Bacchanalism, Christianity, the Confusist, and Carnival

Unlike Confucianism which promotes humanism[1], the Confusist has no such restrictions. His role is simply to ask and unmask in equal portion. On the rare occasion however when the Confusist plays the Devil’s Advocate for the Christian right there should be some measure of concern.

That the Christian right in Trinidad & Tobago failed to promote the slightest material opposition to the firestorm of “Bacchanal” which swept the Carnival 2012 celebrations is telling. Where are the defenders of the faith, and more importantly “what exactly do they stand to lose” by specifically speaking out against the concept of a “Bacchanalian” carnival, and educating the partying public to the line that separates a unique cultural festival from borderline hedonism and idolatry. (note: given that Easter celebrations may be similarly linked to the worship of Eostre, a goddess of Germanic paganism, the reluctance may be understandable).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship…Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money etc.” [2]


The song “Bacchanalist” explicitly refers to the freedoms associated with T&T carnivals, as in the catchy lyric, “this foot is mine.., and you can’t tell me what to do”; it  also promotes the 3D concept of Dancing, Drinking, and Debauchery. This is typical of most years, but the difference this year is that the term “Bacchanal” has roots to the Roman God Bacchus…. also known as the Liberator,

“whose wine, music and ecstatic dance frees his followers from self-conscious fear and care, and subverts the oppressive restraints of the powerful.”[3]

Without reaching across the pulpit, one may argue that Trinidadians understand the difference between substance and form. Yet there exist standards, and benchmarks that are sometimes unclear. A hedonist for example does not differentiate between deriving one’s pleasure from serving God or mammon, arguing that “pleasure is the only intrinsic good.”[4]

In times past there was a clear line of demarcation between Christmas, Carnival, and Lent.  While the celebrations have retained historical borders, the spirit and substance of Carnival has infused the Christmas celebrations, and threaten the Lenten season as well. One can ask the question, for example, who is the true alcoholic?

a) One who loves to drink, but is seldom seen drunk in public,

b) One who drinks occasionally but when he does usually ends up drunk,

c) The teetotaler who sacrifices life and limb for the occasional drink (think abstaining from antibiotics during Carnival week).

Point being that there are many flavors of celebration and one should always question the alignment with one’s philosophy, (given that one does indeed have a philosophy (Epicurean, Hedonistic, Christian etc,,) to begin with).

2012 Carnival Revellers/"Bacchanalists"

The problem in a nutshell is that someone needs to take a stance, albeit balanced. The Catholic Church and Christian community doesn’t get to take a “pass on this one”, or defer arguments to the post-Carnival period. Society always needs balance, and guidance. For all the beauty of carnival there are stories of excessive drinking, juvenile stabbings, car accidents, and economic opportunity costs. What one may view as collateral damage is not necessarily the norm. Carnival is not for everyone!

In true Confusist fashion one need not necessarily pay heed to an argument…. one simply requires that the argument be articulated, and that all proponents have their day in the sun…. some people need perspective.

Disclaimer: Carnival 2012 was a blast!!



Vital Supplies (VS) … (an Update)!

Way back in the day, a pack of salted nuts, (as far as I recall), qualified as VS … sure there have been pretenders, Viagra, “Crix and Cheese”,  comes to mind in particular, due to some extensive marketing campaigns, but it always comes back to basics.  Simple really… in the panyard everyone basically stays around for hours, either learning new music, getting drilled, or just enjoying the ambience of watching musical talents strut their stuff.  The salient point however remains “stay around”. If there are no doubles vendors, Mickey Dees, or Starbucks (yeah right), nearby then it comes right down to your salted peanuts. It gets so when you put a grain on your tongue you can count the salt grains before they melt. This then was my dilemna,  after not having played pan for about fiftheen or so years, I find myself trying to pick up a tune in three weeks for the Labor Day Panorama competition in NY.

Steelband - Caribana c2k10

Prior to arrival at the panyard, I  spent a  memorable couple hours on Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn. Great place, lots of antique shops, lots of cultural experiences waiting to happen, and I visited a Contemporary Art Exhibition featuring Herbert G. Bennett (Trini), and a couple artists. Nice, quaint, wine was indifferent,  but there was a digital piece on canvas that evoked the spirit of carnival in all it’s glory.

Around 6:30 pm I touched base with my cuz, Wally who helped me out bigtime on my last TnT trip – I picked up a camera bag and headed across to the panyard.  Once there I asked if there was room  for players etc, etc.  If I was a “crackshot” we’d talk payment but as a genuine, proven  “skater” I just settled for getting my personal tenor tuned, (Sally just turned seventeen and still hasn’t been broken in properly) . What followed however is a text case in “How not to test the water before you jump in”…

Sally - Tenor Pan

 Watching the number of “babies” in the panyard should have been my first warning.  Not “babes” as in “BABES”…  but literally “babies”… there was one young girl, proficient as hell, who couldn’t have been either thirteen or ten, give or take a couple years. It quickly went south from there…  the first thing my “tutor” asked was what type of tenor did i play… “the high C” or the “low C”… shabbaruffledshivermargaritatimbers…. that should have been enough of a warning right there… back in my time most tenors were just standard 4th and 5ths without the low “C” note…. plus no-one (well not the pawns),  needed to know the notes … you could pull the music a lot easier just by taking the visuals, and listening… well I  found visuals don’t  work quite as well if people have pans with different note patterns.  Thankfully your Robinson Crusoe was an overachiever and at some point had picked up on the notes, scales and such, so it was a shortened learning curve…. but nothing can hide the lack of raw musical talent or the robotic stiffness (yes, my tutor went there)…. which led me to hurriedly revamp the VS list for the modern panman.  Let’s call it the necessities, a workaround, or worse case, an upgrade of sorts! So here goes… 5 hr energy drink, gum, pack of Advil, and last but not least the ubiquitious iphone. I’ll break it down… the energy drink will handle the long drive back to the apartment… think about it, practice doesn’t finish before midnight. In fact the first hint of a break was delivered around 11:30 pm. Those energy drinks are about to make my life a lot simpler, Red Bull, NOX5 , and the cherry flavored stuff in the little bottles. The gum, for me is high priority,  and the Advil I know will come in handy. The iphone however is the lifesaver… i’ve already taped the music and will be listening to the tune all day… very nice, modern touch… yeah, till i can remember the music, and see the notes mentally… don’t get me wrong, the peanuts and the Polo Sport cologne remain viable options, but who knows, maybe with an improved VS list I may actually be on my way to making the wicked sweet runs I love to hear on Panorama night.

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