Editorial: Lewd behaviour in Carnival?

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The rampant lewd behaviour in Carnival has caught the eyes of more than a few observers.  Not that lewd behaviour and Carnival are strangers to one another but more because lewd behaviour is on a trend to becoming Carnival. 
Antigua & Barbuda is not unique in this trend. Just about every Caribbean Carnival has seen an increase in drunken revelry and lewd behaviour.  And while we can seek to find the causes of this trend, we need only look at society to understand how Carnival is really just a reflection of our everyday lives.  It may be an emphasis, or maybe even an exaggeration of our everyday lives, but a reflection nonetheless.
The rhetoric from the older-folk has turned into a cliché over time. Every prior generation believes that the current generation’s behaviour leaves something to be desired. They lament the wayward behaviour of the current crop of kids and claim such could never have occurred when they were of that age.  Of course, we use “kids” as a broad reference to generations. You can even hear twenty-something year-olds reflecting on a time when “dat would never be allowed”. This irresponsible behaviour is something that we talk about every day and in every aspect of our lives. We often point to it as a major contributor to the social decay in our society.
Recently, Minister of Social Transformation Samantha Marshall, stated that she believes that behavioural rules may be the answer to stamping out the obscene behaviour of revellers during Carnival celebration.  After the exhibition put on by many of the t-shirt mas participants, Minister Marshall stated, “Some women may go a little bit overboard in our eyes but what we would want to see is that they act more responsibly; the manner in which they dress and how they consume alcohol but at the same time, we have to appreciate that we live in a democratic society and people have that level of freedom as to how they dress and present themselves.”
Kudos to the minster for her political correctness. Others less skilled in diplomacy may have simply chastised the revellers and then announced that the Government would fix the problem. Instead, Minister Marshall acknowledged that the role of government was limited in these behavioural situations and that shaping behaviour lies more with society and family. The minister was supported by others who spoke on the topic including Alston Laurens, St Maarten’s director of Carnival.
Although St Maarten supported regulations against obscene music and claims that they were key towards maintaining the family nature of their Carnival, Laurens conceded that the responsibility for keeping people’s conduct clean rests with the individuals and in the case of underage persons, with their parents.
We can all sit around a campfire and debate what contributes towards lewd behaviour and what can reduce the unwanted activity … heck, we can even debate what is lewd behaviour?
But, in the end, behaviour is a societal and cultural thing. It is not, or rather, it should not be, a government thing.   Sure, our politicians are supposed to be role models and in many cases, the behaviour that they exhibit is far from “model”, but the greatest influences in most young people’s lives are their families and their peers.  Peel back the various levels and guess where we reach?  The family! 
Some of you will be shaking your head, mocking us with a “blah, blah, blah” tone because we have sung this chorus before but it is worth repeating.  Prohibition and regulations can only go so far in a society.  They can affect behaviour only so much, and on that front, we are of the opinion that they are largely ineffective.  In contrast, involved parents and family have a much more dramatic effect on the lives and ultimate character of a person.  If kids are taught that there are boundaries and respect that bad behaviour is wrong and not to be tolerated, then they will carry that through life.  If, however, they are allowed to ‘do as dey like’ and suffer no consequences then their poor choices and bad behaviour will only escalate as they grow older and gain greater independence. 
There is no magic solution to combat bad behaviour, especially around Carnival time with music that promotes a “get on bad!” behaviour, but we can hope to change the way that we parent. As, youth advocate Kadeem Joseph said, “…parents need to realize that parenting is not a hands-off ting but in fact, hand-on.” Very true! Too many parents’ part-time approach to parenting has led to greater unsupervised time for children and as the old people say, “idle hands make for the devil’s work”.
It may take multiple generation to reverse the bad behaviour trends but every journey starts with the first step. So, let us all take that first step and ultimately show the youth that Carnival can be just as much fun without the overindulgence in alcohol and lewd behaviour.

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