Poor, pious, peaceful and polite
I’m suggesting this maxim as a replacement for our national motto Pride And Industry. A motto is a short phrase that is used to summarize the principles that guide or inspire an individual or an institution or a country.
Pride And Industry worked fine for me as a young man growing up. I was full of both. Fifty years later, however, I am content to sing out “poor, pious, peaceful and polite” when anyone asks me how I’m doing.
Understanding the ethical significance of adulthood –– or nationhood –– is the first step towards making an effective response to handle the challenges that lie ahead. One attitude best left behind as we mature is our youthful arrogance; another, is the idea that “industry” means “hard work” and is to be abhorred.
In fact, the nation appears to be in perfect negation of the two prescriptions which are expressed in our National Motto. Without some further qualification Pride And Industry falls short of stirring the right tools for future development.
It might have been useful when the infant nation welcomed some expression of resoluteness as she stood on the threshold of her self-determination –– so arrogant and ambivalent, so artificial and hollow, totally ignoring the gifts of nature . . . and amazingly excluding any reference to the spiritual energy that underpinned the courage of the forefathers.
A National Motto is like a calling card –– its words carry the standard that introduces us to the world. Here are some of the national mottoes of other countries in our hemisphere. They all show much greater humility and appreciation of ethical concepts that have validity everywhere and can stir citizens to cooperation.
Anguilla: Strength And Endurance.
Antigua and Barbuda: Each Endeavouring, All Achieving.
Bahamas: Forward, Upward, Onward Together.
Bermuda: Quo Fata Ferunt (Whither The Fates Carry Us).
British Virgin Islands: Vigilate (Be Watchful).
Canada: A Mari Usque Ad Mare (From Sea To Sea).
Cayman Island: He Hath Founded It Upon The Seas.
Dominica: Après Bondié, C’est La Ter (After God, The Earth).
Ghana: Freedom And Justice.
Grenada: Ever Conscious Of God We Aspire, And Advance As One People.
Guyana: One People, One Nation, One Destiny.
Jamaica: Out Of Many, One People.
Montserrat: Each Endeavouring, All Achieving.
Netherland Antilles: Libertate Unanimus (United In Freedom).
Nigeria: Unity And Faith, Peace And Progress.
St Kitts and Nevis: Country Above Self.
St Lucia: The Land, The People, The Light.
St Vincent and the Grenadines: Pax Et Justitia (Peace And Justice).
Singapore: Majulah, Singapura (Onward, Singapore).
Suriname: Justitia, Pietas, Fides (Justice, Piety, Loyalty).
Trinidad and Tobago: Together We Aspire, Together We Achieve.
United States: In God We Trust.
West Indies Federation: To Dwell Together In Unity.
The Barbados Motto was created quite unilaterally –– almost as a convenient tailpiece on the Coat Of Arms offered with perfectly innocent intentions by non-Barbadian Neville Clarke Connell, who was a retired director of the Barbados Museum, and enjoyed dabbling in heraldic design as a pastime.
We should go into the Jubilee Year by adjusting our Motto to reflect the realistic values of a mature community. Other nations have constitutionally modified theirs, or in some cases even opted for no motto at all, pending an appropriate national value system –– without any embarrassment.
Poor, Pious, Peaceful And Polite might not fit with everyone, but Barbadians now have a better sense of the path they have chosen, and we should be able to attract meaningful, home-made suggestions.
(Lee Farnum-Badley is a regular letter writer to Barbados TODAY on matters of national interest.)