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WORD VIEW: Horses out!


Esther Phillips

WORD VIEW: Horses out!

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When you think it’s gunshots you’re hearing these days, most likely you’re right. Another possibility is that what you’re hearing is the sound of horses galloping freely all through Barbados.
If you search carefully throughout the island, you will find stables where these horses were once kept. The doors are shut tight. And something makes you suspect that those who shut the doors have no idea that the horses have long gone.
I should probably leave this particular horse alone, but over the last few weeks it has been kicking, prancing and neighing so loudly in Barbados that I cannot pretend to ignore it. The animal has a name: Party Politics.  
As a lover of language, I have no quarrel with the “cut and thrust” of debate. Like many others, I understand that politicians, with few exceptions, are hungry for power and status. I accept, moreover, that tempers will rise, especially during campaigning.
What is inexcusable, however, are the gutter tactics that some of our politicians are adopting. If the reports I’m hearing are correct, then this horse (Party Politics) has suffered an ignominious fall and is covered all over in muck and filth.
Maybe because I’ve been a teacher for most of my adult life, my concern is particularly for young people.
I can make no claim to perfection, but I’ve always been aware that my behaviour could influence my students, especially if some action of mine appeared to contradict the standards that are fundamental to any educational institution.
What explanations do we give to our young people with regard to the last few weeks of campaigning in St John? Oh, that’s just politics? How do we justify the contradictions? By shamelessly stating that it is all right for politicians to say what is expedient at the time regardless of truth or consequences?
Above all, what do we do with the thousands of jaded, cynical young people who lose respect for political leaders when these leaders have themselves lost all moral authority?
While it is true that politics is not the only source of such lessons, politicians need to reflect on what it is they are  teaching their young people: the ends justify the means; there’s nothing wrong with trampling the “opponent’s” name and character in the mud when you deem it necessary; power is all that matters; personal integrity are mere words.
How strange it is that governments can invest so much in the academic education of the young, and yet fail them so miserably in their frantic pursuit of power!
When young people can accept the reality of gutter politics with a mere shrug of the shoulders, as is often the case, then indeed the horse has already bolted from the stable. The door may well now be closed on the faith and idealism young people must have if they are going to make some meaningful contribution to building their country.
Let me make it clear that I don’t like politics. I have no intention whatsoever of becoming involved in any political fray. But I am committed to the good of this country and so I agree with those who wish fervently for some new political ethos.
Perhaps we who have such a desire are the over-idealistic ones. Hasn’t long experience taught us that politics and dirt are synonymous, and that in the electoral gallery to which some politicians play, there are many who relish the dirt and in fact would feel cheated without it?
And yet every appeal must be made to the good sense of Barbadians. We cannot on the one hand complain about the next generation to come and yet place unnecessary obstacles in their way. We can’t have educators spend good time and energy designing courses that teach the young to think critically and analytically and then seem to believe that the same young people are unable to see through the rhetoric of politicians and the lame rationalisations offered for their undesirable behaviour.
Human nature and custom will always be convenient explanations for our actions. The first we rein in by way of law and order, decency and a sense of fair play. We redirect the second by strength of will and courage. It matters what we allow to run freely through this country and what we deem wise to keep under restraint.

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