As it’s getting close to Christmas, I thought that I would write about what I call the Santa Claus syndrome. I realized a few years ago, just how serious this syndrome is.
When my daughter was at primary school (I believe she was in the lower junior school so maybe around 9), a parent accosted me in the car park and accused my daughter of telling her son that Santa Claus was not real.
I was so taken aback that I really did not do justice in my response to her. How I wish I could go back to that time and tell her what I should have. Instead, I explained to her that I believe in telling my children the truth so that was why I told to my daughter Santa Claus was a lie, but I said I would ask my daughter to refrain from telling her son the truth, if she preferred it that way.
Of course, the damage may have already been done. The Santa Claus syndrome is very prevalent even in the adult world. There are things that we know to be false, but for some reason that I cannot fathom, we continue to pretend that they are true. Maybe it gives us some sort of comfort or some sort of reassurance, rather than having to face and deal with reality.
It seemed as if this was the case recently when the Minister of Tourism described the decision by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) to close Worthing Beach as “an excessively cautious decision” and took it upon himself to remove the signs erected by the National Conservation Commission, after bathing in the sea. He claimed that tests were done and no higher than usual levels of bacteria were found in the water.
I wonder if this is a case of the Santa Claus syndrome. I would hate to think that ministers of government were trying to present something as true (i.e. the beach is clean) when it is, in fact, false so that tourism would not be impacted.
The facts are these: the sea was discoloured after the flood (granted it could have been caused by mud). Everyone on the south coast can still smell the stench of sewage. That would suggest, at the very least, that something is amiss. If tests were done, I think the public should be provided with the evidence of the results, preferably done by an independent agency.
Despite the seriousness of the situation, when I got two jokes on WhatsApp this week about it, I was DWL (dying with laughter) and RTFL (rolling on the floor laughing). I won’t share the other acronym that is widely used to describe when you find something funny.
What had me in tears, however, was a photo of the Minister of Tourism and the Minister of Health (with a towel thrown over his shoulder) after bathing at Worthing Beach to demonstrate that the beaches were clean and that tourists and locals should not refrain from using them.
The best part, though, was the caption. The Minister of Tourism was “saying”: “You feel itchy Boyce, my man?” and Minister Boyce “replied”: “Yeah, but keep smiling for these fools!” The second “joke” was an audio of one of the members of the Opposition speaking about the incident of the sea bathing. Although I was appalled to hear one of our elected Members of Parliament publicly making fun about what he believed the Minsters were swimming in (in terms that I have not heard of since I was a child), I could not help but laugh.
But it is really no joking matter that this is the calibre of some of the political leaders we have elected. Far less that they would use such terms, in a public speech, to denigrate the actions of another Member of Parliament. Some of my friends were remarking on the incident above and one person facetiously said “Our government would not lie to us.” So, the water must be safe. Another one said, “I hope they didn’t swallow.” Just in case it isn’t.
While this is the season to be jolly, we all know that there is really no Santa Claus and we can’t afford to continue to be afflicted with the Santa Claus syndrome. So, as we go into 2017, and draw closer to elections, we need to increase our discernment so that we can decide for ourselves what is true and what is false and allow that to guide how we vote.
(Donna Every is an author, international speaker and trainer. She is also the Barbados Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (2014 – 2016), the Barbados Facilitator for the InfoDev WINC Acceleration Programme. Contact her at [email protected]