Beware the Age of Shame brought on by drunkenness of power
We are all too familiar with the phrase about the drunkenness that power can inflict, and, even worse, the dangers of absolute power. Often, when we speak of people being drunk with power, it is in reference to politicians, who can undergo radical Jekyll and Hyde transformation by simply winning an election.
However, it is not unusual for other people in positions of power to reel to and fro, staggering like they have long past the limit imposed on them by the power they hold. Their action can become irrational and their decisions reach the inexplicable state of mind-boggling.
Last Friday’s decision by the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) to ban Barbados TODAY from attending its 75th annual delegates’ conference on Saturday, August 27, 2016 and Saturday, September 3, 2016 fits snugly into the mind-boggling category.
While it did not give a reason despite a request from Barbados TODAY for an explanation, it was clear that the BWU was unhappy that we had run a story entitled It’s a Lie! about possible lay-offs of BWU staff. The union had threatened the ban on Thursday night if Barbados TODAY published the story, despite the fact that General Secretary Toni Moore was given an opportunity – and took it – to tell the BWU’s side of the story.
While she denied any separation packages were offered to staff, Caswell Franklyn of the Unity Workers Union (UWU) was adamant that BWU staff had come to him seeking representation because they had been encouraged by management to accept the separation packages. We carried both sides. Fair, you might suggest. But the BWU would have none of it.
We take the general secretary at her word when she said the information that Barbados TODAY received was not close to the truth. At the same time, we recommend that senior union official should investigate what prompted 13 members of staff to feel so threatened that they felt it necessary to seek representation from another union; what prompted the workers to believe a consultant from New Zealand had been engaged to carry out a review of the structure and why the workers thought the consultant had recommended that 13 be made redundant and had also made a recommendation about the Labour College.
In other words, it would do the union well to find out why staff are both disillusioned and delusional.
However, the ban raises other questions. What does the union really have to gain? How is it serving its dwindling membership by preventing the media from attending and covering its functions? And, why does an organization which ought to be good at resolving conflicts, mostly by negotiation, believe that its first course of action when it does not like a story is to ban the publication?
This has happened before. Another union, unhappy with the headline of a story, refused to engage the paper for several weeks. We will not name the union or leader because the issue was eventually resolved amicably after one of the union leaders had a simple conversation with a senior official of the newspaper.
We saw it too, when the Governor of the Central Bank Dr Delisle Worrell banned the Nation newspaper simply because he did not like a story that the paper had published.
It would seem that those in power know no other way. If they do not like it, they ban it. That they have nothing to gain does not matter, that the people they serve are worse off for it is of no consequence. This demonstration of power is frightening.
In the 50 years since we attained Independence from Britain, we have gone through many mini epochs. We have lived through the eras of pride and industry; we have experienced the years of plenty and the period of need; and we went through the epoch of tolerance.
However, we seem to be entering a disturbing new phase. It is the age of Trump; the eras of banning, intolerance and drunkenness through power. And if we are not careful, we will soon enter the Age of Shame.