Men of power have not time to read; yet men who do not read are unfit for power.
–– Michael Foot
The former British Labour Party leader’s somewhat oxymoronic utterance could easily apply to the political bosses of today, their cronies and their minions. And it might as comfortably be appurtenant to those other social stakeholders whose variant and often-times cockamamie commentaries have become a routine part of daily living in Barbados.
There was a time when radio, by foundational structure, well thought out programming, and profound pride in professional presentation, entertained us, informed us and educated us. These days, such attributes are far and few between the plethora of rantings by radio callers and the fulminations of talk show hosts.
It is not uncommon for radio moderators (for the sake of a better term), uninformed and uncaring about their true role, to be arguing at length with and inveighing against the call-in public, who for the greater part, admittedly, need to be apprised of actuality and in many a case be exorcised of their prejudices and bigotry. But at the root of this bedlam and societal madness is the rush to do damage to the debater’s image rather than his or her argument.
We have now culled a habit over time wherein the masses are much more likely to determine their support for or rejection of a recommendation or decision, based on their empathy for the proponent than on the solidity or lack thereof of the suggestion or policy. It is an unworthy pattern promoted and propped up by the very politicians, who seem ever blinded by the fact that this conduct invariably comes back to haunt them in times when they need such a practice less.
Our current political leaders may be said to have found themselves in such a dilemma. There is no dearth of anxiety about the economic consequences for Barbados as it now is and, we are sure, no less apprehension about a third Democratic Labour Party general election victory if indeed a poll were called or contrived. And it would have much to do with a reluctance by Government to communicate with and confide in the electorate in a more timely fashion.
To be truthful, the DLPGovernment was in a conundrum: trapped in the honed practice of damaging and repairing images of one side or the other –– a “bloodsport” which Prime Minister Freundel Stuart eventually found it hard to keep from –– rather that articulating and putting to the test “unpopular” policy up front to a populace ravenous about melodramatic “wrestling”.
Today, we –– politicians and populace, private sector and trade unions –– must face the stark reality of our situation. The Civil Service is overstaffed (which may have been sustainable in better times); the Government has not the money to pay such a consequent huge monthly salary bill; personal productivity is a national challenge of will; import costs (underscored by a notion of free choice of items) are prohibitive; politicians have somehow fashioned a mendicant society out of the original social principle of ensuring the welfare of the old, poor and disadvantaged among us; our economic system has gone so haywire that devaluation stares us in the face . . . . The societal ills are burdensome.
It seems that for the future good of this country, there is no better time than now for all heads to come together on our rise from this national quandary. It matters not now if our economic woes were exacerbated by the mutable Minister of Finance or the taciturn Prime Minister, or if our economic foundering and disintegration began under the lavishing or squandering Owen Arthur administration or not.
More now than ever we need to set aside political differences and volunteer cohesiveness in our struggle back to full strength as a nation. The institutions that have brought us through 47 years of Independence have a responsibility to ensure the integrity of our most positive declared principles and norms –– for all of us, and our children, and our children’s children.
Sir Roy Trotman’s pronounced position in this most untenable situation is most commendable. He has urged his members not to resort to any physical or verbal violence because of Government’s hard measure in cutting 3,000 Public Service jobs, even as he acknowledged that any solution to our national problem was going to be “painful”.
It is even more admirable that Sir Roy and his lieutenants would seek to be a part of the solution and not add to the problem. The Barbados Workers Union general secretary’s good sense in this most delicate matter beseems the act of a most responsible leader, which vociferating others might take a cue from.
It must be said, however, that great responsibility too rests with the Government and its spokespersons being amiable and amenable towards those whose understanding they seek, and perhaps more so with those who will be their critics. Even more, the Government now needs to be of soft voice, that turneth away anger.
And that should be an edict from the Prime Minister, well read as he is!