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Everybody peepin'

Terry Joseph
January 16, 2002

GRENADIAN soca singer Super P must be suitably baffled by the alacrity with which Trinis embraced his song "Peepin", unaware perhaps that he merely provided a soundtrack to an emerging pastime.

Of course, the concept is not new. Like any society, we've always had our fair share of peeping Toms, ranging from sexually motivated voyeurism to harmless neighbourhood "maccoes" who spend their time maliciously monitoring the Joneses.

No one is immune from the temptation to take at least a furtive glance at an attractive person, or ogle the beauty until out of sight. A glimpse of some taboo never hurt anybody either, nor is curiosity unlawful. But recently, the practice assumed a fresh dimension. Suddenly, it seems every activity is under a most punctilious brand of scrutiny, with reproach accruing to those that fail at achieving tribal balance.

Instigated by politicians and a few bigots on either side of the ethnic divide, the body count has now taken root and while hostility is not yet part of the equation, hairstyles have become a determinant in assaying just how racially correct an activity may or may not be.

State sponsored events are particularly guilty of contriving a tribal mix, attempting to palliate possible criticism by carefully counting out the number of Indians and Africans in focus at any one time. Just put some African drummers in the cultural segment of a show and everybody peepin' to see how much tassa will follow.

And it's not just Africans vs Indians. As guest on Power 102 for the Ringside talk show two Sundays ago, host Dr Morgan Job asked me to comment on "the type of person" who now controlled the money in mas. He seemed interested in establishing whether a socio-economic shift had quietly occurred from the time of George Bailey and Jack Brathwaite.

Given the widespread view that only people like the Harts and Afongs understand contemporary Carnival capitalism, Dr Job was visibly surprised on hearing that the most successful large band for the past three years has been Legends, an organisation run by two black men of grassroots origin.
Everybody peepin'.

Had the question been about fete-management, that answer harbours even greater astonishment. The two major Carnival fete producers, Village Promotions and Tristar, who annually put on Blazing Soca, Licensing Fete, Flour Mills, WASA and several other events of that magnitude, are both of Indian descent.

Now hear how preposterous this peepin' thing gets: When it came time to appoint a National Carnival Commission (NCC) chairman, those who were in the loop early argued that the position should go to Ainsworth Mohammed.

Their choice was not informed by Mr Mohammed's proven astuteness in the management of Republic Bank's credit system or administration of his super successful Exodus Steel Orchestra, but because "it would look good to put an Indian in charge of Carnival".

The ludicrous presumption here is that Carnival is a festival dominated by persons of African origin and Mr Mohammed's presence at that level would supply ethnic and political balance. No one seemed to remember that his elder brother, Amin, was chairman of the inaugural NCC.

But that was in 1986 when, quite unlike now, everybody wasn't peepin' and no one would have asked if Howard Chin Lee was made National Security Minister purely on the basis of his Chinese heritage.

So when attorney Anand Ramlogan stands up on holy ground to detail his spectacularly inaccurate head count of Indians in positions of authority, then compresses an already narrow view to single out the media for special persecution, it should have come as no surprise.
Everybody peepin'.

But why stop there? Shouldn't he complete the exercise by examining ethnic equilibrium at all levels? Surely his research could leap to a study of what percentage of roti sales come from persons of African descent or how many preferred dosti to dhalpourie?

And believe me, there are a lot of people who would really love to know precisely how many Indian professionals own palatial homes and prestige vehicles or, for that matter, exactly where they send their daughters to school and under what circumstances.

For a man who came to our attention through his legal efforts to secure fair play for victims of executive bungling, we really expected a lot more than this futile head-hunting as an encore.

We can't be sure what Mr Ramlogan's problem is, but it must be difficult to pronounce, if the condition leads him to this constant peepin', even where his conclusions are so completely flawed.

But he is not alone. Trinis of African heritage are no less inquisitive about the tribal mix and come up with equally uninformed motives. Alas, it has come to this in a nation once oblivious to ethnic origins of neighbours and friends. On Saturday last at the opening of Calypso Spektakula, a patron who reserved judgment on the quality of songs being offered, however, observed the tent fielded singers of Caucasian, Indian, Chinese, African and Portuguese descent. Another detected there was only one woman on the cast and several noted the paucity of Indians in the audience.

The condition really degenerates to the level of illness when pure entertainment was the order of the night, but still, everybody peepin'. Hello?

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