We don’t know that commonsense comes in colour, class or shades of religion. Commonsense just is.
However, to truly appreciate the actions of any group or individuals, we believe that you must be able to put yourself in their shoes — understand their background and culture and what drives their thinking.
In this part of the world, and in our island in particular, while we may speak of struggles, political repression and oppression, religious and social intolerance, we have to admit that our last brush with social unrest was in the late 1930s — and truth be told, compared with what others have had to go through 1937 may be seen by some as nothing more than a walk in the park.
We are not seeking to minimise what those who walked this land before us endured, but when we talk about things like “our fight for Independence”, there are others who can legitimately ask: “What fight?”
Take a look at events in places such as Libya, Egypt and Yemen in recent days, where Muslims, enraged by what they see as gross disrespect for the Prophet Mohammed and their religion, protested with such passion that it escalated into the killing of the United States ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.
Looking on from this distance it is easy to wonder what would make individuals destroy their own property and injure their own brothers and sisters while creating such mayhem, while those they protest against carry on with their lives as usual, enjoying almost perfect peace and comfort. In many ways it seems irrational.
It all started with a video, which clearly was designed to enrage passions through disrespect for the religion and culture of others.
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today: “I … want to take a moment to address the video circulating on the Internet that has led to these protests in a number of countries. Let me state very clearly — and I hope it is obvious — that the United States Government had absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its content and message…
“To us, to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible. It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage. But as I said yesterday, there is no justification, none at all, for responding to this video with violence. We condemn the violence that has resulted in the strongest terms, and we greatly appreciate that many Muslims in the United States and around the world have spoken out on this issue.
“Violence, we believe, has no place in religion and is no way to honour religion. Islam, like other religions, respects the fundamental dignity of human beings, and it is a violation of that fundamental dignity to wage attacks on innocents. As long as there are those who are willing to shed blood and take innocent lives in the name of religion, the name of God, the world will never know a true and lasting peace…”
We, like Clinton, believe that violence is not the answer to such bigotry and should never be praised, but at the same time it appears that there are too many walking the face of this earth who believe that they have a God-given right to disrespect and denigrate anyone whose views stray from theirs, sometimes in even the slightest ways.
In Barbados we may not have to worry about such religious extremes, but there is no doubt that within our society there are creeping instances of social, class and even colour intolerance that could one day result in an eruption the likes of which this society has never witnessed.
Inasmuch as it is important that we appreciate the history and experience of others in distant lands to understand why they do what they do, it is also incumbent on us to recognise that today’s Barbadian is in many ways a far different character from the Barbadian of two generations ago. By now we ought to recognise that the arguments which appealed to our countrymen of the 1960s and 1970s seem to be totally lost on so many in the generation of today.
We may not burn our own buildings to protest what others say about us from halfway around the world — but they may burn for other reasons, that is if we don’t see the lessons inherent in the actions of others.
No one is as blind as he who will