Our excellence must be above a world trend
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
We have no doubt that when the Greek philosopher referred to “act” in his brief words of wisdom above, he meant for us to conjure up “deed”. And it is for that very reason we suggest the imagery of “pretence” might also be applicable –– even more so.
The Week Of Excellence, under the theme Bridging The Gap: Today’s Leaders; Tomorrow’s Prospects, will be over in another two days –– and so, almost certainly, and regrettably, will be all the hoopla and extensive publicity about productivity and rising loftily above mediocrity.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, delivering the feature address at the official opening of this Week Of Excellence at the Grande Salle on Monday, was not unmindful of the lamentable state of ordinariness that overwhelms us. He warned, and rightly so, that excellence was not to be celebrated for just one week –– at best embraced, we add –– but to be pursued year-round.
This pursuit, he stated, was now “an inescapable imperative for living in an increasingly globalized world”.
While we too hold that excellence is essential, and ought to be obligatory, we are not impressed that the world at large is any exemplar for us, given that values have become optional in this crushingly Technological Age spawned by North America and Europe.
It wasn’t so long ago when we Barbadians chased after excellence –– some of us even seeking out perfection. We weren’t being prodded by what the world at large was doing, but by our parents and forebears who practised their skills as best as they could, holding the belief their seed and descendants must even do better –– and would!
Excellence in the times to which we allude was manifested in courtesy on the streets, service in the village shops, brotherliness and sharing in the neighbourhood, parental training, respect for elders, holistic teaching in the schools, literacy and reading competency, a full day’s work (even if for half-day’s pay), and an acknowledgement of God Almighty (sinners though we be).
Excellence back then was no hard sell that had to be packaged in a special “week” and promoted by “partners” of sorts, banks of any kind, or productivity councils.
And the Prime Minister was not remotely wrong when he uttered that it was “impossible to achieve excellence in anything without strong leadership”. Back in the day, as Mr Stuart himself must know, the church and the school led strongly. We deliberately do not include the “political class”, because, as our Prime Minister suggests, it is a fallacy relating “leadership” only to the political –– which tends to be the practice these days by many among us.
Mr Stuart argues that any successful development of a nation depends on “good leadership” at all levels –– “in the political sphere, in the social sphere, in the economic sphere, and also amongst the general citizenry”.
We aver that today it would be unlikely for the last mentioned group to be inspired by a lack of examplars in the aforementioned, or any offerings of pretence.
Unhappily, standards have dropped everywhere. Excellence for many a nation and a people has become a bother –– the exasperation eases itself in the way we think, or not; dress; address; orate; write; behave; consider others; keep our surroundings; do our jobs . . . .
Mr Stuart is right about another thing for sure: it will take more than this week to rise to that excellent state we officially pontificate on. We wager it will take more than the year.
After all excellence is as much about attitude and habit as it is manifest in skill.