oblivion that had me too made a fool when first hearing of the death of or rather at Charlie Hebdo. I am a simple Black man and while that seems pejorative it also ironically not because in some sense it is true and not a judgement. Simplification is my responsibility now given the complication of things in a world where men think therefore they are.

The calypso has long been considered the diet of the ordinary people, historically that is. It came from the people. Like the satirical mag it has also always taken on targets bigger than itself so to speak, in a David and Goliath paragdigm some tellings of its genesis tell of officials supporting chantuelles to sing songs against their enemies, the calypso has long been used by the powerful too then.

Chucky won with The Rose, Devon Seale came second singing My Humble Plea. In a State run competition and with the perception that TUCO and other Carnival stakeholder groups are cap-in-hand and so subservient  I wonder what allowed the chips to fall as they did, my conditioned cynicism doesn't allow me to believe that it is that this government seems at least less sensitive or more tolerant.

Is it that we understand that satire is in some ways homage? Is it that Calypso always plays to a PNM audience anyway so why interfere with its goings ons? Was there an onus on the bards, who are governed by bards, to be true bards? Was Kurt Allen in fact the punished satirist? Was it his lyrics or the arrangement? Was Brian London's melody any more in line with an artform that has gone far (IMHO) on its adherence to tradition?

I dont have the answers. In fact there is a lot I don't know being a simple Black man, I admit, I for a while a couple weeks ago was wondering what Charlie do?

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