A need to restore balance

Permit me to offer some reflections on three areas which I mused over during the weekend. Let me begin with wishing all the fathers across Barbados a blessed belated Fathers’ Day.

Over the span of my lifetime, I am pleased to admit that I am seeing a change in the way that fathers interact with their children. There are more fathers generally at football games, more dropping children to school and fathers walking with their daughters in the supermarket.

To acknowledge that more Barbadian men are taking on their responsibility as father and celebrate that forward movement on Fathers’ Day is not to forget that we are still a nation changing our culture in the right direction. It is not to diminish the fact that there still are fathers who are not doing the things they are obligated to do.

Having accepted that there are still mothers fathering children as a norm across Barbados, I do not believe that this gives us the right to turn Fathers’ Day into a negative space. I find it counterproductive and insensitive when ‘mothers who are fathers’ insert themselves into Fathers’ Day and willingly or accidentally shift the focus from fathers who are trying and are making an effort.

When we celebrate Mothers’ Day, certainly we do not think that the celebration means that every mother on earth is a good mother and is doing what she is obligated to do for her children. We must know that we are saying that most mothers try their best and we take time to reverence those mothers.  In the same way, that is how we try to affirm fathers on Fathers’ Day and we should do more to make it a positive space and cease the passive aggressive blaming.

Finally, to say that no matter how I try not to vocalize it for fear of the issues with political correctness, I still think many of us women have to take more responsibility for who we choose to father our children. It is not an exact science and I am not seeking to oversimplify the issues.  However, getting pregnant for a man that you have never talked to to establish a relationship with is not a good idea.

Getting pregnant for a man who has three partners and you think a child will edge him in your direction is folly.  How can getting pregnant for a man who already has three children by three different women ever seem like a step in the right direction? We have long moved past the days where we as women are helpless about the decisions we make concerning our bodies.  Women have as much of a vested role as men to stop the scourge of the deadbeat father.

After the video clip surfaced out of a police incident Sunday, Barbadians have still mustered to feign surprise at what the video seems to have captured.  How Barbadians are able to store up this surprise that they muster when these events occur is something I think is worth scientific study. We have been seeing the systematic signs which should suggest to us as a country that we need to pay attention to the direction our policing is going in on the island.

I remember, perhaps no more than five weeks ago, writing in this very column an article that outlined some of the most concerning incidents in the recent past.  Up to now, we are still awaiting the public release of the autopsy report of the last young man to die in police custody.  How then can we be surprised at what we saw when all the signs are there to suggest we could have expected to see what we saw?

In the article, I’d raised concerns that our police do not wear body cameras when responding to the public. There are no cameras in holding areas in police stations and the system of reporting complaints against officers is also not strong.  We have done nothing to improve these realities, but somehow we are surprised at the video. We must do more to appear like forward thinkers and planners.

The final thing which made me reflect over the weekend was the Minister of Finance’s revelation that he would be changing nothing about his Budgetary measures because everybody was telling him what not to do instead of what to do. I was going to have a fit, but then, I remembered we are living in 2017 Barbados where fact is fiction and fiction fact.

The National Union of Public Workers, even as recently as last week, was busy giving the Minister of Finance another possible solution that could assist in making his measures more feasible. The union suggested that due to the current level of saturation in people’s spending capacity that the minister create a stimulus for civil servants. Rather than have some level of discussion about the pros and cons of the proposal, the NUPW got the Minister’s flat refusal.

Several sectors of the economy have voiced their concerns about the Budgetary measures and said why they anticipate these measures will throw the economy further off course rather than produce the desired effects. Former Prime Minister of Barbados, Owen Arthur, has outlined in a very clear way why the measures proposed are too steep and detrimental for the economy in its present state.

With all that has been said, nobody can fault the NUPW for now breaking for the interest of their primary stakeholders as their major concern. The union historically has been a part of the system of checks and balances on the state in the Caribbean context and in the position we currently find ourselves, the union may yet be a fundamental part of the solution. By using the power of agitation, the union has a stake in returning fact to fact in Barbados and highlighting fiction where it occurs.

The union is better poised than most to see the real level of displacement among workers whose spending capacity has diminished. The credit union is also another entity that would clearly be able to articulate the level of displacement.  These two entities, which have traditionally worked together, must find ways to insert themselves into the national discourse on behalf of the constituencies they serve.

In a climate where the Minister of Finance seems not to be in a consolatory mode, I cannot get upset with a union which is willing to flex its collective might.  Many of us are worried we have gone too far in our country. That means that balance is needed. The union is one of the legal mechanisms we have created for restoring balance. How then can we be upset with our union for acting in the desire for balance?

(Marsha Hinds-Layne is a full-time mummy and part-time lecturer in communication at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill. Email: mhindslayne@gmail.com)

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