Friday, October 10, 2008

Somet'ing SAUTT to pass in mih [my] mout’

Now that we are in the month of October, the Christmas preparation in Trinidad and Tobago begins as this month brings the start of the Parang season. For the wider ‘Net audience, parang is a local word derived from the Spanish parranda, meaning 'to make merry' or 'to party.' Parang is a Hispanic styled music played in Trinidad and Tobago around Christmas time.

Traditionally, the themes of this musical genre centered on the nativity but over the years these have come to include more secular and Carnival-type themes, which led to the development of a derivative known as parangsoca, soca (soca being a derivative of traditional Calypso or Kaiso music) combined with parang. And more recently another, derivative, chutneyparang, parang combined with chutney, chutney being the name given to creolized festive East Indian music popular at our Hindu weddings and other celebrations.

All this is well and good, as it has shown the development of the music and its incorporation with the other musical idioms in the country. However, some parang purists have lamented these developments given a trend that seems to totally ignore the traditional or 'true' parang as it was known and performed: its integrity and value becoming completely sidelined and disrespected.

This brings me too, to the title of this posting which, as the locals would recognize, is a takeoff of what can be termed a classic Christmas calypso penned my the Mighty Chalkdust or Chalkie as he is affectionately known. The famous refrain in the calypso “Somet’ing soyt [salt] to pass in mih mout,” has long been used by locals as a plea for the serving of ham when they go visiting at Christmas time. The salty, savoury ham is seen as the centerpiece of Christmas fare: the pièce de résistance, without which somehow the integrity of the Christmas menu has been brought into contempt, despite whatever else has been served.

The question of integrity with respect to the government was again recently raised in parliament when independent senator Dana Seetahal referred to SAUTT (Special Anti-crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago) as the most likely resource that would have been used by the Prime Minister to monitor whether MP Kamla Persad Bissessar had a mole in the Integrity Commission. The irony of this situation as the senator had pointed out was related to several reasons:
  • (Perhaps the most pertinent one being) SAUTT is as yet to be lawfully constituted.
  • If SAUTT was indeed the instructed agency in question, as a policing unit it cannot or should not be taking instructions from political officials.
  • Given that SAUTT is as yet to be lawfully constituted it consequently answers to no one and as such is a law unto itself.

A digest - if it is all digestible -of all this is a conundrum whereby a law enforcing agency not lawfully constituted or not having legal integrity, was supposedly used by a political official to determine if another political official had managed to subvert the integrity another agency, an agency which, curiously, was established ensure the integrity of all the players involved. That agency, The Integrity Commission of Trinidad and Tobago, on its Web site, states that it is:

“mandated under the Constitution to ensure that persons in public life and persons exercising a public function comply with the laws governing integrity in the fulfillment of their duties and responsibilities to the people they serve.”

The above political-SAUTT-Integrity Commission muddle is sure to make anyone’s head spin and seems akin to the goings on at a Mad Hatter’s integri -tea party where similarly to the Carrollian chaos, answerless riddles and arbitrariness seem to rule the order of the day. It is notable that on the Integrity Commission’s Web site Community page, in an article titled What is Integrity, it quotes the famed playwright and former Czech Republic president Vaclav Havel:

“public officials live in a world of half-truth which saps the soul and integrity of any person.…Only responsible individuals of integrity risking the moral dangers of politics and persisting in their quest for a better public life can make a difference in the world.”

Havel as we see, notes that in public life there are inherent moral dangers and undeniably one factor which gives rise to such, stems from the Actonian admonition of what power and absolute power do to us.

But this fallout of possessing power also applies in many relationships e.g. adults abusing power over children, one spouse’s abuse over the other, senior workers abuse over junior staff.

And yet, unfortunately for some too, integrity means doing all that is integral to their own advancement regardless of the expense to others. In other words, their 'integrity' is only to ensure that their me-ism remains intact: lies by omission, half-truths, deceit and cheating bear no unrest upon their conscience so long as their desires are sated. In the book Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life, by Swedish writer Sissela Bok, she writes:

“Imagine a society, no matter how ideal in other respects, where word and gesture could never be counted upon. Questions asked, answers given, information exchanged –all would be worthless. Were all statements randomly truthful or deceptive, action and choice would be undermined from the outset. There must be a minimal degree of trust in communication for language and action to be more than stabs in the dark. This is why some level of truthfulness has always been seen as essential to human society, no matter how deficient the observance of other moral principles.”

One can see that the 'worthlessness' Bok warns of here is also not unlike the situation in Lewis Caroll's Mad Hatter’s tea party.

Christmas is a time when we traditionally become more sincere toward and more caring of our family, friends and anyone we encounter in general. Yet while the integrity that we see lacking from those in authority is abhorrent and should not be tolerated, let us nevertheless, ensure to maintain our own integrity so that in all our actions and in whatever service we provide our fellow humankind, our 'menu' contains and conveys the soyt [salt] of our true good selves.


  1. Hello,
    before anithing, I apologise for my poor english.

    My name is Hernán and I from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

    I`m a curious student of Comunications Sciences and I was looking about the geography of our continent for hobbie and looking for a next location to travel.

    Always I think why Trinidad & Tobago is considerated inside Centroamérica and Caribean? I never knew that.

    T&T is to close to Venezuela, why Trinidad & Tobago are not part of South America?

    Excuse me for bothering.

    Thank you very much.

    fraternal greetings,

    Best regards,


  2. Kudos for the Trini site.

    Geologically, Trinidad is part of Venzeula. Politically, it was very important as the most Windward Island. That meant that any vessel crossing the Atlantic from Europe would attempt to make landfall at Trinidad first, as then it would be easy sailing to Leeward to visit the other islands to the North and West.

    As the most Windward, and certainly large enough for water, food and other supplies, Trinidad quickly became a sought after (and fought over) colony, taken in succession by Spanish (Columbus), British and French naval powers, as is reflected by the rich succession of place names (and peoples) of Trinidad. In the end, the British held Trinidad, and so it has not been considered a part of South America.

    Also of note is Guyana, the only English speaking country on the South American Mainland.

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