There are a few issues on my mind today so permit me to take each one in turn rather than writing on one of them to the exclusion of the others.
There are many times when I am simply alarmed at the level of disconnect between the state of things in Barbados and how much Barbadians know about that state. I did not know that the sale of the Barbados National Terminal Company Ltd (BNTCL) would cause shock and alarm among Barbadians at this juncture. That transaction has been in our news cycle from at least the middle of last year.
It drives home the point though — and it is a point of relevance with anybody wishing to communicate with a Barbadian audience — that Barbadians only register things in the present and usually things which they interface with on a daily basis. Other than that, Barbadians can be quite disconnected.
Let me provide another example. Over the last few weeks, we have been hearing the lament of Barbadians who catch the bus. Buses have been delayed by several hours or do not come at all in some districts. The uptake on the transportation issue was not as significant as the one on the pot hole issue, simply because more Barbadians drive and interact with potholes directly.
However, I want to begin this week by registering a further plea on behalf of those Barbadians who use public transportation as a primary mode. Not only is the bus schedule atrocious, but the sanitary conditions of the buses themselves are also not up to a satisfactory standard. Garbage is strewn in buses. Some of the seats for elderly facilitation carry bodily odours.
Due to the health care system we have managed to create, Barbados has not had a major national outbreak of anything since the 1930s. We seem to be overly complacent now and we are flirting with conditions which can easily see a return of many of the diseases and conditions we were able to eradicate. Having the public travel on unsanitized buses cannot be an acceptable standard.
A few months ago, we took a national pause to discuss ‘the one eyebrow girl’. I remember remarking to a friend that more of us were offended by her use of language and her tone than anything else. Now that the two accounts of the perfume transaction in Wildey have our national attention, I am convinced that my observation was right.
Up to the time of writing this article, I had not heard that the police had pressed charges against the young lady accused of scamming. I have not also heard them issue any further warnings to the public in the matter. Of course, we as Barbadians know that this may just be because the investigating officer could have gone on sick leave or vacation and the matter is sitting there awaiting his return.
However, we will assume that it means that the young entrepreneur was not found to be in any contravention of the law. Although the police have found nothing, there are still some people who are adamant that the young lady ‘just had to do something’. They come to that conclusion simply because of her physical appearance and use of the vernacular, Bajan dialect. It is unfortunate that we invest in this type of profiling. It is unfortunate that we still think crime has a particular look and a particular sound.
It is also unfortunate that although the young lady may never be convicted of any crime, the damage to her character, one more important to her being a huckster, cannot be easily repaired. That realization brought me to another muse I regularly have about the Barbadian mentality – we are quite an unforgiving bunch in Barbados. We do not offer enough benefit of doubt.
Where an indiscretion is committed, we do not offer enough opportunity for rehabilitation. Behavioural change programmes in Barbados and access to counselling are not easily available. I tend to believe in the good of people and I believe that people do the best that they can. Some people need guidance and knowledge to be able to move forward in their personal development. When will we start to value the importance of people in Barbados?
The final issue which caught my attention this week was a promotional poster seemingly inviting minors to participate in a dance competition. The use of the female body to promote fetes has been raised as a matter for my attention by one reader. If I am honest, although I find some of the posters lewd and overly offensive, I had stopped short of raising the issue because adults are free to be adults.
Most of the fetes are held on board private pleasure cruises or in night spots. Adults have to be left to make decisions about their own morality and how they express their sexuality. The dancehall can be a highly sexualized space and that may make us uncomfortable but that in itself does not make it problematic. However, increasingly, there seems to be a movement of the dancehall away from a private night space into public spaces.
The fetes are advertised on board minibuses, ZR vans and in the van stands. The associated music is played as children commute to and from school. One set of promoters has now taken us a step further by opening up their promotion to children under 16. The ‘cula cula’ dance, which the competition is based on, is highly sexualized. The term ‘cula cula’ is synonymous with the word ‘penis’.
It is beyond me why anyone would think that a minor child should be encouraged to participate in such a competition. Ironically, one of the billed sponsors for the event was a state-owned radio station. The same state is responsible for the enforcement of the age restrictions placed on sexual activity for minors! These instances make me shake my head but I stop short of saying that I am surprised.
We do not have a healthy love and respect for women in Barbados and, therefore, their bodies are nothing more than play things. Where we change then and when is an answer I do not have a reply for. Do you?
(Marsha Hinds Layne is a full-time mummy and part-time lecturer in communications at the University of the West Indies.