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WILD COOT: Purloining of colonisation


WILD COOT: Purloining of colonisation

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THE ENGLISH SAILORS sailed towards the west and came across the Caribbean Sea, the continents and the islands, including Barbados. Whichever lands they came across, they purloined. Native Carib and Arawak occupied these lands.

“Ahoy! What’s the name of this continent?” they would ask. “Barbadoes, it is an island not a continent, land of the bearded fig trees,” came the ready reply.

“Well, by my beard it ain’t yours anymore. We huff it in the name of his majesty King Charles or James.”

Such was the fate of the Caribbean islands, Barbados included. Stolen? Usurped? Pirated? Claimed? So, what happened to the natives? Those who resisted the threat were shot or decimated by the new diseases brought by the “conquerors” – syphilis and gonorrhoea – against which they were no fighting “match”. Local natives had not acquired the increased development to which those invading Europeans had been exposed. After all, the invaders had for centuries already perfected the art of warfare, using guns and weapons of steel. The natives were still sharpening their tools of stone and fixing their bows and arrows.

Over the years the purloined lands were parcelled out among invaders and the natives were driven away. Today pockets of descendants of the few surviving Caribs may be found in St Vincent. None remain in Barbados to evidence the sad tale.

Surprising then that 50 years ago, our politicians wended their way to England to ask to be ‘freed’ (some say independent), but still acknowledging Britain as “head”. Couldn’t we have just commanded my friend Captain Dottin to raise the Broken Trident at the Garrison and bark, “Freedom at last, thank God we are free at last”? After all, planting a flag was done in St James. Not so? We have seen in recent years how Argentina paid the price for being uppity, claiming the Falklands – Harriers, warships via Barbados from Margaret Thatcher.

When the English came to Barbados, they needed labour to grow crops; part of the solution was the natives but they were soon decimated. The visitors found that the work was unsuitable to their bodies. The Irish criminals and slaves expelled by Cromwell after 1650 were also unsuitable and insufficient. Then came the slaves from Africa. They were force-imported by the thousands. They were suitable to tropical conditions for growing sugar cane and tobacco. This was as rich as uranium to the business people in England. English aristocracy and power were enriched by the profits from purloined lands.

Keeping natives and slaves in check was not difficult because of the superior advantage of development and guns. For example, Pizarro, with just 200 men and guns, swords and cavalry, was able to defeat the “army” of 80 000 Indians of the Peruvian leader Atahuallpa at Cajamarca and Cortes with just a few sailors, Montezuma and the Aztec Empire capital Tenochtitlán.

But what have we now? Yes, we are an “independent” country. What does that mean? Daily we see our voices smothered as bigger nations close ranks. FATCA is imposed and we have to bow. Is Independence advancing us? Look at Martinique and Guadeloupe, even French Polynesia. Are they better off being part of a big country as we could be were we part of, for example, Canada?

We hanker for credit cards and online shopping, but we do not have the foreign exchange to support it. Even so, if our parliamentarians had to answer to another country, the auditor general (see his report) would be respected as in countries under the British flag. Are we proud and barefoot tagging along? If Kim Jong-Un’s rocket misses its US target and hits Barbados instead, can we retaliate?

That young man Ralph Jemmott who writes in the papers, seems to have his head well screwed on. If I am allowed to quote him: “Historically there has always been an element of greed and exploitation in capitalism which must be controlled by state regulative oversight and the countervailing force of strong worker cooperatives.”

While I do not want to speak for other institutions, I am in a unique position to speak about commercial banks as I once drank freely from Abraham’s well at Beersheba. There is no doubt that the decision of our Central Bank to permit commercial banks to set their own savings rate (or introduce negative rates) has spawned a potpourri of consequences, allowing the banks to ride roughshod over the very Barbadians whose Barbadian capital they employ to export US dollar profits to countries that seek to restrict offshore business in Barbados. Hallelujah!

• Harry Russell is a banker. email: [email protected]