There is a saying in my faith: “Every one of you is a shepherd and every one of you is responsible for his flock . . . .”
That flock could be oneself, or oneself and a few others or many others. Imbedded in such a philosophy is that each and every individual of a matured, sane and healthy disposition is responsible and accountable for every action he or she does.
Taking responsibility and accountability seems to be lacking in so many persons. From the leaders to the regular person in society there seems to be a tendency to shun responsibility and equally to put aside accountability.
If from a young age persons do not have examples of taking responsibility and have a sense of accountability instilled in them, then we cannot expect to have adults who have such characteristics.
Our society will certainly be at a loss if more and more persons put aside being responsible in their actions, forgetting accountability.
Today, our society is grappling with several outrageous acts by individuals who seem to have no sense of responsibility and care nothing of being accountable. If that type of mentality continues to fester, then the future is not bright.
On one hand, we see individuals who callously gun down others with no care for the sanctity of human life. It is heart-wrenching when decent, law-abiding citizens going about their regular lives are shot dead –– with no rationale.
At another level, we see family responsibility being thrown through the window in stepping up as fathers, mothers, siblings, aunts, uncles –– and the list goes one, while at the professional level accountability in the way functions are carried out seems to take second place for several people.
And then we see a lack of responsibility and accountability on the part of some of our leaders, political and otherwise, when it comes to decision-making that affects the entire society.
Last week, in our Parliament there was a motion of no confidence in the Government. It was an exercise that everyone expected would not go in favour of the Opposition, owing to numbers. Nevertheless, it was a debate which was keenly followed by those who pay attention to such matters.
Unfortunately, a growing number of people seem turned off from such important discussions, or are just simply not interested. The debate put forward those issues which the Opposition saw were in need of critical assessment and which the Government was not effectively handling. From the economy to health to education to societal issues the Opposition leader spent considerable time on, elucidating the problems as her party analysed it.
The Government for its part sought to respond and explain its actions.
Such exercises are critical in our democracy. We must hold our leaders responsible and accountable; not only our leaders, but all those who seek to represent the interests of Barbadians and are given the privilege of getting a seat in Parliament.
We must never forget to hold both Government and the Opposition accountable. After all, sitting MPs are paid by our taxes.
Some will argue that accountability comes, in a system like ours, every five years when elections are constitutionally due. But why must we wait for a five-year term to end to hold any Member or Members of Parliament accountable for their actions. It must be an ongoing process.
For a long time now, we have allowed for a culture of delaying taking responsibility and having accountability. That culture has permeated our psyche. Many don’t want to live up to their responsibility or be accountable unless the time comes when they are forced to face that reality.
As in the saying I started with, we must all approach life with the view of a shepherd, having responsibility for ourselves, those in our immediate care, our relatives, our wider society and even the world around us. We must accept accountability as an important and critical part of our process of living in this world.
Dr Edmond Locard, was a pioneer in forensic science who became known as the Sherlock Holmes of France. He formulated the basic principle of forensic science: “Every contact leaves a trace.”
Such words echo in everything we do, and acknowledges that whatever we do as individuals, no matter how small, leaves an imprint on humanity.
What trace or imprint do we wish to leave behind? Many individuals throughout history, some acknowledged but a multitude not known, have left extremely valuable imprints for humankind for many generations. These were men and women who understood their responsibility to humanity.
Many other individuals felt no sense of accountability and did as they pleased, leaving behind a legacy that humanity would rather not have to deal with.
Like a shepherd, we must take responsibility for our flock and feel accountable for every single one under our care. We must know what is good for our flock, what allows for healthy and sustainable growth and a successful lifestyle. Equally we must be aware of the dangers and predators that lurk that can do harm to our flock.
Let us all work hard on instilling this mentality in ourselves and those around us, and hope it will spread throughout our society.
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace. Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI.