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GET REAL: Keep asking questions


GET REAL: Keep asking questions

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COMPLACENCY CAN BE A SIDE EFFECT of stability, whether it is stable government, a stable family, or a stable job. 

You can take stability for granted. You can get so accustomed to being taken care of that you assume you always will be. When things start looking a little off you tell yourself, “Someone will take care of it.” Then comes a corruption scandal, a retrenchment exercise or yuh muddah gets fed up with you and kicks you out of the house. All of a sudden your boat is rocked.

Questions start to flow. 

Wuh we gun do now? How dis happen? Who is to blame? All of a sudden we want answers. You don’t change a culture of “see and don’t see” so easily. The momentum of panic is seldom enough to overcome the inertia of years of passivity. We should have been asking questions and demanding answers from long time.

Just posing questions on call-in programmes is not enough. Generally we don’t ask a lot of questions; at least, not aloud and in public. But even when we do, authority figures figure they can wait us out. The hope is that we will forget what the question was and move on to something else to be incompletely dealt with. Onto the next event.

When citizens or children are allowed to freely question, they learn. Some leaders and parents don’t want too much of that. More learning leads to more questions and the insecure leader or parent can’t handle not having all the answers. 

Open communication builds trust and confidence. Answer the questions you can, to the best of your ability. We know you are not God and we hope you do too. We just need to be reassured that you have an idea about what you are doing and you are really looking out for us.

If Barbados was heaven, we would not have to waste any energy questioning whether waste to energy was a good idea. We would be sure that the all-knowing, holy governing host had our backs. Barbados happens to be on Earth. There are no angels in Parliament or anywhere else. Are we questioning enough?

The fogging van was passing and someone asked me the question, “Yuh supposed tuh open de windows or close dem?” “Open them,” I said. His reply, “Wuh de last time I do dah, de mosquitas run inside, and dem and de fog near kill me!”

I started questioning, “Wuh really in dah gas, doh? And how we know it ain worse than de mosquita?” We don’t really question the decision to fog up the place. In Government institutions we trust.

Mosquito gas doesn’t rile us up like gasification plants. We wouldn’t have questioned that either if someone wasn’t looking out for us and raised some serious, hard questions. Good looking out. Still no word from whoever was supposed to be looking out for us in that deal as yet though. When you have to question one thing, it can make you start to question everything. Trust is eroding fast.

You start to look funny at those products on the supermarket shelf that say “for export only” and wonder why. Wuh dem really sending down hey? You wonder how many banned pesticides are allowed to be sold and used here freely. Wuh we really eating? You question why Japan would send all their best cars here. After all, you don’t hear about us sending back faulty vehicles when there is a recall.

Journalists and calypsonians are two groups we used to look to, to raise the hard questions. When advertising revenue and prize money take priority, hard questioning takes a back seat.

Transparency and hard questioning as a matter of policy does not seem to be on our horizon any time soon. And calypsonians and journalists alike claim that trying to make a living being the watchdog invites fleas of victimisation.

So we have complacency and now fear working against a culture of questioning. Ask the wrong question of the wrong person and you could become a target. Why rock the boat when it is sailing relatively easily? 

To check for holes and make sure it is really seaworthy – that’s why.

The road to failed state status is lined with sleeping watchmen, blindfolded lookouts, muzzled mouthpieces and citizens in shock with their mouths open wide after years of eyes wide shut.

We need to be able to look over the shoulder of those who are supposed to look out for us. Same thing in the family. Let the children respectfully question your decisions and be ready with a good answer. Massa day done. “Because I’m in charge,” is not a good enough reason, whether you are parent or a minister. A questioning child becomes a questioning adult and a better citizen for it. An authority that can’t be questioned is immature. 

The challenge will be to build a culture of constant communication and vigilance rather than occasional flare-ups interspersed with silence.

Adrian Green is a creative communications specialist and an avid questioner. Email [email protected]