David Comissiong, President of the Peoples Empowerment Party
Every “new” year is important, in the sense that it constitutes the coming of another precious discrete 365 day period that all people, in all nations of the world, can focus on and use as a target for the setting of new goals and objectives. But perhaps we Barbadians can be excused for somehow feeling that the coming year of 2013 has a very special and unique significance for us and our nation!
You see, 2013 will be the year in which our country goes through another General Elections — the tenth since we attained our “Independence” in 1966. And significantly, this General Elections will be taking place in the 47th year of our Independence, in the sixth year of the current international capitalist recession, and in the 51st year since the collapse of our West Indian federation.
Of equal significance for us Barbadians is the fact that 2013 will be the 60th anniversary of the publication of George Lamming’s great Barbadian and West Indian novel, In the Castle Of My Skin – a towering artistic achievement that, as long ago as 1953, pointed us the way forward to the consolidation of a genuinely sovereign nation and national culture.
In addition – regionally and internationally – the year 2013 bears special significance for us as the eighth year of the existence of the “Bolivarian Alternative For Latin America and The Caribbean” — the dynamic and visionary developmental association that Barbados has so far refused to join – and the commencement year of the United Nations-designated “Decade For People Of African Descent”.
And so, with so many critical national, and even civilisational, issues and questions coming to a head in the new year, 2013 will definitely be the year in which we Barbadian people face and answer the fundamental question as to how seriously we take ourselves as a people and a nation!
Will we, for example, in the General Elections of 2013 permit our Barbadian “political class” to treat us with the same contempt and indifference that they treated us to in the General Elections of 2008? Remember, back then the two traditional political parties – the BLP and DLP – conspired to go through an entire General Elections without holding even one national debate!
Indeed, their callous and vulgar modus operandi was to simply focus on wooing voters with popular entertainments and monetary “gifts”, financed by “donors” whose identity they brazenly refused to divulge!
Regrettably, this behaviour is but one component of a wider schema of disrespect for us as citizens of Barbados, and of our own lack of respect for ourselves. Such lack of respect is seen, for example, in the way that we have been stripped (and have allowed ourselves to be stripped) of what was once our national bank.
Indeed, the new owners don’t even feel obliged to keep the name of “Barbados” attached to their operations in our country! And of course this is but one example of the many ways in which we have allowed ourselves to be stripped of our patrimony, with the alienation of our land and the abandonment of any national endeavour to feed ourselves being perhaps the two most egregious examples.
Such lack of respect is also seen in much of our popular culture! For example, a concert-promoter stages a major Jazz concert at the nationally iconic Ilaro Court, and does not feel it necessary to include a single Barbadian performer among his line-up of imported American “stars”. And we can go on and on multiplying the examples!
But the truth is that we have only ourselves to blame for this lack of respect! The root of this phenomenon is our own failure to believe that we possess something of inestimable value, and that we deserve to be, and are capable of becoming, a sovereign nation that can make a unique contribution to world civilisation.
And of course we do possess something of inestimable value! Our national philosopher, George Lamming, has been telling us so for the past 60 years, and did so in the most powerful and profound manner with his writing and publication of In The Castle Of My Skin.
Our national poet, Kamau Brathwaite, has explained the significance of Lamming’s ground-breaking novel as follows: “Then in 1953, George Lamming’s In the Castle of My Skin appeared and everything was transformed. Here breathing to me from every pore of line and page, was the Barbados I had lived. The words, the rhythms, the cadences, the scenes, the people, their predicament. They all came back. They were all possible.”
Let us, as a people, resolve to use this new year of 2013 to take ourselves seriously as a people and a nation. Let us set out to identify and appropriate our national resources and use them to build our own Barbadian and Caribbean nation and civilisation!
Let us refuse to be an unconscious people, buffeted by “political masters” who take us for granted! Let us also refuse to wallow helplessly in the throes of this capitalist recession, shamefully and passively looking towards North America and Europe for our salvation!
Instead, let us re-appropriate and re-dedicate ourselves to that noble project that was prefigured in the struggles of our people in the 1930s, and that is sketched so brilliantly in the work of our greatest creative artists – the coming to terms with the beauty and valuableness of ourselves, our African ancestry, and our Barbadian culture; the consolidation of our national sovereignty; and the building of our Caribbean nation and economy! Let us take a “fresh guard” in 2013!