Being positive in the New Year and beyond
It is said that the epitaph on the gravestone of the 19th century inventor of condensed milk, Gail Borden, reads: “I tried and failed. I tried again and again and succeeded.”
As Barbadians say goodbye to 2014 and prepare to usher in a new year, Borden’s advice is one which should resonate throughout the island. At a time when the economic crisis appears to linger and continues to cause some degree of hardship and discomfort for our citizens, we should be mindful that having a defeatist attitude is not the answer to our problems and never will be.
Government’s financial constraints have occasioned a negative impact on the livelihoods of many Barbadians. There are cries from those who contract their services to the state of not being paid, in some instances for periods exceeding five or more months. While Government commits to paying salaries, others with legitimate expectations of receiving monies owed have been forced to wait. These aggrieved persons are to be found in professions spanning from caterers to building contractors to pharmacists.
The complaints of medical shortages and other equipment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the inability to maintain adequate numbers of buses and sanitation trucks on the road can be linked to Government’s cash flow problems at some level. Our beaches have been deprived of the level of security and safety once provided by Government lifeguards. Our roads, sidewalks, gullies have all started to show the signs of the reduction in the personnel once employed by the state to maintain them.
Life, though still quite bearable, has presented some degree of discomfort.
Unfortunately, as is their wont, politicians have tried to make mileage from these circumstances, ignoring the fact that both of our main political parties held the forks and contributed to digging the hole from which we seemingly will take some time to climb. With every downgrade by Standard & Poor’s or Moody’s, there is a peculiar glee expressed by some not in favor of the current administration, as though the happy campers live in a different Barbados and cannot be affected by the difficult circumstances.
Conversely, some in favour of the Freundel Stuart administration bury their heads in partisan political sand and pretend that better cannot be done and that the Government is being unfairly criticized. While some complain vehemently, others remain uncomfortably silent.
2014 has been that kind of year.
But for those who complain, who remain silent, or see the prevailing economic climate as an opportunity to seize the Government by ballot, they do the country a disservice by not rising from physical and mental inertia and seeking alternatives to what might have existed in time of plenty. The course of action demonstrated by many will not bring Barbados out of the mire. Young men, and women, are still to be found across the island, stagnating and aging under trees, lounging on makeshift benches, at shop doors and under streetlights. The complaint is often that there is nothing to do but their locations breed that defeatist attitude and employment will not seek them out there.
Barbadians complain about the level of garbage on the streets. Yet, despite their awareness of the shortcomings of the Sanitation Service Authority, many still dump indiscriminately, place garbage outside after the garbage trucks have passed, position garbage in a manner that leads to it being overturned by animals. Addicts, and/or enterprising entrepreneurs, regularly displace garbage from their containers in the effort to access bottles. Household appliances, beds, tables, metals, and all manner of objects are left on sidewalks for trucks incapable of removing them.
Despite frequent medical warnings and educational programmes, there is still a high number of health problems related to diet and lack of exercise, whether obesity, diabetes or hypertension. Barbados has been cited as a major amputation centre, yet many of our citizens continue to live unhealthy lifestyles and create an additional burden on an already stretched and, in some cases, inefficient Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Complaints that Barbados’ food import bill is too high are usually met with increased purchases of imported commodities for their supposedly better quality. While our farmers fume, our local merchandisers and retailers link their maintenance of employment levels to their ability to import and the willingness of consumers to buy. It is a vicious, unceasing cycle.
The global economic crisis provided a timely wake-up call for Barbadians but it appears there are many Rip Van Winkles in our midst. The greatest injustice many of our citizens have visited on themselves is the belief that politicians are their saviours and will get them out of these difficult times. It is a dependency sickness on which politicians feed and through which they worm themselves into political power. Nothing really changes.
Perhaps it is time that Barbadians take a close look at those countries which are emerging from the global crisis and notice that by dint of innovation, entrepreneurship and private sector investment, change for the better is occurring.
So, 2015 is upon us. Let us not make the mistakes of 2014. Let us not wallow in self-pity. Let us not wait to see who makes the first positive move; be that individual. Let us not complain ourselves into distraction. Let us try, and perhaps fail. Then, let us try again, and again. It is the only way we will succeed. It is the only way that 2015 will not mirror previous futility.
All the best for the New Year!