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OFF CENTRE: You and *Queen Street


Sherwyn Walters

OFF CENTRE: You and *Queen Street

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(*The Alexandra School is located in Queen Street, Speightstown, St Peter.)
Some of you know this story – John 8:3-11 in the Bible: the scribes and the Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman who had been caught committing adultery. The upshot was that He turned the focus on them and they slinked away.
Not that the woman was not guilty, but the harsh, two-faced, baying-for-blood attitude of her not-exactly-guiltless accusers offended Jesus. How easy it is when others do wrong for us to forget our own wrongness and not temper an even accurate assessment with some understanding.
We haven’t come to terms with our own wrongness.
That reminds me of Andrew Boyd’s (Daily Afflictions) interesting spin on our search for a mate: “If you’ve been through enough relationships, you begin to suspect there is no right person [for you], just different flavours of wrong.
“Why is this? Because you yourself are wrong in some way . . . but it takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. It isn’t until you run up against your deepest demons . . . that you’re ready to find a lifelong mate.
“Only then do you finally know what you are looking for. You are looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person: the ‘right’ wrong person.”  
We are all wrong in lots of ways. And good sense dictates that we accept that and roll with the implications. We don’t kill ourselves each day, so why should we do that to others?
I found that meanness, recklessness and unfairness ran through a lot of the responses to the Alexandra situation – sometimes targeting Mr Broomes, but mostly aimed at the striking teachers. A lot of bad streaks showing in people who are wrong in some way, though they may be the “right” wrong person for somebody.
“Fire all of them”; “Transfer the whole lot”; “Send him home”; “If wunna disagree wid de boss, just leave” – even as their words came at you in print or through the radio, you could almost see foaming, rage-twisted mouths.
Apart from the accompanying snarling contempt not befitting our own wrongness, each course recommended would be patently wrong. In the case of the principal, he, like everyone else, is entitled to due process, to natural justice. I have not seen evidence anywhere that that approach has even commenced.
The same applies to the teachers, with this further troubling irony: how could the authorities in good conscience discipline workers for taking action on matters of which they (the authorities) were strongly apprised and had taken no definitive resolving action? So, in essence, many of you have been asking the authorities to act in ways that would have demonstrated a clear lack of integrity. You comfortable with anybody doing that to you?
Another oft-heard complaint – not usually delivered with venom – had to do with the children. “The children”, “the children”, “the children” – like a ritual religious invocation.
Again, I have to remind that we should not forget ourselves, specifically our much vaunted interest in fairness. Now, Barbadians live quite unconcernedly with various situations in which teachers, nurses, police officers and sanitation workers are given a raw deal – underpaid, disrespected, threatened, violated, put upon by unrealistic expectations, and more. There is little evidence to show that Bajans care about mistreatment of these folks. But let them withdraw their labour, and all of a sudden you know they exist.
And you jump in with an untenable view: that nurses, sanitation workers, police officers, teachers can’t withdraw their labour. Of course, you don’t put it like that. You mention what will be affected – the children in the case of The Alexandra teachers – and couch this focus in guilt-tripping words that send the same message.
But I ask you this: How can you sustain the view that certain workers don’t have the same rights as others? How can you sustain it without recompensing them in some way for giving up this fundamental right? Are they recipients of an allowance called “no-strike pay”? What have you ever recommended in their favour in lieu of this right? What should they get for giving up this prerogative that is available to all other workers? Come, come. Be fair.
And the “Just leave” sounds like it could only come from some spiteful, privileged person living in the dark times before civil rights and trade unionism and other activism. Are these words coming from people I hear cursing prices, the police, Freundel and their own bosses – who don’t intend to leave those matters just so? Why should they?
Jesus showed us that when we are dealing with an issue, we should also be checking ourselves.

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