How does a country convert the pride of the individual — where it still exists, that is — into a national movement that impacts positively on the fortunes of the entire nation?
This question seems relevant today as we move toward the high point, and climax, of this year’s Independence celebrations. We are now halfway through the month and while some are expressing concern about the growing interest in Christmas, even before we dispense with Independence festivities, we can’t help but wonder if the annual expressions of bother have anything really to do with Christmas.
Are our merchants shouting the virtues of early Christmas shopping, and our consumers responding positively to the messages, because they are anxious for the Yuletide season? We think not! Christmas commerce overshadows Independence because nationally we have lost our fervour for the symbols and meaning of what occurred in 1966.
Wearing national colours, for example, has long passed as something we looked forward to as individuals as a symbol of pride in ourselves, and when we do it it is only because it is dress-down day at the office or school or because it has been mandated with “we will wear blue or yellow tee shirts” on some designated day.
We hardly expect there will be an overflow of worshippers for the annual Independence Service, or that the Garrison, even with its new international acclaim, will be bursting at the seams with spectators for the annual military parade.
But it gets worse. We invite you to randomly ask persons under 40 to repeat the second verse of the National Anthem and see how many of them will struggle to start or finish it. And do the same with the National Pledge with persons over 30 years or so and watch many squirm in embarrassment.
We need a national movement that would be dedicated to raising the level of pride among our people in the symbols of Independence as a first step towards getting Barbadians to appreciate who we are, where we have come from and where we can go if our “Barbadianness” is trumpeted in all that we do.
It is nothing short of amazing the recognition and respect we have for the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts that it continues to grow each year, while the thinking that was its genesis disappears with frightening rapidity. Could it be that for too many of us it is the entertainment component that attracts and not the symbolism and multiple messages emanating from the artists?
We need to return to the drawing board with this thing we call Independence because it is patently clear that without some structured intervention we will soon raise an entire generation for whom it will mean nothing. We run the risk that when the name Errol Walton Barrow is mentioned, some “educated” Barbadians will look at each other and wonder: “Errol who?”
Let us not fool ourselves, it’s not about Christmas? In fact, at the current rate, three weeks after Independence, that same group may, with all sincerity also ask: “Baby who?”