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WORD VIEW: Some Bajans ig’rant

Esther Phillips

WORD VIEW: Some Bajans ig’rant

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A Barbadian national returned home from a metropolitan country looking to settle in her homeland. While speaking on a recent call-in programme, she was highly complimentary of certain aspects of her country of birth. But there were others she found unsettling.
She referred to the long delays in completing certain business transactions, the uncouth behaviour of some men who frequent rum shops in The City and the dirty conditions prevailing in parts of the bus terminal that are there for all to see. Who tell she do dat?
The words were hardly out of David Ellis’ mouth when two or three listeners called and confirmed what he had only just predicted: they lambasted the woman, claiming among other things that rum shops had always been in Barbados and that the woman should “guh back whey she come from”.
Now it is true that these callers may have been speaking out of some misguided notion of loyalty to Barbados, but I doubt it. This kind of reaction, in my view, is indicative of a growing trend in Barbados where “Nobody cahn tell me nutten!” has become the new mantra.
It was heartening to see that quite a few listeners called in to support the views of the returning Barbadian national and to add their own observations as to the validity of her less-than-pleasant experiences.
But someone needs to point out to the Nobody Cahn Tell Me Nutten Brigade, comprising youths and adults alike, that they are a hindrance to the progress of this island they claim to love, not to mention their own progress as individuals. How can anything be corrected or improved without first acknowledging that the problem exists?
I would not be at all surprised if it’s the parents from this brigade who decide that they “gine up hey fuh dah headmaster”, the principal who is simply insisting that children follow rules as is required for any well ordered society.
These, I suspect, are also among the parents who will not correct their children and whom no one else dare correct. Who are you to tell them or their children anything?! Reasoning with this group seems almost as impossible as convincing Mitt Romney that he was not going to win the last presidential election.
Or is it perhaps the lack of ability to think objectively? The kind of gut reaction that fuels the culture of conflict and warfare attempting to find a foothold in this island?
During a discussion surrounding the events of the recent outbreak of violence in The City, someone made an observation about what tends to happen when women in particular turn up on the scene. Then the loudest possible vocal exchanges begin, with comments and accusations hurled at random.
The vitriol in the air is enough to set the place ablaze. And when it all cools down, nobody is any wiser about what really happened. To get at the facts and to arrive at an objective solution is by no means the goal of the participants.
But perhaps it is unfair to expect a balanced approach under circumstances where all kinds of unseen dynamics are at work that stand in the way of reason.
The point I’m getting at, though, is that there is this “new” Barbadian attitude that is most definitely becoming a serious problem. Noise pollution and littering continue. Drivers stop on the road and conduct a conversation while traffic piles up behind them. Dare blow the horn after waiting for a while! Enter a store in order to spend your hard-earned money and anybody would swear that you’re coming to beg. I’ve seen some slight improvement in this regard but poor quality of service persists in spite of training conducted by the various businesses.
What is at the root of this prevailing attitude? My sense is that a percentage of Barbadians teeters somewhere between a pseudo-confidence based on the reputation we have gained for our economic and other successes on the one hand, and on the other, a deep resentment at not being able to reap the benefits as they feel they should.
Whether from a misguided sense of entitlement, feelings of marginalization, deprivation, outside negative influences or lawlessness, the Nobody Cahn Tell Me Nutten Brigade is becoming a force to be reckoned with. But thank God for sensible Bajans who, I believe, are still in the majority.
• Esther Phillips is an educator, poet and editor of BIM: Arts For The 21st Century.