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BC’S B’DOS: Wither Barbados


B.C. Pires

BC’S B’DOS: Wither Barbados

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The first word in the headline above doesn’t have an aitch in it. It’s not Whither Barbados – where is Barbados going (although my train of thought does pull out of that station); it’s Wither Barbados, like what happens to a tree when you don’t water it.
The tree of Barbadian knowledge was always in trouble though, from the time the modern place started in the mid-17th century. Last Tuesday marked the 362nd anniversary of the Charter Of Barbados, which ended the English Civil War in Barbados, signed at Oistins, not too far from where I sit typing this.
Now no one today is sure where Ye Mermaid’s Inn was but, if I had an Oistins rumshop, I’d claim the Charter Of Barbados and benefit from real estate inertia – the fact that land, like people, tends to stay in the same usage it began with until someone consciously changes it. Rumshops, castles, brothels and churches usually have a long history. Holy ground, unholy ground and battlegrounds remain constant because that’s human nature: we do what we’ve always done in the same way, forever.
And often end up getting to the same place: nowhere.
Last Monday, I lamented that, in our half-made societies, we breeze past the essential like a full bus and latch on to the trivial like African snails. I was talking about the Alexandra School impasse – which, although I wrote this since last week, I guarantee you is still an impasse this week – but I’d made the point that we, in Barbados and the West Indies, can avoid the important part of any discussion, no matter how serious or trivial.
Last Wednesday – 362 years and one day after the Charter Of Barbados – I listened to a call-in radio show. A woman, for her own convenience, parked in someone’s driveway to pick up her toddler from preschool. When she returned “five minutes later”, the driveway’s proprietor – a pregnant woman around 30 – cussed her blue and declared: “I come here to teach your child to cuss today.”
And, the moment I heard that, I knew exactly what would happen; and it did.
Every caller but one was horrified and attacked the woman for cussing. Don’t mind that the child is going to cuss like Rihanna by age ten, anyway, or be ostracized (only the Irish cuss like Bajans), or that, if the driver admitted blocking the driveway for “five minutes”, it was probably 15. Only one unfortunate – me – noticed the driver was wrong.
You don’t need a commission of enquiry to declare that people shouldn’t cuss in front of children or schools shouldn’t come to a halt for six weeks in term time.
The driveway-woman would have been wrong if she’d punctured a tyre (but that wouldn’t have raised moral outrage like cussing). Everybody cussed the cusser and everybody was happy, except me and the driveway lady.
And the driveway will be blocked this morning, like the Alexandra School.
Because we would rather all wag our fingers at the person who “behaves bad” than hold the person in the wrong responsible.

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