There was a time in Barbados when parents and grandparents ensured that a common teaching was passed on to children as part of their socialization. It emphasized the importance of recognizing and understanding that, in this life, there is a time and a place for everything.
This teaching was taken to heart, and was reflected in behaviour that earned Barbadians respect around the world.
Unfortunately, it seems that this teaching, like so many other tried and tested aspects of the Barbadian tradition which once defined us a people, has been thrown through the window in our quest for progress and modernization. The behaviour of some of our people today shows quite clearly that they do not understand, sometimes to their detriment, that there is still a time and place for everything.
The problem is primarily with some of our young people, who are not entirely at fault. In many instances, they simply do not know any better because parents and guardians have failed them by not fulfilling their moral responsibility to “train up the child in the way he (or she) should go, so that, as adults, he (or she) will not depart from it”.
This week, Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer drew attention to an issue where Barbadians were losing out on employment opportunities, mostly overseas, because of a growing tendency to turn up inappropriately dressed and exhibit other behaviours which left a negative first impression of Barbadians with employers.
“What we have seen happening is that persons come in any old how to NEB [Government’s National Employment Bureau] and then when you tell them you have a job for them and they show up at the airport to go to Canada, they come in the big T-shirts with the ganja leaf, the pants dropping down and they get on the plane,” she said.
Dr Byer followed up that statement with a particularly interesting observation.
“We have seen in Jamaica, for example, no matter what the folks look like on the streets, when they get that call for the job, when you see them come off the plane in Canada, they look presentable.”
Ironically, some of these said Barbadians are modelling aspects of their behaviour on Jamaica, especially the glamourized ghetto lifestyle powerfully communicated to our young people via smutty dancehall music. Quite clearly, they have got it wrong because the media-portrayed version of Jamaica, on which they are basing their behaviour, is not reflective of the real Jamaica.
There are other instances in which young Barbadian jobseekers are their own worst enemy and hurting their prospects of gainful employment. Many human resources managers can relate cases of receiving job applications, especially from young females, using personal email addresses with sexual overtones that leave little to the imagination. For interviews, some females are turning up in body-hugging outfits that emphasize their cleavage and posterior while some men show up in trousers dropping off their waists and shirts which are inappropriate for the occasion.
What is ironic is that these said individuals are always among the first to complain that they cannot get a job because no one is interested in hiring them. If they want a job so badly, then they need to understand that the terms are largely determined, not by themselves, but the employer.
From what Dr Byer has observed, Jamaican jobseekers clearly understand that there is still a time and place for everything, especially when it comes to dressing appropriately that would convince an employer to take them on.
How are we going to correct this problem? It obviously cannot be swept under the carpet because to do so would be to the long-term detriment of the society. It is a complex problem to which there is no easy and straightforward solution. It is also not for Government alone to solve, as some people may be inclined to say.
The solution has to begin in the home, with exposure to proper values –– values that traditionally defined Barbadians and caused us to stand out in a positive way.
These values have to be reinforced by the other agents of socialization –– the church, the school, the media, among others. A structured programme of mentoring in which working adults expose young people to what it takes to be successful in finding and keeping a job is also necessary.
Our young people need help, not just condemnation. Let us come together as a caring nation and help them, provided they are open to receiving such assistance. There is still a time and a place for everything!