FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Where’s the pride?
FIRST LET ME CORRECT a statement I made last week. The welcome address at the Barbados Community College’s 21st anniversary celebration was given by the acting Principal, Mr Samuel Rouse, not the principal.
Secondly, “No to Cahill, Yes to Recycling” bumper stickers are now available. Please acquire and display prominently. We mustn’t let this matter rest.
We’ve just celebrated our 49th year of Independence. Every year, during the Independence celebrations, the words “pride”, “nationhood”, “these fields and hills beyond recall are now are very own” keep ringing in our ears. But sadly, the reality is a different story.
One writer to the NATION recently bemoaned the fact that we were once a gem but are now becoming more tarnished by the day – with “unsightly garbage, increasing violence, horrible roads, generally slow and inefficient service . . . lack of self-respect, decency, manners, common sense and consideration for others . . . a weak Government that refuses to toughen its stance on crime . . . .” She concluded that she was no longer a proud Bajan, just a sad, fearful, disgusted and disappointed one. I’m sure there are many who feel this way.
Our National Anthem talks about our forefathers who “sowed the seed from which our pride is sprung”. But as agriculturalists know, a seed comes complete with some sustenance to get it started, but that doesn’t last forever, so the emerging seedling must be nurtured if it’s to develop further.
Similarly, we can’t keep depending on our forefathers’ achievements. Our present leaders, and indeed all of us, must continue to care for our nation to ensure that it remains our very own and that we can be proud of it.
But the signals we’ve been getting from some during the recent Banks Holdings Limited (BHL) takeover saga certainly conflict with the sentiments of our Anthem. We’ve heard that “it’s not important who owns an asset. What is important is what use you make of an asset”, and “. . . many Barbadians . . . have got caught up in emotional sentiments . . . . If you want to be emotional, buy a puppy”.
On the other hand, it’s good to know there are Barbadians like Peter Ross who noted in a recent letter to the Editor that he was convinced “efforts to sell our nationalism on the altar of economic expediency for a mess of pottage with no regard for legitimate sentimentality is a gross error . . . . One by one we witness all of our successes going into overseas ownership and control . . . . When will it ever end? When will we ever learn? Rum, beer, milk, biscuits – all gone”.
We need foreign investment. But we also need a balance. We hear about the limited local market and the need to expand and export. But must we surrender control of our companies to achieve this? Can we transition from a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond only by being in the belly of a shark?
Can’t we have partnerships without giving up control? Didn’t Goddards expand regionally without being swallowed up by some foreign company? Isn’t Cave Shepherd still locally-owned? Isn’t Armstrong Agencies exporting into Scotland without being swallowed up in the process?
By maintaining local ownership, we can retain our own business culture and not adopt the “dog eat dog” mentality of the larger countries. In Sir Henry Fraser’s book Illustrious West Indians – a compilation of the citations for those awarded honorary doctorates by the University of the West Indies – it’s reported that Geoffrey Cave’s litmus test of a business proposal is always: “Will it benefit Barbados?” Sir Charles Williams is described as “putting country first and thinking of how his ideas will benefit both his companies and his country”.
Sir Kyffin Simpson is reported to have established a reputation for investing in the development of his own company’s workers. As far as I’m aware, Williams Industries issues shares to its staff.
Finally, I applaud the NATION for its invitation to “walk with us towards Barbados’ 50th anniversary” and join it in its hope that by November 30, 2016, our national pride will have been rekindled to a level that more closely mirrors the national fervour that existed in the lead-up to that night when the Union Jack was lowered and the Broken Trident hoisted.
We must decide. We either exhibit some pride and nationalism or settle for much lower standards than our Anthem envisaged.
• Dr Frances Chandler is a former senator. Email [email protected].