Are we learning anything from our past?

Barbados has a fascination with studies. And reports. We have a liking for White papers. And Blue papers. And Green papers. We absolutely adore inquiries. And tribunals. And Committees. Our history is littered with Commissions of Inquiry. Moyne. Duffus. Malone. Worrell. The St Joseph Hospital. Glendairy Prison. Alexandra School. We have had the National Commission on Law and Order. The resulting reports from these sit-downs and tête-à-têtes all have a common thread running through them – cobweb, dust, and nothingness.

In a country where linear ambulation in most directions for 25 miles will result in one being in the ocean, we have actually paid persons to determine the causes of poverty. We have paid persons to determine the housing needs of Barbadians. We have paid persons to determine what leads young people to deviancy. In most, if not all instances, the findings of these various social ‘interventions’ have resulted in little more than public debate, hefty pay cheques for those hired to conduct the processes and worm-eaten documents filed away in a cabinet somewhere.

The Trade Confirmers (B’dos) Limited fiasco of the 1980s was followed by the Justice Lindsay Worrell-chaired Commission of Inquiry and recommendations were made. Then, just over two decades later, Barbados was struck by ‘Hurricane Clico’. What were the lessons learned from Trade Confirmers?

As far back as the 1938-1939 Moyne Commission, the status of Barbadian children with respect to their treatment was investigated. Yet, nearing a century later, with the presence of a Child Care Board and other agencies of intervention for both children and parents, we have had the sad cases of Kimberley and Antonio Gilkes murdered at the hands of their convicted now deceased father; the tragedy of Jahan King; the pain of Shamar Weekes; and so many others. Were any lessons learnt about the protection of our children over these many decades?

Following a spate of violent criminal activity in Barbados in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Sir Roy Marshall chaired a National Commission on Law and Order and several recommendations were made. In 2004, a Cabinet paper was prepared with recommendations for the report’s implementation but the report never reached Cabinet. At that time Sir Roy noted he was “very disappointed” that nothing had been done with respect to the many suggestions made. Sir Roy, who drafted Barbados’ Constitution and worked on reforms to the Legal Profession Act, went to the great beyond in 2015 and to date precious little, if anything, from that Commission’s report has been implemented. Was anything learned from those findings?

Last month Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite spoke of Barbados’ porous borders as a problem with respect to the importation of contraband such as illegal drugs and firearms. He also spoke to the increase of private yachts and fishing boats that use Barbados’ waters as another possible avenue through which illegal weapons enter the island undetected. He spoke to the [impossible] logistics of checking every vessel. “If 50 fishing boats leave Oistins this afternoon, when all 50 of them come back into Barbados, they don’t come back into the Bridgetown Port and bring their passports, and Customs go onboard and check them, to make sure all they brought in is flying fish.” But if that is a problem, then what are we doing?

Previously, Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith spoke to intelligence gathered which indicated that Government officers could be complicit in, or professionally oblivious to, the importation of firearms into Barbados. There is no need to repeat details related to the necessity for the strengthening of security – technological and otherwise – at our ports of call.  But if that problem has already been identified, what are we doing?

We note a level of finger-pointing whenever this country is faced with some adversity. In the wake of a hurricane, in the aftermath of some horrific vehicular accident, following the outbreak of some contagious ailment, subsequent to the unavailability of some consumer item, someone is assigned the dunce’s cap. We talk, and talk, and talk. We call for more studies into this, we call for more discussion on that, we advocate for reports into the other. Often, none of this leads to action or solutions. Empirical evidence is a very good thing. But do we really need empirical evidence to determine the look and smell of poverty? Do we need more studies to determine why young men are turning to a life of crime? Do we need a national forum to come to a conclusion that it is difficult for young people to find employment while liming under a tree or in a shanty?

A famous and widely read text says:”What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again, there is nothing new under the sun.” What we are faced with in our society today – be it crime, poverty, child abuse, et al – is nothing new. Volume might make it more or less; not new. But do we gain anything from our previous travails and act decisively on lessons learned, or doth we just simply talk and protest too much?

5 Responses to Are we learning anything from our past?

  1. John Everatt August 17, 2017 at 1:37 am

    This article has really hit the nail on the head. I certainly wish that I could write about this as well as this author has written. In the 20 years that I have lived here the subject of this article has been on my mind but this author has put it as it is and as it has been for many years. The studies just keep coming, the auditor general’s reports just keep coming and all this is paid for by the tax payers who see nothing in return for these expenditures. All goes into file 13. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck it in all likely hood is a duck. However government would have to do a study on that and then hire a committee to study that study. Then instead of determining that it is really a duck they will take it to the courts where judgements are reserved. Geez, come on, IT’S A DUCK!

    • Sunshine Sunny Shine August 21, 2017 at 12:21 pm

      Why don’t you simply say that somebody or many bodies got to get paid? A good friend told me on BU that a politician told him that if they implemented certain legislation politics would no longer be attractive. I think all the sense in the world we trying to make of our nonsense lies in that one comment if indeed it is true. Because, for things to remain problematic for the length of time that we have been crying over them, means that someone or many ones simply are trying to keep it so. After all, money talks and Bull S…t walks.

  2. Wayne Webster August 17, 2017 at 8:41 am

    This has to be one of the best editorials I have read anywhere. I have nothing to add but to say THANK YOU.

  3. Lee August 17, 2017 at 9:49 am

    I believe that Barbadians in general suffer from insecurity. This is not what we were fifty years ago. Beyond risk aversion we are now also short on perseverance. Both traits are typical of atrophied planning skills. We might even start to address this deficiency by simply introducing games of strategy in early education.

    We were never such a PROCRASTI-nation.

  4. Sunshine Sunny Shine August 21, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    A very good article. No wait, this is a very darn good article. No wait, this is one of the best articles written by Barbados Today. Now, can you can you do a piece on what makes Mia Mottley unsuitable or suitable for leadership, and why we should never, ever again vote for a DLP led by any of current lot making up the DLP administration?


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