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Questionable patriotism


Sherwyn Walters

Questionable patriotism

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YUH COULD TALK all yuh want – I am still going to do what I have to do. You could buse and then apologize, that en stopping me.
I refuse to wait till next November. I have to take a stand against domestic abuse now.
Someone beats up a partner (the beater is usually a man, although we are hearing that women sharing licks too) and the battered says, “But I love them; I en leaving”. And that is all right with us?
How easily we accommodate domestic abuse hit me squarely during November, our Independence month.
In our Novembers a lot of airplay is given to two songs that suggest that Barbadians are happy gluttons for punishment. With what amounts to giddy-headed sentimentality, the personas endure blow after blow, only to respond with a hollow and incredible declaration of intent to bear all and stay, no matter what.
The Pledge by Peter Ram: Dem trick we, tek way we money / Rob muh poor people blind from right back to left . . .
And: We got homeless people don’ live nuhwhere / Who en sick wid cancer deading from AIDS / And a couple thousand fuh dat is so hard to raise . . .
In addition: Grinding we wid bills . . . Informer, talk out me brother / Now he all down in the gutter struggling fuh help . . .
And this too: Skycaps and janitors working ’bout dey deserve a little raise / But den I hear de head gine get ’bout quarter million a year
It en done: destroying we country scenery. . . Push down canes and close Bulkeley . . .
But . . .
Dem could beat me till ah drop / Is right here
 I intend to stop / I gine shake out de blows and start from top
Also check out Red Plastic Bag’s Bim:
I know my children may not reach prestigious high schools / But for the big boys own to go it has become a rule / And when they grow up they may hardly find a job/ And in broad daylight they may be raped or robbed . . .
Some more: I know I may be beaten badly by the law / And I may not even be the one that they looking for . . .
Also: If I want to get rich quickly I only have to become MP / But as a hawker or fisherman they may try to mamaguy me / One per cent of my salary they take and call it Transport Levy / And if I decide to drive taxi I may be called dirty
Still . . .
I en going nowhere / Is here I intend to stay / And if it rise or fall / I en leaving this land at all.  
But why? Why? we ask of both these songs – but find not a shred of redemptive evidence in the face of this domestic abuse. Latin domus: house, home. Barbados is our homeland.
And, if these songs are to be believed, all of these people and things are giving us a “washing off” right in our home – and yet, without any strong reasons to put up with the licks, the personas and I daresay those who sing along and endorse the songs as noteworthy “nation songs”, are resolved (steelily?) not to leave.
People like that are not respected. They are called many unkind things, but, in these parts, mostly dotish.
Look, in the midst of its ills, Barbados has a lot to offer, and there are many reasons to stay here. But if you don’t advance them while sparing no corner of our faults, your vow to stay in what you have made out to be a vile piece of rock on God’s earth makes you, too, sound dotish.
That worries me, but I worry about this even more: how somebody could sing a song that has Barbados sounding like Misery Central and get seven-eighths of Barbadians to gleefully sing it?
What could bring about this suspension of thinking, this flight from common sense? This cosying up to abuse? This cuddling of it?
What kind of mirror image does that give us? An image of air-headed jingoists playing at being patriotic?
Patriotism needs brains!
It makes me wonder about our mindset – what James Husbands called the other day our “mental model”. What mental model are you displaying when you hold to your bosom songs that unrelievingly beat you up without offering you any saving graces?
One of our dangerous mindsets is this: you shouldn’t criticize your artists. Now, wait a minute. You could criticize the Prime Minister, other politicians, doctors, nurses, teachers, priests, policemen and so on – a whole slew of obviously mission-critical people – but you must leave artists alone? You know what I am going to say: “You kidding me, right?”
It is our failure to put on our thinking caps that has for years saddled us with songs that do not deserve us.
It should bother us that we can be so easily taken in, carried along, duped.
Who are we? Thinking patriots or Schizophrenics R Us?
• Sherwyn Walters is a writer who became a teacher, a song analyst, a broadcaster and an editor. Email [email protected]

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