BC’S B’DOS – Fish and chips
FOUR BAJAN FISHERMEN spent Barbados’ Independence Day in a jail in Tobago and you couldn’t ask for a more fitting summation of either the West Indian attitude or its plight.
It’s ridiculous enough that Barbados and Tobago, barely big enough to be islands, should think of themselves as nations; but when one “nation” has the effrontery to lock up the citizens of the other on its Independence Day, that’s really making a pappyshow of the West Indies and Caribbean brotherhood. You wouldn’t blame Barbados for sending its gunboats, if it had them; perhaps it should send its calypsonians.
And Barbados and Tobago are big, compared to some CARICOM “nations”. It would be hilarious if it weren’t tragic but in Antigua (281 sq km)-Barbuda (161 sq km), Barbuda’s possible secession is an issue.
A colleague told me of an election speech heard in Barbuda in which the speaker kept insisting “the country” could do such-and-such; it took him half an hour to figure out that “the country” referred to was Barbuda, population 1,500; Monaco is not shaking in its boots.
Now the existence of the 15 different prime ministers, attorneys general, national anthems and votes at the United Nations – and the fact that Bajan fishermen can be locked up in Tobago jails – show these little places are, in a strictly legal sense, “countries”; but when did these foolish little rocks begin to actually think of themselves as nations?
The Bajan empire stretches from St Lucy to Christ Church; and Scarborough ain’t Constantinople.
Measured by all the basic important statistics, Barbados has done better than any other West Indian territory since we were all abandoned (and told we were “independent”). Some think Barbados’ best bet is to continue to “go it alone”. They may be encouraged by Barbados’ scoring highest (and Trinidad and Tobago lowest) in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index released last week.
But they should not fool themselves. Size does matter. And many, many more people have Rihanna T-shirts than Bajan passports.
The best people in the Caribbean are leaving it. Trinidadian doctors and Bajan nurses run hospitals in Atlanta. Jamaican dental surgeons are operating in Scandinavian theatres. Most of our writers are in North America. We are left with pastors, weed-whackers and police forces which arrest (and magistrates who convict) our brothers of the “crime” of fishing in what we should all be able to see are their own waters.
There is hope for us all, and it begins – and may end – with Barbados. Some Caribbean people are choosing to come to Barbados ahead of London or New York; that federal ember should be vigorously officially fanned. Whether they are carpenters or cardiologists, Barbados should receive her Caribbean siblings warmly and tell them: “Bring the family.”
In The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint Exupéry reminded us that it is only with the heart that one can see rightly because what is essential is invisible to the eye. What some Bajans may see as a tsunami of immigration is in reality – in our hearts – our last wave of hope. Barbados should not, now, defend its petty borders; it should seize the grand moment.
And lead the West Indies out of Babylon.
B.C. Pires is openly batting for the West Indies. Some of these words appeared, in a different form, in Thank God It’s Friday last week in the Trinidad Guardian.