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A man for the people

Gordon Matthews

A man for the people

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As we celebrate the birth of our late Prime Minister and Father Of Independence the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow, I remember well his commitment to human well-being.
When you look at what makes a man a man in Barbadian society today, it is very discouraging. Men are judged by their physical form; their looks; their job; their money and their possessions.
But there is a trait that defines a man most distinctively: the solitary foundation of manhood – in a word, fortitude.
Fortitude is the combination of three things: conviction, courage and strength. Errol Walton Barrow of such character.
Errol Barrow possessed the willingness, even the desire to face challenges, to attack difficulties, to bear adversity and to do it triumphantly.
With his assuming office in 1961, a new day dawned, a day of hope, expectancy and promise. He set about the development of Barbados with a dynamism and efficiency never seen before nor since.
In 15 short years, 1961 to 1976, the great man put in the necessary infrastructure for development, and the transformation had to be seen to be believed. The great man realized that neither giving the vote nor agitating for better wages was the be-all and end-all of democracy.
With the coming of Barrow, meaningful democracy was put in motion and the economic and educational revolution began. Education from the cradle to the grave was made available to all, regardless of class, colour or creed, rich or poor.
Social services expanded by leaps and bounds. Jobs were created in short time, and the prosperity of the people was very much in evidence. Not like today where the rich are getting richer, and the poor, poorer and poorer.
The principle of economic and social justice before the coming of Barrow, like it is now, was in the interest of the rich. With the coming of Barrow, equal justice and equal opportunity were afforded all.
Class and colour distinctions would no longer interfere with merit, nor would poorness any more bar the way.
All of this development was accomplished without the country incurring enormous debt.
But from the day Barrow died, there was the departure from the common good, and squandermania took over, resulting in our present precarious situation.
In bringing about all these revolutionary changes, Barrow never sought to destroy the wealthy, because he understood that you do not destroy the rich to help the poor.
What he did was to read the rich the riot act, pointing out to them that they had a responsibility to the community; that if the people in the valley were not happy, those on the mountain top could not be safe.
So together they destroyed a wicked capitalistic system and replaced it with democratic socialism. Everybody became happier.
Barrow gave to us a country that took its place on the international scene and commanded so much respect that the leaders of the mighty and wealthy countries cherished our comments on international affairs.
Linda Ashland, writing in the prestigious magazine Town & Country in 1976, quoted the late Marietta Tree, a delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, and wife of the late Ronald Tree.
It is the attitude of the people that makes Barbados so special. They are delightful and well educated. The Government is stable. Democracy is solid. I like to think of Barbados as the Athens of the Caribbean. Barrow was the guiding hand.
Sleeping and waking, eating and drinking, all the good man could think about was human development. He simply loved people and committed himself to the building of a country where all could prosper and have peace and security. Such politicians are rare.
The eminent lawyer and enlightened statesman loved simplicity and economy in the administration of Government. His abilities were considerable and his knowledge extensive and correct upon political subjects. A generous man, his intentions were always upright.
As I look at the state of Barbados today I grieve. I see a country headed for disaster, unless there is a change of direction. Our country is being taken over by people without any sense of belonging.
O my God, we, as a nation, have strayed from Thee. We have departed from the paths of political, religious, social and corporate righteousness. O heavenly Father, do something, for we have made void Thy law.
Have mercy upon us and do what has to be done to redeem us and save us from national disaster, in Christ’s name. Amen.