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THE LOWDOWN: Bim’s still heaven at forty-seven

Richard Hoad

THE LOWDOWN: Bim’s still heaven at forty-seven

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Dey trying dey best but dey making a mess to make we satellite; dey want to low-rate we station and destroy we nation to make we satellite – with apologies to the Mighty Sparrow.
Oh what a night, late November 1966, at the Garrison Dipper sharing licks, our new nation, what a night!
Right Honourable Dipper, you remember that night?
You in that little, small, undersized jacket sending a message we should all have heeded: it is sometimes necessary to cut your coat to suit your cloth. Future leaders forgot that jacket and acted as if there would always be times of plenty.
I was out by the Drill Hall, safe and at ease in the teeming throng. Rumour had it the final firework would explode into a giant replica of you, Dipper, but I didn’t see it. That apart, which Bajan could forbear to cheer when our flag hit the heavens? We were a sovereign and independent nation.
Of course, there were apprehensions. Could we make it alone? But you set a pattern which Mandela must have copied: bring everybody on board to work for our prosperity. And soon we were on the road to unbelievable success.
Sugar hit its highest yields. Tourism flourished. The dairy industry, your pet project, took off. As did manufacturing. Socially the society changed but with no revolutions, no race riots, despite the best efforts of rabble-rousers.
Best of all, we always felt confident, especially when you were Prime Minister, that our leaders would take corrective measures when we were going off track. Those famous Budget words, “fasten your seat-belts”, meant higher taxes or restricted spending but it was for the general good.
Little Barbados rewarded us mightily. We could afford a lifestyle comparable to that in many a developed country. But we failed her badly. In many respects.
First, we lost our reputation for hard work. It is shameful for any country to build its economy on cheaper imported labour. That smacks of exploitation and considering yourself superior.
Secondly, politicians seemingly bent on winning elections encouraged a mendicant society using giveaways. The freeness bubble could not be sustained.
Thirdly, successive leaders let themselves be duped into signing on to conventions and agreements which are taking us straight into economic slavery.
It is impossible to compete with countries where production is subsidized, where forced labour, child labour, unhealthy working conditions and starvation wages are the norm. The world powers want us to scramble like crabs in a barrel to produce cheap goods for them to sell back to us. Powerful advertising has made us slaves to materialism.
Fourthly, we are making the same mistake that Britain did of mixing up trade with free movement of people. In 2004, Britain had no controls on European migrants. Some 600 000 Poles came in. Now they fear a wave of Bulgarians and 85 per cent are against it. It can’t work.
You warned us to be “satellites of none”. Now we see the results of CARICOM ownership. Some of our best hotels, our historic properties, our best lands purchased by foreigners and abandoned. Many fear they want to shut down local competition and set us up as a giant retail outlet for their products.
But the bigger question is, what went wrong with the world economy? How come mangoose, rat, dog flea, black ant, hare rabbit and monkey are flourishing but mankind is in turmoil? Was the world hit by a meteorite, an asterix, a global cataclysm?
No. All our problems are man-made. And I found the reason why in the last SATURDAY SUN crossword. The clue was “not of practical relevance”. And the answer: “academic”.
We have wasted time producing and listening to academics who have no practical relevance or solutions.
But don’t fool yourself, Dipper. Those of us who practised the thrift of our ancestors and didn’t try to “lay up treasures on earth” are still living comfortably in Barbados.
The simple secret is: if you can’t afford to buy it cash, you don’t need it.
Me, I can’t complain. Bought a whole pig last weekend and had the tail in soup. A sweet harslet. Weather is beautiful. Barbados is still heaven.
????•? Richard Hoad is a farmer and social commentator.