Look-me! A reclamation of self

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
September 05, 2022


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

—St Augustine, “The Trinity”

“The human person… is a being at once corporeal and spiritual.”

—Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeTwo weeks ago I gave a lecture at a Transformative Leadership Bootcamp at QRC organised by Dr Brian Harry, to a mix of younger and older people who asked my opinion of the themed party Stink & Dutty. Implicitly, the questioner included those unscripted events such as Jam Naked and FOC that are occurring across the country. My puritanical instincts and old-fashioned notions of decency almost demanded that I regard these events as expressions/manifestations of moral and social decadence.

A few days later, Maurisa Findlay, a woman, younger but much wiser than I, offered a different interpretation of these events: “The ‘class sensitive chorale’ should stop fretting and fuming over a perceived decline in social conduct and morality whenever a mega theme party is held. They should instead celebrate our young people from whence they come to jam, jab, jump and rub-up together. These events aren’t just about the flesh and photos, which are posted and reposted online. Patrons are actually building and strengthening a vital part of the economy which, when examined, may leave the pious chewing their fat. Jam Naked, Stink & Dutty, FOC are significant economies that interplay.”

These are spaces in which these young people realise an existential freedom. It has to do with an inward gaze and elevated self-confidence in which they realise themselves: a reality that is shorn of their elders’ certitudes. Some people call it the “Me-Economy”.

The “Me-Economy”, according to Findlay, a former journalist and communication/marketing consultant, is a space “where you utilise your time, money, creativity and body to make your personal statement, visible and recognisable by countless people you’ve yet to meet. Here, your value proposition is derived from likes, followers, shares, views, and ‘subscribed’. Your market is any one on every social media platform.

“As a personal/individual branding company, you’re a whole business project. Your goal is to use your presence, any and every time to create content. An edgy party is fertile breeding ground for self-marketing and influencer magic. Rife with uberous, artful, personal presentations—in mind, body, smile and spontaneous dancing, the unspoken narrative is: ‘Look-Me!'”

In prepping to attend these parties, patrons spend hefty sums to get the trending look: “They book beauty care appointments—nails, lashes, eyebrows, hair stylists and barbers. Artisans churn out wire bras, designers stay up late making customised monokinis and bikinis, tight shorts and vests. Retail stores see a surge at the register and the gig economy gets a boost.”

To moralists, the most scandalous aspect of these parties is their carnal dimensions. Findlay comes to the rescue again: “These events are colourful, courageous and carnal, not to be confused with lascivious, libidinous motives. Many of these giddy, gyrating, skittish, skimpily-clad people are most progressive, productive but fun-loving, frolicsome professionals.

“They are the country’s entrepreneurs, business owners, tech-experts, medics, lawyers, public servants, private enterprise employees, tertiary students, and beloved ‘sugar babies’. Indeed, they have earned the right to express themselves however they wish by merely surviving the pandemic.”

I can relate to this liberation sensibility in the post-pandemic era, having suffered from the pandemic’s paralysing effects. After two years of little productive work, I have resumed writing my manuscript that outlines the lives of two courageous Caribbean preachers. Schoolchildren, too, are also trying to regain their balance after feeling the devastating effects of this pandemic.

As one examines these “bacchanalian” releases, one can relate to the celebration of the flesh that was put on hold during a period of disorientation. It reminds me of the Roman celebrations of flesh during the pre-Christian era which occurred frequently. Christians believed this was a sinful practice.

It took St Augustine, an early African bishop of the church, to remind us that a human being “is a rational substance consisting of soul and body” and that neither “the soul alone, nor the body is an individual human being or a human person. Only the soul-body composite is an individual human being or a person”.

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

It seems appropriate, therefore, to let the partygoers play themselves according to their gospel. It is an important expression of their personhood. Findlay notes: “In the digital era, defining your space, sometimes narrows style to skimpy transparency. You dip, bubble and wine to raw, risqué levels for the ten-second video whether you’re fluffy, full-figured, or fly-weight. Just be your authentic self, on your own terms.”

St Augustine understood the temptation to denigrate the body and to see it merely as a prison of the soul. It has its own rites/rights that should be celebrated accordingly. As an anthem of these themed parties exhorts: “I am just a stranger in a crowded place / Me and my cooler / Hoping to find someone with a familiar face / So we could fete and celebrate… This is not the time to be a loner / This is the time to wine on a bumper”. (Blaxx, “Mash Up”.)

Belongingness is the prevailing sentiment of these celebrants of the flesh. It’s a way to free up the soul and tell the world, “I exist.”

2 thoughts on “Look-me! A reclamation of self”

  1. “St Augustine understood the temptation to denigrate the body and to see it merely as a prison of the soul.”
    As we get older we realize that the body that once gave you much pleasure is nothing but a vehicle heading to the grave. These realities struck hard as we move into the latter years. The lost of our once proud thick hair, starts thinning away leading to baldness. Then we start losing our teeth, by the time we reach the age 75 most people have had some dental work done. Their teeth replace with dentures. Thicker glasses and more stomach problems.

    It gets worst when our skin develop a life of its own, we get old age spots, wrinkles and the once beautiful smile that kept us in front the mirror now have us running from the mirror. We live in isolation or with children who yell at us because we are hearing impaired. With arthritis causing our hands to fold and our feet burning because of diabetes.

    I was at a home for the aged and met a nice man seem as though he was Italian. He was sitting there and I was there to visit an elderly lady. I got into a conversation with him. He said “look at me, I use to use my hand to build stuff, today look at my body it has changed so much, I am not able to use my hand or move around as before”. I felt the immense feeling of sadness as I listened to him. I could imagine his days of valor and freedom. All gone.

    The body is a vehicle and eventually it will return to manure the soil. After a certain age, is it really our body? Fake hair, false teeth, lots of make up, hearing aids, and it gets worst with senility and forgetfulness. No one fully realize this until they are in the twilight years. The highest suicide group is old white men in the U.S. of course now euthanasia is now an option that is commonly used away from the public eyes. Families are flown in from all over, they gather at the home or hospice or hospital and they say their final goodbye and the doctor administer the final blow. The have a family gathering and talk about the life of the dearly depart, it is all a matter of convenience. But it has grown over the years. People deciding on the day and time will they will get out of their body.

    St Augustine was right and we must all anticipate the future, the end of this physical structure, it is really a blessing and an end to human suffering. Having attended a lot of funerals and observing the pain in people faces and realizing all that remain is an empty shell…..let us walk in humility our day is coming. Our end is determined.

  2. Dear mr. Cudjoe ! – The cries of our peoble – LOOK-ME! A RECLAMATION OF SELF

    My comment was taken away . Its a must read for all .

    You wrote : ” We ought to be extremely reflective of our Words and actions on a Anniversary of our Republic ”

    Ruth : – 4 Words was given to you as a “MANTRA ” repeating them year after year . Look carefully at them .

    Emancipation – In Dependence – Republic – Comm on Wealth

    Enslaving our minds by – repeating , we learn that in SCHOOL and RELIGION .

    A MESSAGE , from the Shaman Summit in Katmandu Nepal .

    The World is undergoing an INITIATION .

    With the massive threat to global health, as well as the uprising against racial inecquity, the soul of humanity is being challenged to the core.

    At the heart of this turbulent transformation lies an invitation to reconnect with th inherent balance and intelligence of the natural world, as well as our shared humanity .

    The ancient knowledge of our ancestors and elders is needed now more than ever — as we navigate through times of illness, painfull division, and societal disruption.

    It’s time to call on the world’s – Spiritual Midwives – those who can bridge us to a new paradigm.

    Rooted in ageless wisdom and collective ancestral experience, with their feet planted squarely on the earth, this circle of elders ( and youth ) can offer sound guidance through this pivotal global transition.

    Just as communities have long gathered around the fire to listen to the elders and prophets speak, we can convene (albeit virtually) and learn from those who’ve been earth’s primary custodians for millennia.

    We can refer to these guides as mystics, some of them as shamans, and other as elders or wisdom keepers.

    Ruth : Chlidren of Nature think with their heart .
    our socalled – democraci , demos crazy …. public is crazy ?
    We live in a ” NUT-house ” a Psychiatric Ward !

    https//www.youtube.com/watch?v=X -q9xeOgG4
    John Cleese …. The life of Brian


    P.S ironically … The new primeminister LIZ STRUSS said in her FIRST speach to the people :
    Ouote : “ The United Kingdom’ Believe fundamentally in FREEDOM , enterprice and FAIR PLAY “
    …. and now Elizabeth is dead . The British Empire has fallen .

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