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Lest we forget . . .


Everette W. Howell

Lest we forget . . .

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We are celebrating our 48th year of Independence; 48 years of self-governance and self-determination.

In another two years, our national planners and visionaries will be looking to make the 50th anniversary a big landmark from which to stand back and take an objective look at where we have come from.

It will give us another opportunity to examine what we have achieved and our processes, and determine those fundamentals inherited from the past that have stood the test of time and proven to be valuable in nation building.

It will also provide us another chance, if we have the courage, to evaluate those intrusions which have provided short-term excitement and pleasure but have no long-term value added benefits.

When I speak with some of our senior citizens in their 90s and 100, or listen to their interviews, I hear how they were able to survive the varieties of challenges during ten decades.

In their youth, the working hours were from sunrise to sunset. The children of the household did not escape; they were a part of the workforce.

With little pay and little time given for social and health development, they worked. Today, we frown on such inhumanity practised by those who ought to know better.

But the positive fallout from such imposed servitude placed within our foreparents characteristics such as self-discipline, resilience, industry and survival skills. They knew the importance of “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”.

Our forefathers learned “to cut and contrive”. There was no piling-up of garbage awaiting the passing trucks because everything was recycled at home or in the village by a tin smith, basket maker, seamstress, shoemaker, blacksmith or carpenter. Everything had some value.

Boundaries were set for children and imposed. Respect was due everyone older than yourself. A good morning and a good evening greeting to an adult was expected. “Manners maketh man” was taught.

Some common threads which our centenarians have all woven in their testimonies is their abiding trust in God. Their church and spiritual heritage kept them full of faith and hope during difficult times.

Their diet was a simple one of ground provisions, cooked daily, and fish when available. They knew what herbs to select for the treatment of common ailments.

They used the leaves of the poison cassava to reduce fever overnight. Green pawpaw had a variety of usages. The old hen or cock kept for the Christmas special was tied under the pawpaw tree for a number of days to eat the seed from the pawpaw. That tenderised the meat.

We have a heritage. We built our Independence on that heritage. It includes cultivating, developing and educating our minds to be independent of thought and not mere reflectors of other people’s thoughts. It is a heritage of industry, saving for a rainy day, respect for the other person and his property, being polite and exercising the best of Christian principles, having a thirst for education and the cultivation of good health and longevity.

That is our genuine Bajan heritage and culture. We need to take time out to examine our present priorities and practices. What are the things we are placing in that basket of goods in the name of “Bajan culture” and transmitting to the next generation?

There is the cultivation of the taste for the excitement and pleasure, fun and frolic, with the culture and economic tags attached. When our artforms, presented to the public, piped into our homes at prime time, are filled with the vulgar, almost nude bodies of men and women gyrating against each without any respect for self and others, I think we have crossed the line.

Will our next step be just to paint on clothing on nude bodies and call that Bajan culture because it gets popular ratings?

There is so much more associated with these popular festivities that have negative effects. It makes one shudder.

There is the consumption of alcohol which affects the brain and decision-making. There is the increase of unprotected sex, leading to more HIV/AIDS, and single parents.

There is more and more abuse and disrespect for the individual both male and female.

This can all lead to the growing inability to discriminate between the secular and the holy, the sacred and the profane, so anything goes in the name of culture. Is this really what we want to pass on to our next generation?

So often, we hear the call for the voice of the church on these evolving trends. The church only has jurisdiction on those who attend long enough to get its message of modesty, sobriety, purity and accountability to our Creator. It is difficult for the promoters of pleasure to promote these virtues at the same time, so a god is created that can satisfy the secular and the holy at the same time.

The church begins in each household. Each household has a responsibility to set boundaries as well as to instruct its youth as to what is right and acceptable conduct.

When the home fails in this important responsibility, our future or the future of any nation will not remain as bright as its past.

Choose well, Barbados! Don’t forget our culture and our heritage. Enjoy our 48th anniversary.

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