No final answers


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Category: Reflections 13 May 07


“She was a sort of dougla. Not fair, but not dark. She was kind of busty. I would describe her as thick and big-bottomed. The fat girl was cursing...”


Machel Montano


“When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his colour or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies—to be met not with co-operation but with conquest, to be subjugated and mastered.”


Senator Robert F Kennedy 1968


The incident, in which soca star Machel Montano and his entourage allegedly assaulted fans in a nightclub, landing one man in hospital, was not unexpected.


Montano’s statement at his “media conference” that he was the only “real” celebrity in this country, and one who mingled with the masses at that, and who was trying to “celebrate privately” in a public space in a nightclub would have been hilarious if it didn’t leave you feeling so defeated, as if to ask another king? (How much royalty can a tiny country handle? There are just not enough subjects to cheer.)


I heard and read his full statement. He was so emptied out of a true identity as a West Indian, so filled with trashy American ideas of celebrity, so judgmental in his descriptions (fat, big-bottomed) so ungrammatical, I didn’t know whether to laugh or gag.


I know Montano is a soca star, a man with a quivering groin of exceptional talent, able to whip thousands into frenzy with two “yeahs” followed by two-word tunes. Hell, it works...the smoky stage, the yelling... It’s entertaining.


Montano is undeniably successful. One of the few performers who has “made it” in our baby entertainment industry. He must have discipline, a decent work ethic and the ability to collaborate. I understand he encourages his employees to save and invest their money instead of blowing it. But does the man know how ridiculous it is to crown himself? One night in Madison Square Garden doesn’t make you a celebrity.


Mopping up floors


Brian Lara is a celebrity because the whole world—Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Africa—knows who he is. He plays in the international arena, has broken world records, and uses his celebrity to give back to disabled children and cancer sufferers.


When, lost for explaining where I’m from when I’m abroad I say “Brian Lara.” He shines a torch on this country.


Nobel laureates Sir Vidia Naipaul and Derek Walcott are celebrities. Celebrated for being arguably the finest living writers and poets in English today. Studied by thousands of graduate students worldwide.


Sparrow. He’s calypso. Jean and Dinah in a jukebox in Texas—that’s celebrity.

If Montano, who believes Trinidadians are too stupid to recognise a celebrity (him), bothers to read some more he will see that the celebrities he apes, the Mel Gibson type who swear at people, or the ones who throw cellphones like Naomi Campbell either end up grovelling prostate to the people they’ve offended (Gibson) or mopping floors in community service (Campbell).


Kennedy’s words echo from a time and world away.


“Too often we honour swagger and bluster and the wielders of force. We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community, men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear—only a common desire to retreat from each other—only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this there are no final answers.”  


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur