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Just Like It is – Opting out no option

– Peter Simmons

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I am a supporter of call-in programmes and participate as the spirit moves me, or my interest is provoked by a caller or moderator.
They are key components of the democratic architecture providing a platform to voice opinions, share information, seek advice and draw attention to bothersome situations.
Their audience is large domestically and in the diaspora through the worldwide web. I have friends who will not answer their telephones when the programmes are on air, the sort of exclusive isolation some reserve for Days of our lives on TV.
Others hurry to get home to tune in and some business places keep them on low volume during serious discussions.
A comment from a caller to CBC radio’s Talk yuh Talk on Monday about the wisdom of Barbados sending a team to the Commonwealth Games in India caught my attention. I called early Tuesday and, while acknowledging that the caller’s concerns were shared across the Commonwealth, used the opportunity to highlight some nuances and implications of not sending a team.
Not only would Barbados give the appearance of being a nation of yellow bellies if we opted out, but we had sent our experienced chef de mission to carry out an on-the-spot investigation and he had recommended participation. I had also seen a member of the British team on BBC World saying that the accommodation and food were “fantastic”.
Her comments were significant because, along with security, food and accommodation were areas of major concern. I also made the point that the British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand teams – the old white Commonwealth – had arrived and as part of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of black and brown nations, Barbados needed to show solidarity and support India.
We have always enjoyed excellent diplomatic relations with India, which provided a number of scholarships across a broad spectrum of academic discipline for our students. In addition, Barbados has been for some time home to a not insignificant number of Indian nationals who have added to our cultural, social and economic diversity.
Furthermore, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth is Indian and the president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Mike Fennel, is a Jamaican who worked in Barbados for a number of years. I considered it important to stand shoulder to shoulder with these distinguished gentlemen to ensure maximum participation in the games.
While I did not seek to belittle the caller’s concerns, it would be short-sighted to ignore the wider implications of these facts. It is also important to understand that one of the mitigating factors which set back preparatory work for the games was the torrential monsoon rains which had struck the Games Village.
In addition, some of the negative media was politically inspired while many gloom and doom prophesies were not dissimilar to those preceding South Africa’s hosting the hugely successful Football World Cup earlier this year.
Unfortunately, they are still those in the wider world who believe that non-white people are quite incapable of staging major world events. It is critical to prove them wrong.
I am glad that Barbados sent a team and I wish them well. My call to Talk yuh Talk precipitated an angry call from a listener who disagreed violently with everything I said and accused me of being pro-India because she knew there is Indian blood in my veins.
Therefore I lacked objectivity and did not care about the welfare of the black Barbadian team.
How do you respond to such jaundiced, provocative nonsense? Fortunately, her call caught me in good spirits and I told her while I would never deny any aspect of my heredity, I was not comfortable with her reducing my remarks to ethnic roots in my genetic make-up. The brazen hussy let fly a stream of abuse.
Last Saturday the British Labour Party elected Ed Miliband, 40, to replace Gordon Brown as its leader. It means that the leaders of the three main parties are all in their early 40s. Conservative leader Prime Minister David Cameron and Liberal leader Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg are both 43 and it represents a generational shift away from Blair, Brown and Michael Howard who left in their 50s.
After a campaign of sibling jousting, the younger Miliband triumphed over elder brother David. The new leader, dubbed Britain’s Obama, was helped to victory by support from the three biggest unions, Labour’s traditional allies.
Also dubbed “Red Ed”, he must not be hostage to the leftist unions taking the party away from the centre, the position which made it electable in 1997 after years in the wilderness.
The brothers are scions of a Marxist intellectual, London School of Economics professor Ralph Miliband. David, Brown’s Foreign Secretary, was hurt by his support of Blair and strong defence of Britain’s entry into the Iraq war after George Bush sold the world a pup by falsely claiming Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.
Ed Miliband’s two-pronged challenge is not only to resist the allurements of taking the party too far left, but also rebuilding the image of New Labour which swept the party to power under Blair and which under Brown took some serious body blows, to its very defeat.
With the end of the Cold War, voters worldwide have eschewed hard-line ideological politics, preferring pragmatic centrism.
That strategy made the Conservatives electable and the LibCons a workable coalition. Should it falter, a centrist Labour could return to Downing Street. The alternative is the wilderness paved with the quicksands of hard-left ideology.
• Peter Simmons, a social scientist, is a former diplomat.