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OFF CENTRE: Dessie devalued: ‘Know your place!’


Sherwyn Walters

OFF CENTRE: Dessie devalued: ‘Know your place!’

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If you want access to Kensington Oval, you must have either a ticket or accreditation. I don’t know what Haynes’ issue was. Sir Garfield Sobers is a National Hero and he waits till he is let in. – Acting cricket operations manager of the BCA, Roxanne Forte
Quite a few “ordinary” people, in different everyday situations, have had their ears filled with compliments from me.
Not a few women among them have reacted as though they thought I was “hitting” on them. Nope. No saint, I like to tell people nice things about themselves. I still probably don’t do it enough.
Also, whenever I get near to a Barbadian or Caribbean person who has excelled for Barbados or the region, I make it a point to offer a handshake.
I express my appreciation, my heart-felt congratulations.
So Sir Everton Weekes, Clive Lloyd, Elwyn Oxley, Seymour Nurse, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Malcolm Marshall, Jim Wedderburn, Courtney Browne, Ryan Brathwaite, Patrick Husbands, Sydney “Bouncer” Rowe, Sir Wes Hall and others have been on the other end of my extended hand and complimentary words.
And if I was walking instead of driving in the opposite direction the other day going up Rockley, I would have given Sir Curtly Ambrose a hearty hand clasp too.
I don’t want an autograph. I don’t want anything. I don’t do it so I can tell others that I talked to this notable person or that one. I do it for them. I want them to get a heart lift from hearing, “I admire what you have done”; “I deeply respect your achievement(s)”; “You were outstanding.”
But too often it seems that Barbadians baulk at sending those messages. Take the recent Desmond Haynes situation at Kensington Oval and the response of the acting chief operations manager of the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA).
Roxanne, your telling me that Sir Garfield Sobers is a National Hero and he waits till he is let in may tell me something positive about his character, but it does not say anything positive about you (or the BCA).
It doesn’t say, “I/we appreciate you, Sir Garry.” After all, why is there no special treatment for a National Hero (and even more so since one of the facilities is named after him)?
Why on earth should a man after whom a stand has been named not be given special treatment?
Nothing you said, Roxanne, suggests that you had that concern.
And in most of those who agree with the Kensington bureaucrats I observe an overarching concern about procedures, rules – legalism – and a force-fitting “equality”.
I don’t sense heart.
I don’t sense an earnestness about dignifying others.
Nor do I sense a self-examining (“Am I a sensitive human, with a passion for necessary flexibility and nuance, or an automaton?”) straining after noble spirit. I sense, “the hand, the ticket and the money” (thanks, Paul Keens-Douglas: your ticket sellers in Tanti At The Oval turned out to be our administrators at Kensington Oval).
In 2006, many Barbadians were seethingly apoplectic about an Allen Stanford commercial that they deemed to be demeaning of our cricket legends, and I wrote in a letter to the Editor that while we were busy pillorying Stanford (and the legends, sandpapering them for “selling out”), we had better ask the legends how they felt about how we treat them.
“After all,” I wrote, “Stanford will come and go but we are here all the time, and if the dignity of our former cricketing greats is so precious to us, we must be looking all around – not just at outsiders – to see who or what is offending it. And who better to ask than the legends themselves?”
I didn’t ask Desmond myself. But eight years later some others mek him answer. And the answer did not surprise me.
Many Barbadians do not easily give our excelling ones their due respect and appreciation (which we must not mix up with liking them or holding our tongues about a statement or deed of theirs that we woulda criticise the fellow or girl down de road for – which is undue respect).
Let this be an opportunity for us to tackle one of Barbados’ marauding demons: an apparently boundless intent to nail others to a place that must not under any circumstances be higher than ours – which, again, we must not confuse with legitimate criticism and necessary consistency.
So I will not be caught being concerned only about what happened to Desmond Haynes earlier this month and what sometimes is dealt Rihanna.
In Barbados there is a virtual epidemic of pulling down people.
A few articles ago I gave some examples. Fellow students routinely do it in schools, work colleagues seem to draw their very existence from it, the blogosphere is polluted with it.
Everywhere when people get together, it seems like the national pastime is washing mout’ pun people.
I am sure it happens everywhere, but here there is a certain relish and the presence of an evil twin: a dearth of positivity towards ordinary people.
It bothers me when we rise up in umbrage only when it happens to “stars”.
I am hoping that what happened to Dessie gives us a chance to face up to a national disease.
Sherwyn Walters is a writer who became a teacher, a song analyst, a broadcaster and an editor. Email [email protected]

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