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Reinventing Barbados

Often, the truth in any situation can be found in what is said as well as what is not said. Indeed, at times, it is the expedient that is said or done for some short term gain or reason. If no effort is made to pry open the situation or problem, the truth will remain dormant and later assume a life of its own, but at a price.

Listen. Today can we really appreciate why some parents would spank a child because the child remained silent and didn’t answer their questions? Or can we truly understand why many workers, even when asked, would not repeat what they saw (or heard) for fear of losing their jobs? And how was it possible for mothers to repeatedly make soup for a large family from the contents of a bare and almost empty cupboard?

Truth be told, in every situation, however small or large, as with elections, everything matters.

Listen again, the just concluded general election still has untold stories, unanswered questions, and lots of important trivia. We still don’t know if live streaming, party songs or party colours influenced the decisions of voters or if 21 had any significance.

Furthermore one could, for example, ask:

(a) What residual experience led a politician to unearth the “kettle and pot” story, and, to boot put a size to the kettle’s nose and then shovel soot unto a mirror?

(b) Or, what would behold any leader to say that a society is Christian and then respond to an accusation by admitting a love for syrup — the kind that cannot sweeten the swank in an tinsmith’s “Ovaltine tot”?

(c) And, why did all hell break loose, after another politician’s choice of metaphor — one that is suppose to have nine lives — had already reduced the weight, and life, of a sound argument that needed no insurance?

Interestingly, all the while, there was no “third party” intervention like the activism of the church, the union, and the Eric Sealy et al groups, all of whom remained deafeningly silent and invisible. And ironically, the noise came from some kind of sub culture that was active under the non-Barbadian banner “things dread”.

So what is really going on?

In mechanical terms, there is a good chance that our material growth rate has been faster than our social maturity. It is possible that we are similar to a fruit tree that grew very fast, and, when its fruit appeared, its branches were unable to carry the load and they broke.

Barbados must grow up. This view should not portray a linear appearance of shame. It is the recognition that our landscape has reached the point where it lacks social, economic, political and cultural space. Consequently there is discomfort; there is the feeling that something is wrong as expressed by the 200,000 pointing fingers that now have arthritis.

We certainly need a new conversation, but it can’t be the old one about or size or money.

We now have sufficient international examples to show that the exchange of one party for another — the exchange of whose right for whose wrong — is not applicable to the prevailing world of uncertainty.

We also know that in the 1940s when money was scarce, the cooperative movement was formed and later improved the lot of many poor people.

We can also wonder if there is any economic strategy that is relevant to the current circumstances. Austerity and stimulus has produced mixed results.

We can also wonder what kind of essence that is replicated in politics by the ascension of the Attorney General of the US, Eric Holder, and, on international entertainment world shown by the dominance of Rihanna Fenty? Then if we discover that the missing link is the lack of market size then we must now clearly think Bajan, think innovation and think global.

All the above being said, I note that:

* The Japanese society was transformed from a feudal culture to a corporate culture through an education campaign.

* An oyster protects itself against the invasion of foreign substances by releasing a fluid from its muscle that engulfs the intruder. Over time, the fluid hardens and this process makes a pearl. Then the oyster comes under another external threat — divers looking for pearls.

* The story of Noah’s ark suggests that if a society is perceived to be under serious threat, then it should protect the things which it considers important.

Ultimately, the oyster story which encompasses the others, gives us a way forward. Our fluid could be: order, discipline, quality, productivity, effort, and efficiency. In other words, we will not have an improvement in our life style, if our politics is still a gladiator sport, whereby some sit on the sideline, enjoy the battle — the colour, music, theatre — and then associate with winners and power, without seeing their role in building a productive society.

Unfortunately, at every turn, hovering over every effort to produce, to invent and to seek quality is this albatross, our import culture which does not demand productivity.

* Water Edey is a New York-based Barbadian social commentator.

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