The following is an edited version of the Independence message by Roman Catholic Bishop Charles Jason Gordon.
BARBADOS HAS SO MUCH to give thanks to God for! As we celebrate 50 years of Independence we have achieved way beyond the predictions of the British parliament and renowned historians who saw our small size and limited resources as the great obstacle to success.
Over the 50 years, Barbados has consistently maintained a high position in the United Nations Human Development Index, and was considered a model country for other small island developing states.
The quality of our economic leadership over the decades is a source of pride. Our early Prime Ministers, The Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow and the Right Honourable J.M.G.M. “Tom” Adams, laid the foundation for prudent and stable economic progress against all odds through their visionary leadership and skilful management.
Added to this is the stability of Barbados’ political system through which the reins of government were peacefully handed over through successive free and fair, vigorously contested elections over the five decades of Independence.
Barbados has also played a leadership role in the regional integration movement. contributing to a better Caribbean. We have produced outstanding athletes in the world of cricket, boxing, surfing, track and field, swimming, horse racing and breeding and even go-karting. Each of these athletes has proudly flown our Flag.
Barbados@50 also celebrates a cultural explosion of musicians, painters, dancers and novelists, with many Barbadian artistes distinguishing themselves and Barbados on the international stage.
Barbados remains one of the most God-fearing countries in the world in which people of different religious persuasions live in peace and harmony. The continued fierce religious sensibilities of our inhabitants, coupled with remarkable tolerance and a strong display of charity towards neighbour, are key ingredients to what makes Barbados great.
The Right Excellent Sir Hugh Springer and Sir Frank Walcott led a strong and responsible trade union movement which fought for justice and fair wages.
The Social Partnership model has been admired and adopted by other countries. A high level of social trust and strong belief in our country among all people of Barbados, has been the glue that binds us together.
While the desire to improve one’s quality of life is understood, this deviation from social democracy to unbridled capitalism has created the single greatest challenge to our people, our families and our nation. We have moved away from fighting for liberty and development of social justice and integral development for all, to individualism and fighting for a greater share of the economic pie. Wealth should be a means to a higher end, not a goal in itself. (Matthew 6:21) The creation of wealth should never be at all costs or at the expense of the poor and vulnerable.
When pursuit of wealth becomes the highest national good, a people implode into selfishness and violence, and democracy is undermined or compromised.
England and America had greater challenges than we do at 50. The difference is that they fought to establish a value system to better serve all their citizens. Our tribal fights today are about redistributing wealth which can result in corrupting the soul of our people and thus the nation. Barbados at 50 needs a national conversation about the model of development. Social democracy, our first model after independence, gave us our great achievements and was abandoned. Now neoliberal capitalism is distributing wealth poorly and encouraging corruption at every level.
If we make a national choice for a model of development, I would propose a hybrid of entrepreneurial excellence and social democracy. Then our next 50 years will be even more amazing than the last.
Everything we need to be a great nation, we already know and we have already done at some stage of our history. In celebrating this golden jubilee, I am asking that each of us who were born here or who have made this rock our home make a commitment to:
• Choose what is good for Barbados above what may be best for yourself.
• Choose what is good for the family above what is best for business.
• Choose what is good for your child above what is best for your lifestyle.
• Choose what is good for development of all our people above short-term financial gains.
• Choose zero tolerance towards illegal activity.
Then we will choose to be strict guardians of our heritage, firm craftsmen of our fate.
If we, the loyal sons and daughters of this nation, want to celebrate Barbados @50, then let us give her a gift of a golden commitment to the moral and spiritual values of our forefathers and mothers; the values that made Barbados a great nation; the values that put Barbados on the world map and created opportunity for all its people.
So every decision in the public or private sector, in the churches and in the homes must ensure that our people are developed to their fullest potential. Or as our National Pledge affirms: so that they can do credit to our nation wherever they go. Only then can the prayer and aspiration of our National Anthem come true:
The Lord has been the people’s guide
For past three hundred years
With him still on the people’s side
We have no doubts or fears
Upward and onward we shall go
Inspired, exulting, free
And greater will our nation grow
In strength and unity.
I pray God’s blessings on our nation. That we will have the wisdom to choose a path for development for all our people, one that will lead us to morality and the development of each family. One that will ensure the development of all of our people and our nation as a whole.
May God bless our nation.