Look at me ! A reconquest of oneself

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
September 05, 2022

PART I

“Man is a rational substance composed of a soul and a body.”

—Saint Augustine, “The Trinity”

“The human person… is both a bodily and a spiritual being.

—Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church

Two weeks ago I gave a talk at a Transformative Leadership Bootcamp at QRC hosted by Dr Brian Harry, to a mix of young and old people who asked my opinion on the theme night Stink & Dutty. By implication, the questioner included those unscripted events such as Jam Naked and FOC that happen across the country. My puritanical instincts and old-fashioned notions of decency almost told me to view these events as expressions/manifestations of moral and social decay.

A few days later, Maurisa Findlay, a woman younger but much wiser than me, offered a different interpretation of these events: “The ‘class-sensitive choir’ should stop worrying and ranting about perceived of social conduct and morality whenever a mega theme party is held. Instead, they should celebrate our young people where they come from to jam, jab, jump and scrub together. These events are not just about flesh and photos, which are posted and reposted online. Bosses actually build and strengthen a vital part of the economy which, when examined, can leave the pious chewing their fat. Jam Naked, Stink & Dutty, FOC are significant interacting economies.

They are spaces in which these young people realize an existential freedom. It is about an inner gaze and a high self-confidence in which they realize themselves: a reality stripped of the certainties of their elders. Some call it the “me-economy”.

The “Me-Economy”, according to Findlay, a former journalist and communications/marketing consultant, is a space “where you use your time, your money, your creativity and your body to make your personal statement, visible and recognizable to countless people you have yet to meet. Here, your value proposition is derived from likes, followers, shares, views, and “subscribers.” Your market is anyone on all social media platforms.

“As a personal/individual branding business, you are a business project in your own right. Your goal is to use your presence, at all times, to create content. A pissed off party is fertile ground for self-marketing and influencer magic. Filled with uberous, artful and personal presentations – in mind, body, smile and spontaneous dance, the unspoken narrative is: “Look-Me!”

In preparing to attend these parties, customers spend considerable sums to achieve the trendy look: “They make appointments for beauty treatments – nails, eyelashes, eyebrows, hairdressers and barbers. Artisans make underwired bras, designers stay up late crafting custom monokinis and bikinis, tight-fitting shorts and vests. Retail stores are seeing an increase in register and the gig economy is boosted.

For moralists, the most scandalous aspect of these festivals is their carnal dimension. Findlay again comes to the rescue: “These events are colorful, courageous and carnal, not to be confused with lascivious and libidinous motives. Many of these giddy, whirling, nervous, scantily clad people are the most progressive, productive yet fun-loving and fun-loving professionals.

“They are the entrepreneurs, business owners, technology experts, doctors, lawyers, civil servants, employees of private companies, college students and the nation’s beloved ‘sugar babies’. Indeed, they have earned the right to express themselves however they wish by simply surviving the pandemic.

I can relate to this liberating sensibility in the post-pandemic era, having suffered from the crippling effects of the pandemic. After two years of unproductive work, I resumed writing my manuscript which describes the lives of two courageous Caribbean preachers. Schoolchildren too are trying to regain their balance after feeling the devastating effects of this pandemic.

Looking at these “bacchanal” releases, one can relate to the celebration of the flesh that has been put on the back burner during a period of disorientation. It reminds me of the Roman celebrations of the flesh in pre-Christian times that happened frequently. Christians believed it was a sinful practice.

It took Saint Augustine, one of the first African bishops of the Church, to remind us that a human being “is a rational substance composed of a soul and a body” and that neither “the soul alone , nor the body are an individual human being or a human being”. the person. Only the soul-body composite is an individual human being or person.

The soul, although entirely distinct from the body, has an important relationship with a body. “Each soul ‘is the principle of life’ and the governor of a particular body. The soul and the living body are not antagonistic, but interdependent. The body needs the soul to live, and the soul needs the body to be a soul… Jesus is not only soul but also flesh. (Justin Hannegan, “How Augustine Made Us More Than Material and Immortal.”)

So it seems appropriate to let the revelers perform themselves according to their gospel. It is an important expression of their personality. Findlay notes, “In the digital age, defining your space sometimes reduces style to skimpy transparency. You dive, bubble, and wine at raw and risky levels for the ten-second video, whether you’re fluffy, well-figured, or flyweight. Just be yourself, on your own terms.

Saint Augustine understood the temptation to denigrate the body and to see in it only a prison for the soul. It has its own rites/rights which must be celebrated accordingly. As one anthem from these theme parties urges: “I’m just a stranger in a crowded place / Me and my cooler / Hoping to find someone with a familiar face / So we can party and celebrate… This ain’t time to be a loner / It’s time to wine on a bumper”. (Blaxx, “Mash Up”.)

Belonging is the dominant feeling of these celebrants of the flesh. It is a way of freeing the soul and saying to the world: “I exist.