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GET REAL: Reading between the lines


GET REAL: Reading between the lines

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UNLESS YOU MOVE IN CERTAIN CIRCLES, there are things going on in Barbados you will not know. There is a lot the newspaper cannot or will not print. If you read between the lines and connect, you have to read it like the dots. You find pieces to the puzzle, putting together pieces that may not at first seem to fit together.

Last week’s SUNDAY SUN told a puzzle of a story – a serious story. It is not in the words. It is not in one article. It is between and behind the lines and weaves across articles. Once you get beneath the headlines, and catch the hidden points, then you have to connect the dots. The image that forms will be basic but clear.

The story starts on the front page. It tells of Ann Riley-Fox, who complains that the bank is selling her million-dollar home at close to half its value, against her will. On the surface it is a story about her and her relation to her bank; about the bank’s power and the individual’s lack of power.

Look behind what is written and another character appears in the story. It is the person who will benefit from Ms Riley-Fox’s plight. There is someone who has the $600 000 to purchase the house at a bargain. The really wealthy get wealthier in a recession. 

Ms Riley-Fox describes herself as middle class. The lucky new owner of the house will most likely not be.

In Barbados, those who consider themselves the middle class may be in a shakier position than those lower down the economic ladder. They may be. While higher up, they hold on only by their toes and little fingers.

On Page 7A there is a story, unrelated on the surface. The Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society is seeking to purchase a $1.7 million home for the homeless. This is a story about a successful charity helping the society’s fallen. Both stories concern real estate, but look closer and squint. Another story appears. 

President Kemar Saffrey points to drugs and the recession as a reason for the increase in the number of homeless. Some of those homeless would have once been paying a mortgage on their own home. They were once middle class Barbadians, or the children of. Their eventual benefactor may well be one of the wealthy who benefit from a recession. It may even be the proud owner of a recently foreclosed middle class house or houses. 

Continuing to connect the dots makes you pause at another article on Page 3A.  The Prime Minister is praising the Coast Guard for keeping the country safe, mainly by seizing marijuana and cocaine at sea. If the increasing numbers of homeless are due to drug abuse, Kemar Saffrey says the increase in drug use is driving the increase in homelessness, then nuff drugs still landing. Is the war on drugs working?

Not just passively accepting the story, but actively reading also makes you ask: Does the drug interception war lead to less crime and violence, or to more disgruntled and desperate drug users and dealers? Is this a national security issue or a health issue?

The article about the hospital ship on Page 12A keeps the story at sea, but brings it back to the relationship between charity and economic imbalanced recession.  The United States vessel with 1 000 crew members sailed to the English-speaking Caribbean for the first time, providing free medical care. Thousands accessed its services in Dominica and Jamaica as well as countries in Latin America.

The US-funded charity is aiding the victims of the US-induced worldwide recession, increasing the need for US-funded charity organisations. The hidden story here raised the stakes of the front page article. The cycle of sink them and save them is not just on an individual level. Is there developing a patterned cycle of sink them and save them?

The ship was not in Barbados on a mission, but on a rest stop. Presumably we are not currently as in need as some of our neighbours. But as Barbados is pushed by US-funded lending agencies towards less subsidised public services, it may not be long before we need the subsidised US charity to sail here and save the day. 

The puzzle coming together becomes ironic. See the irony in this article that follows. On Page 14A, US Secretary of State John Kerry criticises Cuba and calls for genuine democracy. This poor little undemocratic nation has arguably the best health care system in the region. For years it has be giving aid to train doctors from the democratic English-speaking Caribbean doctors for next to nothing.  When the Cuban-trained doctors return home to Barbados, we put obstacles to practising in their way.

The theme of salvation from abroad continues in the sports section. In the wake of a disappointing performance at the Netball World Cup, former Barbados Netball Association president Annette Beckett called for the importation of a coach from New Zealand or Australia.

Maybe she is right. But why can’t we seem to save netball ourselves? Is it too late to save the game for our young women’s sake?

The editorial on Page 16A says: “Not too late to save the youth.” This is no sporting matter. It is a matter of life or death for many young people; a matter of comfort or suffering. The editorial writer reminds us that it takes a village to raise a child.

However, the disunity highlighted on Page 8B, between the Professional Road Tennis Association and two of its best players, demonstrates how difficult it is to raise a village in 2015 Barbados. Antoine Daniel and Junior White are refusing to travel to New York and promote the sport because of issues they have with the association. 

Disunity is again cited on Page 24A as a major reason why Caribbean performing and recording artistes are not doing as well as they could be. Sports and arts are supposed to be unifying forces. Even in sports and arts the village has broken down? 

The puzzle we piece together in the newspaper is not all daunting. Several articles provide hope. Ezra Alleyne’s piece on the factors that make Peter Ram’s tune All Ah We a monster hit may have hidden solutions to our nation’s problems in it.  Alleyne calls the song “potent and persuasive social commentary wrapped in the most culturally authentic commentary”. 

He tells us that music is how we “reclaim our heritage across the centuries of dispossession”. Highly recommended reading.

The disjointed hidden stories that unfold daily in our media leave it to us to get our own cohesive picture. It makes it very difficult to get real. It is hard enough getting the facts. With each having his own interpretation of the story, how can we get together to get things done? Let’s start by not getting bamboozled by appearances.

The story behind the stories in last week’s SUNDAY SUN – the newspaper goes deeper than this one column can dive into. As you read today, remember to be an active, thinking, questioning, deep reader looking behind and reading between the lines.

Adrian Green is an active reader and writer. Email [email protected]