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Dissent and Democracy: Towards Carnival 5.0

Dissent and Democracy: Towards Carnival 5.0


January 16, 2024


Carnival 2024 has drawn to a close, prompting reflections on its significance. Carnival, I've often said, serves as a mirror reflecting the dynamics of our society. While I could undertake a scientific analysis of it, such endeavors are usually left to universities.

In essence, we find ourselves nearing the end of Carnival 3.0's lifecycle. Hence, it was a real elite carnival party in Club van Engelen en Kwiek and The Jolly Fellows partying from Saturday until Mardi Gras (Carnival 1.0). However, with the catastrophe in Holland in the year 1953, resulting in the passing of over 1800 people, it halted the celebration on the island. In the 60s, Shon Benchi and Elias Bronswinkel led the way into the new era of Carnival 2.0.

Carnival 2.0, epitomized by figures like Shon Benchie and Mr. Elias Bronswinkel, persisted until around 1970. Then, in 1970, Carnival 3.0 emerged under the leadership of Omalio Merien, whom I had the privilege of knowing well. This transition occurred in the wake of racial tensions and labor unrest in 1969. Carnival was envisioned as a force for change, a unifying celebration embodying the motto "Pa un i tur i pa uní tur" ("One for all and all for one"). Remarkably, we have adhered to this ethos for fifty years now. At first glance, not much seems to have changed about the festivities. The Tumba festival remains the same, alongside the Gran Marcha, with the addition of children's and teen parades.

However, in the 1980s, a market-oriented mindset began to prevail. Fees had to be paid for stalls, and carnival groups evolved into businesses. No longer just gatherings of friends celebrating their camaraderie through costume-making, the carnival has transformed into a commercial enterprise that scarcely fosters the cohesion that Carnival 3.0 sought to promote. Nowadays, costumes can be ordered online and picked up the day before the parade. These costumes, increasingly revealing for women, leave little to the imagination for men. This is combined with the island's seemingly high levels of acceptance toward the LGBTQ+ community. Many participants in the groups no longer know each other personally. The grand floats of yesteryears have vanished, replaced by cars adorned with advertisements. While the parade used to be broadcast by all radio stations and TV channels, radio coverage has diminished. Instead, an app now provides real-time updates on the parade's whereabouts, which was particularly crucial this year due to numerous delays.

The consequence of these changes is a decline in various aspects: fewer Tumba songs, fewer groups, and fewer participants. Just as the economy fades and the population diminishes, poverty prevents the less affluent from participating as actively. The Tumba, once a mainstay, is now rarely played. The parade still struggles to start on time, and it has never concluded before the stroke of midnight on Tuesday.

Maintaining the written and unwritten rules of the event has become increasingly challenging. The political involvement, once limited to figures like the ladies Luncina da Costa Gomez and Maria Liberia Peters, has now expanded to include politicians seeking visibility ahead of elections. A new dimension has emerged: groups flouting the rules attempt to bypass regulations by contacting ministers, hoping for leniency.

Clearly, the festival is regressing, both quantitatively and qualitatively. It has ceased to be a celebration of the people and has instead become an industry. Ironically, those in charge fail to recognize where the problem lies. They believe further commercialization is the solution, whereas commercialization aggravates the issue.

What we need is to usher in a new era of carnival: Carnival 4.0. A carnival focused on cohesion and intergenerational connections. A sustainable carnival adapted to climate change and dedicated to the regeneration of society and nature. Actually, this is a description of Carnival 5.0, a human-centered Carnival. What the new kids are creating is a 4.0; technology-centered and profit-driven.



Miguel Goede

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