Barbados is under threat from a number of “social demons” that must be exorcized, otherwise they could bring chaos and misery to the country, according to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.
Addressing a national consultation on society at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre this morning, Stuart identified alienation, frustration, insecurity and disillusionment as “threats” from which the island needed urgent protection in order to maintain faith in the future.
“If faith in the future is lost, chaos will ensue and we will become a collection of miserable people,” he told the gathering of Cabinet ministers, Opposition parliamentarian Cynthia Forde, church leaders and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
He noted that the family, the Church and the school, which are the institutions that have to help tackle these dangers, were themselves under tremendous pressure.
The Prime Minister said there was an increasing number of people in Barbados felt alienated from what was going on in society because they were not being reached. Their response, he said, was to “opt out”.
“We have not been communicating with them effectively enough to get them to buy into what it is we are selling. This is not only a problem for our young people, because there are some older people [as well . However]. . . there are people who have just had to opt out because they don’t feel an essential part of anything that is going on around them,” the Government leader said, adding that this group could not be counted on “to rise up and defend something of which they do not feel a part”.
Stuart was quick to point out that this sense of alienation was not necessarily due to unemployment or the lack of material gain, noting that there were people living in some of the most prosperous western societies who could care less about what was happening around them.
In addition to alienation, there was the issue of frustration to contend with, the Prime Minister said, stressing that people were having difficulty getting simple things done in Barbados, such as getting past the maze of answering machines when calling places like Flow, commercial banks and Government departments.
He said many of these people had dreams, expectations and a vision of their own future, but seemed to be running into stumbling blocks whenever they attempted to turn these dreams into reality.
“When last have you tried to call Flow? I’m not going to exculpate Government departments either. When last have you tried to call one of them? I tried. That quest to hear an authentic human voice on the other line, somebody who can connect with you and make you feel a part of something going on around Barbados, is being steadily lost. We have bought into the technological revolution,” the Prime Minister said.
Stuart told his audience that as alienation and frustration take root, the demon of physical insecurity comes to
“Angry people take up a gun and shoot as many people as they can because they don’t feel a part of what is going on, or they feel a part, but do not feel that they are getting a fair break,” he said, referring to recent mass killings in the United States and Europe to emphasize his point. Stuart said psychological and emotional insecurity was also a serious issue facing Barbadians, where the pace of the technological age had become so rapid that life felt like a game of chance.
Prime Minister Stuart said that the fourth demon – disillusionment – would be the result of unresolved alienation, frustration and insecurity.
He said people were losing faith and trust in major institutions and cited the collapse of CLICO, Trade Confirmers and the Bank of Commerce and Credit International (BCCI) in Barbados. “The feeling of insecurity that so many people are experiencing undermines the coherence that should be holding society together. If when I look in your face, I can’t trust you and when you look in mine you can’t trust me either; if I can’t tell myself there are certain things that you will never do; or when you look in my face you can’t say to yourself, if there is one thing, ‘I know there are certain things the Prime Minister will never do . . .’ [then] we have a problem. That will lead to insecurity; and there is a lot of that around,” he added.
The Prime Minister said too many church leaders in Barbados were “falling down around us”, and this has caused people to wonder, who could be trusted.
He warned that it was bad enough when people lost faith in the present through disillusionment, but it was even worse when dreams are shattered and faith in the future is lost.
“Because, if we ever get to the stage where people lose their capacity to dream, to believe that things may be rough now, but tomorrow promises to be better; if faith in the future is lost, then chaos will ensue, society will implode and we will be of a collection of men and women; just a collection of miserable people.”
The Prime Minister said the solution to these social ills lies with the family, the Church, civil society and schools.