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On fairness and courtesy


On fairness and courtesy

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MAY I THANK your correspondent, David Morris, for his sensitive and balanced letter (October 24) headlined: Be Fair And Courteous To All. He is absolutely right to say that in the face of injustice, we must speak out and confront it no matter its source. For the Christian, it’s a sacred duty.

Nevertheless, we should be cautious. First, we know very well that in speaking out, we run the risk of reprisals from the powerful. Look what happened to Jesus. Are we prepared for that?

Second, we must be clear that we are in fact confronting injustice. Every lawyer knows that there are two sides to every story, and that even the most plausible and apparently vulnerable may have the character of a centipede. The duty to act includes a duty to hear the other side, not least for prudence’s sake. Self-immolation is all very well, but it may be for nothing and may become a character flaw. Besides, perceptions about the same event may honourably differ.

Third, we must beware the mindset which is congenitally judgemental and dismissive, in those who don’t have a kind word to say about anybody, who insatiably condemn rather than congratulate. They can be very plausible too, and we may just mislead ourselves.

This brings me to Mr Morris’ case of the physically challenged “elderly lady”. Good for her. She’s obviously pretty tough for she sought justice by appealing through a ‘call-in’ programme. The problem is that we don’t know the circumstances of the alleged Barbados Water Authority (BWA) nonsense. Was the remark a joke? Was it an answer to a slight? Did Mr BWA suffer from a surfeit of work pressure? Was this the last straw after an army of frustrated and thirsty householders had levelled their spleen against the wrong man, a humble servant who was thirsty himself?

As Mr Morris observes, we’re not always as polite to each other as we should be, though often little is really meant by our discourtesy. Besides, age and class are no guarantees of good manners, so we mustn’t rush to condemn from the mountain of social superiority.

Of the BWA, let me just say this. Like many other frustrated householders, I have often had recourse to its customer care representatives who are there for us daily until midnight. I don’t envy them. They must be the butt of much anger and many insults for, of course, want of water is a nightmare to us all and we all have different ways of expressing this.

Yet, over the years I have invariably found the customer care people “fair and courteous”, patient and helpful within the constraints of their rather limited remit. I think the BWA should be very proud of them. So I want to say ‘thank you’ to them, and ‘thank you’ to Mr Morris, for raising an issue which strikes at the very heart of how we treat others in our community, and so, ultimately, how we perceive ourselves and really are.