ALL AH WE IS ONE: Gall and wormwood
Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall. – Jeremiah 23:15
The late Lloyd Best was fond of referring to periods of economic decline as periods of gall and wormwood, from the biblical metaphor for times of bitterness and tribulation. The year 2014 will likely be such a year for Barbados.
Whilst the previous five years since the great recession of 2008 have been characterized by the avoidance of critical decisions out of political expediency, all current signals suggest that 2014 will mark the acceptance of truth over propaganda.
None of this is meant to celebrate the gnashing of teeth. Instead, it is said out of awareness that despite the urgency of the moment, denial, mixed signals and delayed response continue unabated, not only by the Government, but by key leaders of civil society as well.
It is almost surreal that a parliamentary statement reducing by 3 000 the size of the public service in three months, has been treated as just another announcement
by all concerned, including those who issued the statement themselves since they have opened the door for alternatives, and by the union movement too, since they have busied themselves offering alternatives.
These actions not only mock the Parliament and deny the seriousness of the moment, but they offer false hope, effectively drugging the intended casualties into an expectation of a reversal.
However, an objective reading suggests that 2014 will be a year of political upheaval in Barbados.
First, it is impossible to delay economic decisions any longer. Secondly, it is highly unlikely that a process of adjustment of the scale required to correct Barbados’ economic imbalances, and with the fragile balance of political forces as they currently stand, can be undertaken without a period of heightened political activity, as a necessary part of any future resolution.
Indeed, if it is true that the past years have been characterized by delayed economic decision-making, it is also true that political choices have exhibited strong hints of “false consciousness”.
Whilst it is laudable that every effort should be made to save public sector jobs via consultation, 2014 is likely to be a year when “mystical veils” are removed, and the various contending groups put aside their childish fancies, and begin to behave as classes “for themselves”.
Such moments are indeed rare. When they occur, however, all propagandist myths are set aside, and classes respond to their objective material circumstances with dispassionate clarity. Union leaders take note: in such moments every fig finds his fig tree, and leaders who vacillate are brushed aside by the sheer clarity of the moment.
Finally, such moments, though turbulent, normally result in a new political economy, resulting in the collapse of failed economic forces.
For better or worse, the economic adjustments in 2014 will have political consequences.