EDITORIAL: After celebrating 50, then what?
ACCORDING TO ONE DICTIONARY, the “simple definition” of politics is “the activities, actions, and policies that are used to gain and hold power in a government or to influence a government”.
And if politics can be equated with a sport, as many have attempted to do in the past, then it is the one sport that certainly since the 1930s has consumed the passions of the vast majority of Barbadians of ever strata – even to this day. It is also clear that to a vast majority of Barbadians those “activities, actions and policies” boil down to “bread and butter issues”.
We believe that the current disconnect between an apparently sizeable segment of the population and the Government over the extent of some citizens’ interest and involvement in the 50th anniversary of Independence celebrations might be linked to this matter.
Our golden jubilee ought to mean something to every citizen, but from the very first national event back in January there has been a not-so-subtle chorus of dissent.
The number of individuals who openly link their refusal to identify with the various celebrations because they are not happy with what our politicians say or don’t say, the state of our health services, the deterioration of our roads, the country being overgrown with bush, the imposition of tuition fees at the University of the West Indies, the horrendous state of the Transport Board and its impact on their capacity to be productive, and the precarious state of the economy should not be ignored.
Additionally, some individuals cite the inability of a significant number of Barbadians to take a shower in their own homes on a regular basis for the better part of a year because of the failures of the Barbados Water Authority. Others mention the build-up of garbage along our streets simply because the Sanitation Service Authority did not have trucks to fulfil their mandate continue to be cited by individuals as reasons why they are not enthusiastic about the 50th anniversary celebrations.
By every measure these are real bread and butter issues and they very often define the political thoughts of many ordinary Barbadians. It is therefore important that we resist the urge to link this feeling of being disconnected with a lack of patriotism on the part of these individuals. They love Barbados no less than those who show their excitement.
It would be great if every Barbadian shouted “Pride and Industry” and wrapped themselves in the flag during these celebrations, but that has not been the case so far and is unlikely to be so as we approach November 30. Certainly, the agitated state of every trade union in the country at this time does not help the situation.
The definition with which we started, though, also spoke to gaining and holding power, which points to the role of leadership. In would therefore be in the best interest of the country if those who hold political power also use the occasion of Independence to assure the population that in the post-celebration period greater priority and creativity will be given to fixing these bread and butter issues. In the final analysis, the lack of interest in celebrating cannot be detached from a diminished sense of hope in the future by many who express their disinterest, and they will not be won back without a rebuilding of that hope.
We urge all Barbadians, even the disinterested, to at least shift their gaze in this final week and a half of November from the nation’s (and their own) problems to its potential, recognising that in the past when we have deployed our collective wisdom we have prospered.
We also urge the Freundel Stuart administration not to dismiss as political opponents those who feel disaffected, and who have found it hard so far to get into the celebration spirit. After the music has grown silent, the monuments unveiled and the fireworks fade, there will still be a country to rebuild.