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THE LOWDOWN: Lives of great men

Richard Hoad, [email protected]

THE LOWDOWN: Lives of great men

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BARBADIANS OF MY GENERATION were justifiably proud of our education system,98 per cent literacy  and all that. Old Bridgy who cooked for us into her late 80s could read a newspaper fluently. Many young people today can’t do that although they were supposedly at school until age 16. Bridgy was probably working by the time she was ten.

With the emphasis on passing exams nowadays, we aren’t making sure every child gets the basics. Also a lot of jackassery has crept into education. We learned both metric and imperial measurement. Today’s youth know only metric and are lost in later life when everyone is using feet and inches. And no longer do they commit to memory great poems which lift the spirit in times of need.

Former colleague and Trinidad government minister Dr Morgan Job is particularly bitter that, 60 years after the white man left us in charge, at least ten per cent of Caribbean ten-year-olds are illiterate. Instead of “boasting about the ten per cent or less who can compete with their peers globally, we should begin to worry about the 90 per cent who are the feedstock for the gangs, the jail, the next generation of child mothers or whores”. Very true.

I don’t see school as training for a job. The truly educated school-leaver can handle any profession. Several of us West Indians with non-science backgrounds went to St Augustine to study agriculture. After a preliminary year, we matched or outshone students who had done five years of science at school.

I say all that to salute Dr Lance Bannister who passed away last week at age 91. The “Doc” is quintessential testimony to the power and range of a classical education. After excelling in Latin and Greek at Harrison College and Codrington College, he studied medicine at Mona.

I bought my piece of land from him in 1977 and have stood in awe at his versatility ever since. Following my example, he switched from beef cattle to dairy, never ceasing to innovate.

But what impressed most was the 100 per cent youthful enthusiasm with which he tackled everything. I hear he once used to don cowboy clothes and ride around on a horse. He got a truck to haul Banks grain, drove it himself. I recall him bragging how the Banks staff were more impressed at his reversing skills than his medical reputation.

Iron sculptor, award-winning poet, author, doctor, dairy farmer, innovator, he has “raised a monument more long-lasting than bronze”. Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime; and, departing, leave behind us, footprints in the sands of time. Lance Bannister sure left footprints for us to follow.

As did Joseph Niles. I love Joseph Niles’ music. He’s brought me far more happiness than the whole race of politicians. Were I an all-powerful despot, any radio announcer cutting a Joseph Niles song would be beheaded forthwith.

We live in strange days. The atheists say they don’t need God to tell them right from wrong. Columnist Peter Laurie says our laws (“for example, stealing is wrong”) “are grounded not in the sacred text of any particular religion but in the bill of rights embodied in the constitution”.

All well and good. But if the “the moral underpinnings of law” (his words) come from a constitution drawn up by politicians, the same politicians we every day hear described as inept, visionless, get rich quick and possibly corrupt, are today’s youth going to heed such laws?

Obviously they aren’t. Many feel they should have an equal share of our resources, irrespective of effort. They don’t accept that stealing is wrong simply because politicians say so. Many don’t even consider killing wrong, and feel no remorse at taking a life.

Joseph, you did your part to bring this country back to God. Through your efforts someday we Bajans may be able to ask : “Is not this the land of Beulah, blessed, blessed land of light, where the flowers bloom forever, and the sun is always bright?”

Recent dog attacks have left us staggering on the farm. Three dogs on one occasion, five on another. Goats mauled. We won’t waste time complaining. If neither party has the guts to deal effectively with those killing humans, they’re unlikely to act to save sheep and goats.

Richard Hoad is a farmer and social commentator. Email [email protected]