Various manifestations of what the Barbadian society has become continue to flash before our eyes. There are still some people who manage to raise loud, almost surprised alarms at what is transpiring.
How can anybody be living in Barbados over the last five years and be surprised at the level of social and political disintegration highlighted over the last few days?
There is no doubt in my mind that the brutal robberies, the behaviour of the Democratic Labour Party parliamentarians in the no-confidence motion, and the video of the mistreatment of an elderly woman in a care facility are all interconnected threads. These threads are metaphorical frays of what used to be the tapestry of Barbados. The few loose ends which were once the underview of a beautifully worked quilt of social and political stability which was Barbados are now Barbados itself.
Those of us who had been saying that Barbados stood to become like its Big Four counterparts Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad were accused of high treason. And yet, here we are: two innocent people dead in separate robberies; another seemingly completely unrelated robbery of a gas station; robbery of a sales delivery van; and, as if our senses were not harassed enough by all of it, the video of an elderly woman, one of the most vulnerable in our society, being battered seemingly just for the fun of it.
All of this is backdropped by the harangue of the Government as its response to the no-confidence motion tabled. What are the real takeaways? Where are we in Barbados and how much more are we willing to tempt fate? Who will be the first to admit this is what betrayal looks like?
When the Democratic Labour Party was seeking office in 2008, it was surgical at identifying and highlighting all the issues which the tapestry of Barbados was facing. The DLP opted to present solutions for at least three ills which most Barbadians agreed needed urgent address.
These were integrity and freedom of information legislation to, in part, counteract corruption; a Ministry of Family to assist at-risk children and teenagers before they went on to deviant lives; and the overhaul of the educational system, including the creation of schools of excellence, in order to recapture the interests of children and cater to their various intelligences.
The people of Barbados changed the Government then, because anyone who was watching and forecasting the next ten years knew Barbados needed to pay attention to the major planks which the Democratic Labour Party had put forward. So that now we have a murder suspect who is 19 years old, and who, based on his charge sheet, allegedly committed rape at 17, it is because we needed those speciality schools we invested in eight years ago, but which were not delivered.
Now that we have a nonagenarian being abused in a care facility, it is because we did not deal with the systemic corruption which was making Barbados a society less caring about human lives. Corruption breeds the mentality that only the fittest of the fit should survive, and only people who have something to offer are to be treated well.
We did not deal with corruption eight years ago. Could we now be surprised that pockets of negative activity have become the normal modus operandi?
Leadership is critical because it not only is paramount for choosing a direction and reaching the destiny; leadership is important for its philosophical and tangential nuances. A leader feels the responsibility of ensuring those led are cared for and supported.
When the Democratic Labour Party Government could defend a pay reinstatement for its parliamentarians when pensions and other Government financial commitments are not being met on time, we know we are in dire straits in Barbados. We are in dire straits not just because of the financial conditions in the country; more sinister is that the no-confidence motion revealed we have leaders who do not understand the philosophical burden of leadership.
What can be said now? How do we stop the slide in Barbados? Can the slide be stopped? I believe it is too late for Barbados. I agree our national pride is non-existent.
How can anyone challenge that assertion? Look into the schools in Barbados and see the extent to which our national pride is gone. Our children go to school among rats and mice which they name and feed at lunchtime.
Our polyclinics are busy with ringworms and impetigo because, with no reliable running water in 50 per cent of the country and garbage everywhere, contagion and infections are, in my opinion, alarmingly on the increase.
Barbados is at the point where even if the deficit were to miraculously disappear, the damage to the social decay is such, the country will not just rebound. Not only has the Democratic Labour Party killed national pride, it has taken our hope as well.
There is a final year student of the Barbados Community College who was disbarred from writing examinations for $590 owed to the institution. That leaves said student in a position where education cannot be completed and work cannot be found. Even if the deficit is fixed, it will take the individual student at least three years to get life back on an even track.
That scenario is now multiplied by the eight years we lost in this country for at least half of our population.
This is all it takes for a country to become like Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad. When the social stability of a country is rocked at a time when said country is unable to respond, owing to financial and leadership deficits, the needs of the population outstrip what the citizens can input. The country becomes severely off-balance, continuing to be overlaid with slippage.
After the events which have transpired over the last few weeks in Barbados, there is no question we are now in crisis mode. We urgently need a change of Government; but that alone will not right the ills in this society. We need to find solutions for the unaddressed issues in this island.
Somebody needs to make promises to the citizenry of Barbados that are backed by consequences and not just the word of one or two people. I cry for my nation.
What about you? Are you happy with your Barbados?
(Marsha Hinds-Layne is a full-time mummy and part-time lecturer in communications at the University of the West Indies.
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