Finding signs of hope
OUR GOVERNMENT rightly recognises that people need to have a sense of hope, but mistakenly seeks this hope entirely in its own policies and its style of leadership when, it seems, our real hope for the future lies in our rejection of these very policies and style of leadership.
Isn’t this the repeated message of numerous economists, social commentators and multiple economic downgrades?
And now we are being asked to discover hope in an assortment of facts that have nothing to do with the truth that we are a sinking ship. It’s like the captain of the Titanic seeking to comfort the staff and passengers by promising to sell off the lifeboats to those who can afford them, in order to pay for improvements in their work conditions and for greater luxuries for all.
So where do we find hope? Let us look at the Hyatt project. After months of expressions of genuine concern by many, which Government “punished with silence”, Mr David Comissiong took action and made a legal challenge. While one minister cried “shame” on him and those who think like him, his Cabinet colleague, in a typical Stalinist outburst, declared such people to be “the enemies of the state”. This attack on the hope of democracy remains uncorrected.
However, in her column of May 3, Dr Frances Chandler, no left-winger, expressed her willingness to be numbered among the “enemies of the state”. She too has serious misgivings with the Hyatt project as it now stands (read her article). As she correctly argued, “jobs and foreign exchange can’t be the only considerations when making national decisions”. And there is certainly no meaningful hope and future in selling off our lifeboats, even if it’s to create jobs.
Mr Comissiong and Dr Chandler present us with signs of hope. Their contributions cannot be rubbished by their different opinions on Madura’s Venezuela and Nelson’s Statue. We live in a democracy, and should want to keep it so.
But, perhaps the greatest recent signs of hope have come from our union leaders who have expressed their intention to free the unions from the interference and control of political parties. Always, unions must be free to insist on the priority of labour over capital. While labour and capital must work together, they are not equal; priority must always be given to labour. This is essential for the common good.
The general secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), Ms Toni Moore, very perceptively pointed out, in her speech on Labour Day, that the real problem we face as a country has nothing to do with people being the “enemy of the state”, but with the state becoming the enemy of the people, of democracy. As she put it: “The enemy we should be aware of and afraid of is the enemy of our democracy, which is telling us that we can’t see wrong and speak about it without recriminations.”
While many business and other leaders remain silent or say the things politicians want to hear, fearing the wrath of an offended Government, the BWU general secretary made it clear “that the Government of Barbados has failed to demonstrate leadership”. She could boldly say this because “the BWU would never be the kind of union looking for special handouts from Government”. It is so very important that we resist a government of and by patronage.
These are signs of hope. There are others and we need to multiply them. We need to build a strong civil society for now and for the future. Those of us who share the hope for “a new heaven and a new earth” (2 Peter 3:13) must work fearlessly, and with faith in the risen Lord, to shape and fully participate in the kind of national policies and leadership that could transform the time in which we now live.
– FR LESLIE LETT