BC’S B’DOS – In the pen dance
IN TWO DAYS, Barbados will celebrate 45 years of Independence and I keep thinking it’s like Jews celebrating the Holocaust, or black people the slave trade, or turkeys, Christmas.
It’s not that Barbados hasn’t done itself proud since the Mother Country cold-bloodedly orphaned its children long before they were weaned, because Barbados has. Without any natural resources beyond the sun, sand and sea in which every tourist destination abounds, Barbados has made its way in the world, not just comfortably, but well. There are few better places on the planet to live without snow.
It’s not that the notion of a nation so tiny persisting is not itself worthy of celebration. It is, very much so. When the first crop of newly independent Bajans took the reins of their own destiny in their hands, no one could have predicted such a small island-state could survive, far less thrive.
Where the mighty United States cannot find a way, after 235 years, of taking care of its own sick and needy or guaranteeing its most intelligent citizens schooling, Barbados has maintained free universal health care and education; for that, alone, Barbados is entitled to stand shoulder to shoulder with Canada and Northern Europe and look down upon the USA.
It’s not that the idea of the Bajan identity itself is not a great one – and not a great little one, either, but a great big one. The Charter Of Barbados was signed in 1652! For 359 years, it has been possible for Barbadian citizens to think of themselves as Bajan (or the white ones, anyway; the bulk of the population were, I suppose, free to think of themselves as Bajan chattels, like the houses they were permitted to own).
No, what is saddening about the celebration of Independence is that, in 45 years, Barbados has failed to discern the most blatantly obvious aspects of its own character, indeed even the most blatantly obvious aspect of her geography.
It’s firetrucking hot in Barbados.
You wouldn’t know it, though, looking at the way leaders of every estate, class and sector all wear suits and ties.
In the West Indies!
When you watch the parade on TV in two days’ time, and you see everyone sweating buckets in the early morning heat in clothing that might be uncomfortable for this time of year in parts of Canada, ask yourself what they are really celebrating. After almost half a century – and, in the case of Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, it will be a full 50 years next year – no citizen has yet devised a Caribbean style of formal dress that is comfortable for its wearer.
Ask yourself what kind of free person believes he must wear, in 2011, the clothing of the people who enslaved him centuries ago – and he must torture himself to ape, in the here and now, the master of the past.
Or just look at the next toddler you see and answer truthfully whether anyone be independent if they can’t even firetrucking dress themselves?
B.C. Pires is only properly dressed, in the view of the hoity-toity, in handcuffs.