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Today is the start of November. For many of us that means an extra shot of pride and industry will be coursing through our veins.
After all, it is the month of Independence for this country. There will be a myriad of Independence activities leading up to November 30, Independence Day.
It is the month when many make the effort to display an array of traditional Bajan foods, like conkies, flying fish and cou cou, and other delicacies like sugar cakes and tamarind balls. It is also a time when many will be “repping” their Bajan colours, and roundabouts will be beautifully lit.
Independence couldn’t have rolled around any sooner to remind us of the grit we have as a nation. Every so often we need a sober reminder that we are greater than we even believe we are. Sometimes that is the attitude we need to adopt to get us through tough times as we navigate through some rocky terrain.
It’s true things are not great in this country right now, and there is a lot going on to get it back on track. The course is not easy and in fact, is painful for some, especially those who are among the 1 500 who will find themselves out of jobs. It is also rough on the pockets of many whose spending power has been reduced tremendously.
As we start November, perhaps this may be a good time to focus on our pride and our industry. Let us dedicate ourselves to not only getting back on track as a country, but also as individuals. So here’s my wish list for Independence:
1. Take more pride in our environment. Stop littering and dumping our garbage illegally.
2. Work towards being more positive and productive in our workplaces, recognising that productivity is key to taking this country forward.
3. Be our brother’s keeper. Where we can lend a helping hand, let’s do so.
4. Keep our beaches clean so locals and visitors can enjoy their beauty, remembering this is how Barbados still earns a huge part of its foreign exchange.
5. Keep our surroundings clean and recycle the items that can be recycled.
I have often referred to the speech given by Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, on The Idea Of Barbados. It truly is my “go to” speech which I read every so often because it reminds me of what it is to be Barbadian. It rekindles in me a sense of pride in my country and in myself as an individual with a contribution to make.
I can’t help but refer to it yet again, especially at this juncture in our history as a country:
Barbados is an idea which has, over time, become manifest in reality. The idea of Barbados encompasses more than a nation-state or a national community. To be sure, it flows from a national community which has been in ownership, not residence, of an especial or particular landscape and seascape.
Still, it is more than this; and it assumes a veritable autonomy as a category beyond the community. The Barbadian diaspora, scattered overseas, has come to draw from this “specialness” known as the idea of Barbados.
This idea acknowledges that Barbados is unique, sui generis, of its own kind. It is connected to – nay, derived from – the physical and historical condition of Barbados, yet transcends it.
The unique “idea of Barbados” does not, and cannot, make Barbados immune from the universal “laws” of history, society or political economy. Indeed, the idea of Barbados has been fashioned through a parallelogram of historical forces and contemporary circumstances, global and regional, which have shaped and conditioned the home-grown evolutions, adaptations, alterations and changes.
More than any other Caribbean society, with the possible exception of Cuba, Barbados has arrived at a place where its uniqueness represents a model of governance, political economy, way of life and social order, which invites emulation elsewhere in the Caribbean and further afield, albeit with appropriate amendments. Barbados’ high-quality governance and level of human development have been a marvel to objective observers, including reputable international agencies.
On a wide range of governance and developmental indices, Barbados is in the top rank globally; indeed, overall, it is a developing country with developed nations’ governance and human development attainments. All this is extraordinary for a country of 166 square miles and a quarter-million people, which is less than 200 years removed from slavery and less than 50 years as an independent nation!
I make bold to say that other CARICOM member states aspire to being an ‘idea’, but none has quite achieved that status.
During the month of November especially, let us all reflect on this idea of Barbados, and not just speak it, but live it. (CM)