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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Our paradise lost?


Frances Chandler

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Our paradise lost?

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I agree with Richard Hoad that “we Barbadians consider our little island an earthly paradise”. But we seem bent on destroying it. We’ve twisted the Barrow “mirror image” concept and are trying to mirror the United States and other developed countries in every conceivable negative way.
We’ve taken on their eating habits and disowned our local foods. We’ve adopted the credit culture and are living above our means, and more recently we’ve jumped on the litigation bandwagon. Nowadays, we want to sue or create a hullabaloo over the simplest of matters, while ignoring serious issues damaging to our country and ultimately to ourselves.
I remember a while ago, my mother, who died recently in her 90th year, saw a large, brightly-lit sign which read “Mediate, Don’t Litigate” and asked me what “litigate” meant. I can understand why because that was a foreign word to her generation. That was something foreigners did. We often heard about “ambulance chasers” and saw the American TV ads with lawyers encouraging people to sue for any and everything, but that didn’t happen here.
We read recently where a good Samaritan in the US was sued by a person rescued from a burning car because they claimed they hadn’t been lifted correctly and had damaged their back. This certainly makes one think twice about helping people in distress since an act of kindness could backfire.
Nowadays you have to dot your Is and cross your Ts or you may be sued, and the media seem to be under heavy manners while trying to inform the public. It appears only politicians “get away” with saying the most atrocious things. True, most are said under the protection of parliamentary privilege, but as far as I recall, some are even said outside Parliament, with no obvious repercussions. On the other hand though, we do have two members of the same political party reportedly suing each other.
But all this litigation can hurt us. We recently heard that doctors’ fees will soon be increased by up to 60 per cent because of the Medical Protection Society (MPS) of England, which provides the medical fraternity here with indemnity insurance, is seeking to raise their rates between 40 and 60 per cent depending on the specialty and the risks involved if there is a malpractice suit. Obviously patients must have protection against unprofessional treatment by doctors (and lawyers for that matter), but we must beware of becoming too litigious. This adversarial attitude starts in schools where conflicts are being resolved with weapons and also seems to raise its head every year with the inevitable rows over Crop Over events.
Maybe we need more changes in our defamation laws, “abuse of process” needs to be more strictly enforced and the promised Alternative Dispute Resolution court needs to become a reality. Sometimes I wonder if we need  anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) legislation too. A SLAPP is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defence until they abandon their criticism or opposition.
In years gone by we were our brothers’ keepers, but the increased violent crime we’re experiencing has caused us to adopt a less humane approach. Gone are the days when you could safely offer a “lift” to a stranger. Nowadays, I seldom if ever give a stranger a “lift” even if the rain is pouring. By the same token, those seeking “lifts” must be careful whom they accept them from since it could result in  injury or even death.
Here again we need to shake off the foreign influences, and introduce Richard Hoad’s ‘Bush bar’ remedy. That is, “withdraw from the International Human Rights Commission, restore the original definition of murder and hang murderers with  despatch as was done previously”. (Hope I quoted you correctly, Richard.) In other words, we need to continue doing what works, and change only if it’s for the better, not for the sake of keeping up with the developed countries.
We seem to be losing the unique qualities that made us “Bajans” and made Barbados a paradise. Our children can no longer enjoy the freedom of past  generations. It will take persons from every sphere of life to join in the fight to retrieve our “paradise lost”.
• Dr Frances Chandler is a former Independent senator.

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