Everywhere there are good laws and bad laws – those we like and those we don’t. Notwithstanding, the law-abiding among us ever endeavour to walk the straight and narrow, steering clear of any
Still, bad laws (if indeed they are pellucidly so) are not to be left unchallenged, and are better amended – with the help of sympathetic legislators – than blatantly broken. After all, civility demands nothing less.
Camouflage wear by the non-military is illegal in Barbados. It has been so since the days of Prime Minister Tom Adams, who may have foreseen the ramifications of myriad or diverse rebels rushing about in army gear and causing anxiety and discomfort to himself and the Barbadian people at large. He definitively made his point, for clearly Parliament was sold on it, and to this day the police have been for the greater part enforcing the ban.
And, as far as we can see, no Prime Minister or Government since Adams’ time has seriously sought to amend the Camouflage Act.
Sadly, it has not been unknown elsewhere for groups of tourists to be stopped by lawless gangs purporting to be soldiers – in camouflage – and beaten and robbed. These unfortunate instances will not so easily be erased from the minds of our lawmakers.
So dissident designer Rhaj Paul and his fans and supporters have a battle on their hands. The top Barbadian forward-fashion creator, who has used camouflage patterns and prints in his designs, is arguing that the wear of camo gear does in no way amount to any impersonation of the uniform of Barbados Defence Force members – who by law have the only right to such clothing. Paul actually believes the camouflage law is draconian and has called for its “modification”.
The designer may well be wrong that the law “itself is a crime against conscience and common sense”, or he could be right. But he must take care he does not appear to eschew respect for the law, as the camo edict surely is.
Paul makes the plausible argument that impersonation of a BDF soldier does not manifest itself in a camouflage vest, or purse, or shoe, or laptop case, and laments, understandably, what he terms the criminalizing of civilians – adults and children – who use the camouflage pattern “in a safe, fashionable, stylistic way” that is not representative of normal military wear. But he flounders somewhat when he challenges the “control” of camouflage wear generally by the army.
And, we all must be wary of the emotional and emotive suggestions in the social media about public protests. Will gung-ho demonstrators march in camouflage to make what could well be a baseless point? Is the issue of restraint on camouflage design patterning so profoundly grave as to warrant such social upheaval? Must this be the price to be in the van of global, swish camouflage detail?
It cannot be enough that camo fashion is the trend in Britain, the rest of Europe and elsewhere, and that we must of necessity follow.
It would certainly be hurtful, if only to his fans and clients, if outspoken designer Rhaj Paul should indeed feel moved to up and leave his homeland Barbados, lest he be “criminalised”, or for no other reason than the cause of a camo pattern.
Paul and company will need to remain engaged in sedate talk with the powers that be – parliamentary representatives, business leaders and the like – expounding what they expect and hope for as they move to the “next level” in fashioning what is essential to a more successful clothes design industry in Barbados – with or without camouflage. We will do well to set aside the now fashionable, higgledy-piggledy approach to solving our problems, and condition our minds instead to respect the values our forefathers left us for leveraging and forging change for the betterment
of us all.
We do our people only good by embracing the principle that for us, as was for those who have gone before us, the law need not be meaningless.