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New year of social indiscipline


Sherwyn Walters

New year of social indiscipline

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PAX, PAX, PAX, PAX.
Some aggravating punster might say that New Year’s Day began with a “bang” for me.  
Those staccato blasts were among the sounds welcoming me to 2012. And it wasn’t four shots that I heard – but I can’t write down “pax” 20 times.
But I (and Barbados) had it coming. On Old Year’s Day two men had assaulted me. Yes, they brass bowled and C-worded and F-pounded me in the cashier line at a popular hardware store – as they talked casually about drills and drill bits.  
Later, a tastefully dressed woman slid, twice, between me and the products I was looking at – and not even a grudging “Excuse me”.  
It didn’t get any better. As I sat in my car in a multi-storey car park, a renegade driver screeched and whizzed his vehicle in a reckless, scofflawing turn from the second level entry lane across the adjoining exit and an oncoming vehicle, whose female driver was nearly scared witless.
Then another driver lined up the markings of a parking space and with unrelenting callousness manoeuvred the car smack on the line. She disembarked, looked at her handiwork, said, “I don’ give a damn,” (I suppose) and left other drivers to catch hell trying to park in the remaining space.
And there was more of the “I don’ cay ’bout a fella” (which is mounting a serious challenge to “Pride and Industry” as our national motto): the heart-jumping sonic blasts from several passing vehicles, especially via stereophonic booms and bups.
Unfortunately, these are not isolated events; not Old Year’s Day deviations. These and others are examples of the prevalent disregard for others.
And so – naturally, you might say – we came to pax, pax, pax, pax . . . .  
This is not just about “law and order” or “crime and violence”. It goes deeper than that.
As people take one another for granted, get coarser by the day, descend into rampant self-indulgence, I say that Barbados is exhibiting a troubling loss of social discipline, community decorum.  
Respect for others, considerateness, gentility, propriety, temperateness – the hallmarks of humane Homo sapiens – are in recession too, and have been for some time.
All this as somebody naively boasts about community spirit after hosting a football tournament. Don’t they know that community spirit exists only when people share the same noble values and constantly uphold and pursue them together?
Not to be confused with the physical presence in the same place of a set of people who have not generally demonstrated passionate coalescing around elevated values. Community spirit wha’!
As politicians speechify, and social commentators, call-in hosts and calypsonians pontificate about this and that, right under their/our noses there has been an unmitigated descent into indifference about others.
And as CSME markets itself as not being particularly concerned about individual countries’ best values, it is little more than a launching pad for naked opportunism. No social sensitivity arriving.
You might wonder what politicians, social commentators, call-in hosts, calypsonians and CSME have to do with it. These “leaders” have made these fields and hills seem a stage where all the men and women are merely playing political or economic units or ethnic representatives or providers/consumers of entertainment/arts (notice I did not say culture, because I refuse to countenance an interpretation of culture that perversely does not place values at the front and centre).  
And so we are seeing the crassest playing out of Black Stalin’s opening lines of Money: “Meet a man in town and tell him ‘Good morning’. / ‘How much yuh paying fuh dat?’  is what he asking”.  
The new social climbers are in the brew, too, unlike a generation and more ago. Back then, the poor aspired to being less rough around the edges. But many of today’s nouveau middle income persons aspire to make roughness an identifying mark.  
Of course, I will be told that the majority of our people are not like that. But you know my view on this majority talk: it does not take a majority to destroy something – just a critical mass. And that might be five per cent.
So . . . .
Pax, pax, pax, pax . . . the sound of Barbados being shot to pieces. And we talking mostly about politics and economics and identity and entertainment.  
There is no leadership, no national campaign to retrieve foundational civilizing values as, like the Hindenburg, we go down, down. Oh, the (lack of) humanity!  
• Sherwyn Walters is a writer who became a teacher, a song analyst, a broadcaster and an editor. Email [email protected]

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