The political and governance system of Barbados is controlled by just two organisations – the Democratic Labour Party and the Barbados Labour Party. And when Barbadian young people look at the political and governance system they don’t really see themselves – their concerns, interests or aspirations – reflected in the system.
Indeed, the leadership of the DLP and BLP seem to be out of touch with the youth, and seem not to have a clear vision for taking Barbados into the future.
Once every five years – when elections are called – the DLP and BLP approach young people with concerts, promises, T-shirts and hundred dollar bills on Election Day.
The DLP and BLP seem to think that young people are not really interested in public affairs and that the best way to deal with them is to hype them up with music and entertainment and to bribe the poorer young people with hundred dollar bills.
If we continue like this our future will be very bleak. In fact, many young people are already sensing that, under the present scheme of things, there is not much of a future for them in Barbados.
Well, the only way to change any of this is for the young people of Barbados to take control of a piece or portion of the political and governance system! There is no reason why, just as you have a DLP and a BLP, you could not also have a third entity that is largely made up of and controlled by young people (with some support, encouragement and guidance from older persons that the youth trust and respect.)
Of course, we would not want this entity to be just a copy of the DLP and BLP. That would not make any sense, and would not be helpful to the young people of Barbados. Rather, it must be a different type of organisation – one that is more relevant to the current age; one that is more reflective of a spirit of openness, honesty, helpfulness, sharing and respect; and one that is more oriented to the youth and their future.
The first step forward in this mission is to remind the youth of Barbados that, contrary to the impression given by the BLP and DLP, politics and public affairs can be very interesting, exciting, uplifting and fulfilling if they are approached in the right way and with the right spirit.
Therefore, we are not talking about the DLP/BLP type of politics – the politics of one party constantly attacking the other; the politics of plenty idle talk in Parliament that means little or nothing; the politics of ministers of Government dressing up in suit and tie and pompasetting while trying to keep ordinary Barbadians dependent on them and having to beg them for hand-outs; or the politics of being financed behind the scenes by rich people, and buying votes on Election Day.
Instead of the DLP/BLP type of politics we would suggest that our young people get involved in:
* Exploring and getting to know their cultural heritage as Barbadian and Caribbean people – their history, music, poetry, literature, folklore, physical landscape, dramatic plays, films, dances, nation language, craft work and visual arts, and allowing that heritage to anchor, guide and inspire them;
* Working out a new system for governing Barbados that is fairer and that allows the people to be more involved, to contribute their talents, and to have a greater say in how things are done;
* Brainstorming ideas for a new national economic development programme that is built firmly upon the talents and energies of the youth of Barbados, as the single greatest resource that our country possesses;
* Working out a new concept of development for Barbados. A concept in which development is about us looking at our own country and society; identifying what resources exist in our country and society; and taking hold of these national resources ourselves and doing something positive with them and with ourselves;
* Developing a more appropriate, environmentally friendly and self-sustaining style of living for ourselves in Barbados;
* Brainstorming ideas for transforming our education system into one in which all Barbadian children and teenagers are treated as sacred beings who must be nurtured and given every form of assistance to develop their potential and to be prepared not merely for a job, but for life itself;
* Collaborating with other young people across the Caribbean to work out plans and initiatives for the establishment of a multi-territory Caribbean nation and economy that will offer new life – opportunities and a greater sense of cultural strength and national dignity;
* Collaborating with other young people from across the fast developing region of Latin America to work out ideas for a new relationship with Latin America that will bring benefits and career opportunities for the youth of Barbados;
* Brainstorming ideas for the fostering of a more fair, just and equal society in Barbados, and for a social structure that properly attends to the health and housing needs of the Barbadian people; and
* Collaborating with black youth all over the world in pursuing a campaign for “reparations” or compensation for the losses suffered during the centuries of slavery and colonialism, and for rebuilding the black man’s civilisation.
If young Barbadians find this type of political programme to be relevant, appealing and worthwhile then we would suggest that they come together with their friends and colleagues to establish committees – “people’s committees” – to work on this ten-point political programme.
Such youth-based “peoples committees” can be established all over Barbados, and can derive their names from the geographical district in which they are based, or from the institution or organisation on which they are based. For example, you could have the “Bank Hall People’s Committee” or the “Barbados Community College People’s Committee”.
A convenient minimum number of persons for the establishment of a people’s committee would be ten persons, since each person could undertake lead responsibility for one item of the ten point programme.
A people’s committee would exercise its own initiative and would pursue the 10 point programme as it sees fit, but of course, the various committees would also relate to each other and hold discussions and meetings together, and in this way, they would constitute a broad-based mass youth political movement.
Furthermore, having such a structure of collaboration in place would facilitate the staging of various events and projects related to the ten point programme, as well as the launching of youth run programmes to assist the poor and vulnerable sectors of our society.
Our organisation, the Clement Payne Movement, would be available to lend support, encouragement and advise, and to help with co-ordination.
Once a sufficiently broad-based structure of people’s committees is put in place, this would make it easy for the youth-based People’s Committee Movement to identify and select legitimate “people’s candidates” to contest general elections in Barbados. Thus, henceforth, the candidates of the DLP and BLP will not have the political field to themselves. They will have to contend with a team of people’s candidates who had been selected through an open, transparent, people-participatory process.
Needless-to-say, the team of people’s candidates would go into the general elections, and ultimately into Parliament, with a manifesto based upon multiple discussions, elaborations and refinements of the ten point programme. And of course, any other issue that needs to be dealt with for electoral or other purposes, can be dealt with and included as a subsidiary issue under one of the items in the ten point programme.
If the young people of Barbados were to make such an effort, they might or might not win a government outright, but at the very least they would accomplish the positive mission of moving the youth, as a constituency, some distance away from the manipulative and corrupting embrace of a cynical two-party political system, and they would also have made a critical intervention that just might be potent enough to so influence the national vision and agenda that it enables our country to redirect its trajectory to a more creative, honest and life affirming path.
If†any of my readers has an†interest in implementing or further discussing these ideas, feel free to contact me at e-mail: [email protected], or at the Clement Payne Cultural Centre, Crumpton Street, Bridgetown, Barbados (Tel.246 435 2334).
* David Comissiong is President of the Clement Payne Movement.