We must be our brother’s keeper?
“Barbados is not only an economy. It is a society. We must never forget this.” – David Thompson, former Prime Minister.
This profound statement from the island’s sixth Prime Minister demands deep reflection, particularly now as we daily grapple with challenges not beyond us but which often leave the country searching for answers.
Far beyond the turbulence on the industrial front that can be perhaps best settled in an environment of level heads, mutual respect and frank dialogue, recent developments must make us pause, assess and correct our journey towards creating that desired society so well articulated by our youngest Prime Minister ever.
For whether we celebrate achievement or mourn tragedy we are all affected.
Even now we still shake our heads in collective confusion over what could have led 12-year-old Shemar Weekes to commit suicide.
Yet there’s glaring evidence that we are no wiser after the painful loss.
For after all the outrage and reckless accusations, 13 days later our society is grappling with the heartbreaking death of six-year-old Jahan King in controversial circumstances.
And if that was not enough, on Sunday news came that Police Constable Philip Greaves had taken his own life at the age of 44.
We aver that these distressing incidents reveal the cracks of a society that is off the mark from the Barbadian community of old, where we were once our brother’s keeper, where an entire village raised a child and neighbours became like blood relatives.
How did we miss the silent cries for help from Shemar Weekes, Jahan King and Philip Greaves?
The hard truth is we often turn a blind eye to the needs of those around us or worst yet we fall into path of the lawless who mistake their brotherly duty as permission to withhold a helping hand, while resorting to spreading malicious and hurtful accusations.
This could not be what the late Prime Minister envisioned.
We would rather believe that the society he dreamed of was one where all lives matter and care and respect are shown for the children who sit at our tables, the neighbour across the street, the colleague with whom we spend eight hours or more a day, the young man we pass on the block every evening and the fellow worshipper sitting in the pew.
Age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, skin colour, race or class do not matter.
President of the Police Association, Constable David Alleyne, put it best when he called for Barbadians to look out for each other, and to do better in terms of protecting themselves and society.
“I believe that the police force, the community and all the people in the country should try and work closely together, so we can build much better relationships and make our country safer”, he said following Greaves’ death at the weekend.
We can only hope and pray that all will heed this most timely call.
The precious lives lost demand action and less frivolous talk.
Not only must we be kind towards each other, but we must take a stand when injustice is occurring.
Silence, when there’s abuse in all its forms – physical, sexual or verbal – must not be condoned.
Similarly, those who are hurting should be encouraged to seek professional help.
Even more importantly, we simply need to love each other.
As we began with the words of late Prime Minister David Thompson so shall we end, but this time with his last charge to Barbadians:
“We are all a part of God’s great big family, and the truth, you know, love is all we need. That’s my fondest wish for Barbadians. That we use adversity to refocus our energies on what’s best for Barbados and that we wrap our actions and our utterances in the national flag and the furtherance of this great nation we call home. That’s my challenge to you. Unite and love.”