Column – What then shall be our mirror image?
Last Wednesday, Barbados observed Errol Barrow Day. It was noted by several callers to radio that it seemed celebrations for Errol Barrow Day were extremely low-keyed this year. In some places no events took place at all, whereas in previous years there were many activities.
A lack of financial resources, probably, has played a big part in the scaling down of activities to mark Errol Barrow Day.
Regardless of how many activities take place annually, it is important that we remind ourselves of the legacy of this outstanding Barbadian leader and ensure that generations to come remember who the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow was and what his contribution to the development of Barbados meant to all in his time and for the future. Statues, monuments, public holidays and naming of places in his honour are all one way of doing this; but these elements are just cosmetics for some of us.
Important is to learn from his actions and speeches. Not only Errol Barrow’s, but those too of all our other National Heroes and others who, over the years, have contributed to the development of Barbados. Our younger generation in schools should be exposed to their works.
All this should be put on the school curriculum so that it might impart and inspire in the psyche of every Barbadian schoolchild a sense of pride and an understanding of the sacrifices necessary to create an independent, strong, resilient small island state like Barbados.
One pronouncement of Errol Barrow that stands out as a lesson for all times is his famous Mirror Image speech, given on May 13, 1986. It is as relevant today as it was some 29 years ago –– perhaps even more relevant. The question that he asked the people of Barbados then is much the same that we must all ask ourselves today: “I want to know, what kind of mirror image do you have of yourselves? Do you really like yourselves? There are too many people in Barbados who despise themselves, and their dislike of themselves reflects itself in their dislike of other people.”
I urge all to go back to that speech and reflect on what was said and asked. Perhaps, some of the questions and issues may change; but the essence remains the same: what mirror image do we have of ourselves?
Barbadians took pride in their country. Indeed, “Pride” is one word in our Coat Of Arms. Are we today living up to that standard, to that motto? Are we instilling in our young ones pride in our country?
There can be no pride in our naturally beautiful country if we discard garbage all over the place, with no care or consideration that this action damages the environment and hurts other species, and ultimately afflicts ourselves. There can be no pride if we believe we have to live a life of crime, drugs, abuse, bullying and violence –– domestic and otherwise.
Is that the mirror image we now have of ourselves? There can be no pride if we do not care for others, and disrespect our elders and mistreat our children.
But that is on one end of the scale. What about the other? There has been much discussion about governance in Barbados recently, and surely there is need for even more. Barrow’s speech also discusses that end of the scale where our leaders, political and otherwise, also need to see what mirror image they have of themselves and, also very importantly, what image others have of them.
These are tough economic times, and many are feeling the pinch. In fact, many are also feeling the punch.
These times demand that our “Pride” and our “Industry” work overtime. Barbadians have been a resilient people over the years, rising to the occasion whenever necessary; but if apathy and despondency set in and become the norm rather than the exception, it would take even longer for us to get over this.
Furthermore, if our leaders don’t step up to the plate and lead by example, courage and morals, then what may be expected of the rest of the population? Too often today we are confronted by double standards –– one law for some, another for others. It must be justice across the board –– leader or the led, the rich or poor. To circumvent the law, depending on the social status of the individual, is to invite anarchy. Many nations in our time, and in history, have suffered the consequences of such deliberate avoidance of enforcing the law on some, while insisting on it for others.
Our politicians also cannot be above or beyond the law. They have of their own free will sought to serve and to lead, indeed to be an example. The seat each occupies in the Parliament of Barbados is a trust. They must be accountable for that trust; and everything they do, publicly and privately, while holding their seats is open to scrutiny.
What they do is observed and in fact tried in the “court of public opinion”. It is the nature of politics.
Thus, if one cannot faithfully, morally, and without prejudice, carry out one’s mandate as a Member of Parliament, then one should not “commit” to it.
The Mirror Image speech has many lessons for us. It should become mandatory reading in our schools as part of history, social studies and even in comprehension. It may very well help an entire generation to come to grips with what is happening around them today. It may help those who think the best mirror image is one of some movie star, famous singer or sportsman or, God forbid, gang leader or drug lord.
Why should only one man have a mirror image of you that you do not want to have of yourself? What kind of society are we striving for? There is no point in striving for Utopia, but you do not realize your potential.
–– Errol Walton Barrow.
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace and secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association.