Moneys, BRA and statues
My attention rested on multiple issues this week. Much continues to happen in our country. I, like many other parents and guardians, was subjected to the long waits and disorder that make the petty fee payment and book collection process.
When I made the mistake of complaining, the senior accounts clerk at one school informed me that when she goes to pay her road tax, she has to stand up and wait; so I should wait too.
At the second school, everybody went to lunch at the same hour, resulting in a backlog of parents, who had all slipped out during their own lunch hour, and who all had to give up any hope of having an efficient process played out that could see them returning to work in timely fashion.
This process of revenue collection through petty fees set me wondering whether clerk typists and accountants attached to schools should be given option forms to join the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) as well. If the premise upon which the Customs workers are being told they must join BRA is that they are a revenue collection agency, why are we not properly placing every revenue agency under the BRA?
It occurred to me, though, that while creating mechanisms for credit card or off-site payments might be a more effective way of honouring petty fees, putting the function into the BRA might create other logistical problems.
Just like the other units that collect petty fees, the Customs Department performs functions that are not related to revenue collection. How can the head of Customs be a person trained in accounts when Customs also has a significant element of border security built into its responsibilities? Who will ensure the other elements which Customs officers need to be trained in are paid attention to?
I am sure there is a better way of collecting petty fees; but, like Customs, I am also sure there is no such thing as “a one-size-fits-all bra (pardon me, I meant) BRA”.
The Season Of Emancipation is again being celebrated as a low-key peripheral affair to Grand Kadooment. The Israel Lovell Foundation hosted a lecture, in conjunction with the Commission For Pan-African Affairs, which was aimed at outlining the contribution and journey of Israel Lovell.
The lecture was informative and helpful in contextualizing how various Barbadians had participated in reshaping the agendas and priorities of the 1930s, that then directly impacted what transpired during Independence and the formative years of the newly independent societies.
That the type of information which made up the lecture is available is heartening, since the next stage will be to document it in book form so it can be incorporated into mainstream education. We often complain that young people in Barbados seem to follow any trend easily and do not seem to be focused. To fix this, we need to systematically teach them their heritage and history in a way that we did not benefit from. New research about the 20th century and the indigenous figures who shaped it is a movement in the right direction.
There was also a breakfast lecture hosted by the Commission For Pan-African Affairs as a part of the Emancipation celebration. The speaker was a young film-maker from Britain, who is researching how images of Hollywood construct various realities such as love, women, and Africa and people of African heritage. She was here to collect images for a documentary which would depict how much Barbados is still portrayed using British symbolism and imagery.
While the issue of right or wrong, with respect to the symbolism, is one complicated by issues such as heritage site status, and the financial gain to be made from the British component of our history, it is strange that the Nelson Statue is still in National Heroes Square in Bridgetown.
Nelson represents a continuity of British domination, which is not historically accurate in Barbados. While there is a mixture of white and African heritage that has made the island what it is, there has been, first, a centring of the African heritage to ensure that it was first recognized (since it had not been before), and then agitation to ensure African heritage received the appropriate attention since about 90 per cent Barbados’ population is wholly or partly
It should be nationally embarrassing for an international observer to have to come to Barbados to tell us that our symbolism on the island needs reflection and refocusing.
A poignant point in the presentation was that while a tourist could walk up to the Nelson Statue and read the insignias freely, Bussa’s was in a space where one had to risk life or limb to be able to read the wording beneath it.
Do we understand that since we are now a World Heritage Site we will attract tourists who actually care about heritage? Those tourists will want to see the fine print of our history, either because they are conscious on an individual level or need to be for research or work-related purposes.
The UNESCO World Heritage designation was to take our tourist potential beyond sea and sand; so it makes no sense bringing discerning tourists to Barbados for them to point our national ambiguities; then attempting to beguile them into going to the beach to enjoy the seaweed and the sand any way!
Our Emancipation celebration has somehow been split this year into a morning and evening celebration. Surely, we are not serious about culture and the industry it can spur, and the consumption of that by the international world?
If we were, we would understand that young Barbadian children need to have more local history in their diets, and we would understand that Nelson is where Bussa should be, and Israel Lovell should be where Nelson would be put.
Am I the only one who sees that?
(Marsha Hinds-Layne is a full-time mummy and part-time lecturer in communications at the
University of the West Indies. Email firstname.lastname@example.org)