WILD COOT: To celebrate yea or nay
THAT WE SHOULD CELEBRATE looking after our own affairs for 50 years is a worthy cause. Barbadian people have a great deal of which to be proud. Despite the dehumanising past of slavery, our contribution can be seen or heard everywhere in the world.
Recently a good friend reminded me of the speech made by President Lyndon B. Johnson on September 11, 1968, when he toasted Prime Minister Errol Barrow (Google Lyndon B. Johnson: Toast of the Prime Minister Barrow of Barbados). “Barbados had its own Declaration of Rights as early as the year 1651, and we Americans were very grateful and very proud then to have drawn upon it in our own documents.”
It is not beyond the realms of belief then that Barbadians could be able to visit the United States for 90 days to conduct business or as a tourist to spend a holiday without a visa. It is not beyond the realms of belief that immigration and customs processing for travellers to the US could be established in Barbados. Indeed, it shows an ignorance of history to say that the coming of Sandals to Barbados would popularise the island to visitors.
When the Wild Coot returned to Barbados to set up the Barbados National Bank in 1977, he was able to boast that he was going back to a country where the per capita income was second only to The Bahamas; where education was free from the cradle to the grave; where health care was publicly available; where the law books still promoted hanging for murder; where LGBT people lived in peace, and the list goes on.
So we have something to celebrate when we make it to 50 years. But of late, actually since 2008, things have changed and we are now celebrating with a heavy heart. The present Government has been unable to answer the challenges of the 2007 debacle, and has practically reversed the gains enjoyed since 1966.
So let us rejoice, but also mourn the slippage and the apparent incompetence in dealing with the everyday comforts of living. Where there were high hopes for young people growing up, we are battling with despair. Imagine having to pay 66 cents out of every dollar of all taxes paid, plus every dollar printed, plus every cent of the savings of the people given by the Central Bank to the Government – 66 cents. The latter is money placed in the banks for safekeeping by Barbadians. This does not mention huge sums taken from the National insurance Fund. There is little hope of the haemorrhaging abating, as the growth in the economy is on a downward trend.
Hear President Johnson: “Barbados is helping us find the way. You people, sir, have preserved the traditions of parliamentary democracy and justice now for three centuries – within a few days of winning Independence you, sir, declared your intention to work unsparingly for peace by joining the United Nations and doing your bit in that great forum.”
Perhaps we may not be proud that it is said that “the Barbados system became the model for the Carolina settlement, and some of Barbados’ planter families seeking new lands and new crops became a significant part of the original Charles Town settlement”. Maybe what has been suspected of happening, after the sale of Barbados Shipping & Trading to the Trinidadians, people have sought new lands to stash their “crop”. We may not be sure who is celebrating what. As far as the Wild Coot is concerned, the people are celebrating their effort, the politicians are celebrating their late failure.
Are we not beating around the bush? Reluctant to take the hard and harsh measures. According to Lady Macbeth, “letting ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would’ like the poor cat in the adage”. She goes on: “If you go one step further by doing what you dared to do before
(3 000 were separated), you’ll be that much the man.”
Take a leaf out of Lady Macbeth’s book. “I have suckled a baby and I know how sweet it is to love the baby at my breast, but even as the baby was smiling up at me, I would have plucked my nipple from its mouth and smashed its brains out against the wall if I had sworn (in front of the Governor General) to do that . . . .”
You already have a precedent (president?). Our Prime Minister spoke of sucking at Government’s nipples. All that is lacking now is the plucking.
• Harry Russell is a banker. Email: [email protected]