Well, whither? And alone or all together?

No man is an island.

–– John Donne, 17th century English poet.

Speaking to the media last Sunday, following a church service at the Cathedral Of St Michael And All Angels to mark the 74th anniversary of the founding of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), general secretary Toni Moore lamented that Barbadians were inclined to be individualistic and seemed not to fully appreciate the advantage of working together to advance common interests, instead of doing so alone.

BWU general secretary Toni Moore
BWU general secretary Toni Moore

Ms Moore’s comments were specifically in relation to the adverse effect of such tendencies on the work of the trade union movement, especially at this critical time in the nation’s development. To advance and achieve their agenda, unions have always relied on the unity and solidarity of workers, given expression in such well-known slogans as Solidarity Forever and the Workers Of The World, Unite! call of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

According to Ms Moore, the Barbadian tendency of individualism was mentioned as an issue of concern as far back as 1946 by the BWU’s first president general The Right Excellent Sir Grantley Adams, who theorized it was a carry-over from slavery.

“It really showed itself in the attitude towards working together as a collective –– and in 2015 workers still show similar traits,” she observed.

This Barbadian tendency, which appears to be on the rise today, applies to so many other aspects of national life. Barbadians, however, are not alone in this regard. Similar attitudes exist in just about every country today
because the dominant value system, to which all countries are exposed, emphasizes individualism over collectivism.

Going it alone, instead of together, is celebrated as the “cool” thing to do. “Me” matters the most in the culture of today and it is always about the triumph of “me” over everybody else.

Human beings were not made to live in such fashion. Although every person enters the world alone at birth and leaves alone at death, people are meant to collaborate with each other in the intervening period and build a strong sense of community in collective pursuit of the common good. Such tendencies defined traditional Barbadian village life up to about 30 or so years ago before we were transformed by modernization.

People did not live for themselves. They lived for neighbour and community.

As a result, our communities were safe and strong. The rearing of children, including the enforcement of discipline, was seen as not only the responsibility of individual parents but also of the community.

Crime was almost non-existent. It was quite normal for someone to leave his or her home fully open, travel toThe City, for example, to transact business, and return to find everything intact. The neighbour, sometimes criticized for being a bit too “gypsy” (nosy), would keep an eye out to ensure everything was all right.

Youth groups, which today are almost non-existent, thrived back then. Young people happily engaged each other in worthwhile pursuits and built healthy relationships, instead of indulging in individualistic pursuits like video games or, worse yet, gunfights. Schoolchildren took pride in the uniform they wore because it was more about the dignity of the school than the honour of the individual student which we hear so much about today. These are but a few examples that speak to the negative impact which rampant individualism is having on our society.

Ms Moore indicated the dislocation suffered by individuals in recent years as a result of the economic crisis was rekindling interest in collectivism. An important lesson from this experience for workers is that containing the forces at play is beyond the capacity of the individual, and the best hope lies in collective action.

If Barbadians were only to extend this approach to other areas, such as consumer rights for example, they might be surprised at the beneficial results which could come their way. Disunity is often the source of our vulnerability.

The world today is telling us that it is better to go it alone, but history convincingly shows that it is always better to go it together. When “me” becomes the focus and only “me” matters, it is a prescription for trouble.

Recapturing that old spirit of togetherness and cooperation could very well be the formula for bringing back the good aspects of traditional Barbadian life which many nostalgically yearn for.

It is always so much better together than standing alone.

3 Responses to Well, whither? And alone or all together?

  1. carson c cadogan October 6, 2015 at 10:40 pm

    You have a few of your key points wrong.

    “Crime was almost non-existent. It was quite normal for someone to leave his or her home fully open, travel toThe City, for example, to transact business, and return to find everything intact. The neighbour, sometimes criticized for being a bit too “gypsy” (nosy), would keep an eye out to ensure everything was all right.”

    I dont know how young or how old the Editor is, but during my time here on this Bajan Land, I have never known of a time when “crime was almost non-existent”. Sounds like someone telling it like it wasn’t. Crime is also a factor of numbers. The bigger the population the higher numbers of incidents. In by gone days the population of Barbados was half of what it is today or less. Therefore fewer incidents but still incidents in proportion to the numbers in the population at the time. Everything thing is relative.

    People still leave their houses open and go to town, return and find everything as left them. Everything is not lost as you vainly try to protray.

    So come again.

    This thing about giving up your individuality in favor of following the multitude leads to nothing but trouble. Thinking individuals are harder to fool and manipulate. I think that is what Toni Moore is up against. She wants to create a herd of easily fooled and mindless crowds who will do her bidding come what may.

    Bajans are not that dumb. And being an individual is a blessing not a curse as Toni Moore wants us to believe.

    I cant imagine why she is making this her primary goal.

  2. carson c cadogan October 6, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    I thought Toni Moore’s main interest would have been representing the members of the Barbados Workers Union who are about to be fired from Flow, the Cement company and JB’s by the end of October 2015.

    But nary a word about that.

    I must confess that I am not in the least bit impressed with this woman.

    BTW, she ought to be speaking about why the Barbados Workers Union does not have any money in its STRIKE FUND.

  3. Heather Cole
    Heather Cole October 6, 2015 at 11:17 pm

    It was rather strange, her anniversary address had no theme. It had nothing to do with trade unionism. She should have used that opportunity to charter the role of the Union in Barbados or give an analysis of the last 75 years or single out a significant success of the union or contribution of one of its heads. She could have also been futuristic in thought as to define what else can be born out of the trade unions that is beneficial for Barbados in the 21st Century.


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