With Mother’s Day fast approaching, you know that I must spend some time reflecting on mothers and praising them. Permit me, though, to take one or two detours on my way there.
I make it a point every week to return the emails sent about my musings. I also try to check the commentary which follows each article. I generally am able to live and let live in the cases where readers’ perspectives differ from mine. However, in reading the comments under last week’s article, one ‘stuck in my craw’ as my granny would say.
A commenter was bold enough to remark that no solace should be Antoine Brudduh Daddy Williams’ because he was working with the Cancer Society long time and he was the typical Barbadian who talked and did nothing. He had to have symptoms he ignored, the person went on to pontificate. I cannot tell you how dismayed I was by the sentiment.
On the most basic level, the individual was placing the comment under an article that was acknowledging that most of us do not know how to receive other people’s bad news. While conceding that it is often difficult to find something worthwhile to say after a grave illness announcement, I would think it is at least better to keep your mouth shut than to make such a completely outrageous comment.
I highlight the comment because I see other useful discussions to be had in terms of how we view illness. Barbadians, based on our historical orientation to leadership, indulge in hero worship of people in the public eye. Once you become good at a particular job or skill, Barbadians remove you from the realm of normal.
Moreover, a person viewed in this way no longer gets to be a complicated human being. They have to be all good to be revered or they are always set up for the worse to be noticed and said, like we fondly do with our politicians. I think this approach to public life and leadership may be one of the fundamental reasons that we do not yet have a significant biographical work of the Prime Minister who led Barbados into the globalized age, Tom Adams.
Adams was a brilliant man by several accounts and an able leader. There were also his many ambiguities and human flaws which did not fit seamlessly into Barbados’ propensity to ‘god-praise’ politicians. I think to keep the memory of Adams pristine, we have never written it and only tell ‘the good parts’ when we mention him orally. We have to move beyond human worship, to realize that public life gives a person no more salvation or strength than the average person has.
So Antoine was involved with the Cancer Society and this should have been enough to wash away his human fears about having certain checks done? It should have guaranteed that even if he attended his doctor for a complaint that the doctor would link a seemingly trivial symptom to a potentially deeper issue? Is this really how we think a public persona protects an individual?
It is indeed the very opposite in most cases. People with several obligations are always juggling personal needs with public commitments. Even when tiredness kicks in, or the first signs of unwellness, people in public life tend to try to keep going. People invariably treat public figures in Barbados as invincible, and I suppose public figures tend to believe it after a while.
It is not reality, though. Public life comes with poor eating schedules and lots of stress. When done right, it comes with significant personal sacrifice. All these can be sources of onset for illness. It is complicated, and based on that comment, I thought it important enough to use this space to say so. Let us continue to support Brudduh Daddy and anyone else we can in their times of need. What is done is done and I am sure whatever harsh comments we can find the strength to make, Brudduh Daddy or any other sick person has already mustered in their own minds twenty fold.
We are simply too unforgiving a society and I have to say that as many times as I feel it necessary to get a collective relook of how we treat people. It is not a lost cause because some of the commentary about the latest incident of pupil on teacher school violence reveals that people are coming to terms with the outstanding issues. One comment which I really liked came from somebody who observed that a normal child at 15 does not just get up and proceed to smash a car.
How accurate is that! When we hear the stories of some of the children going to our secondary schools, we do not ask how they are so bad; we thank the universe that they are no worse. So now that we are linking the causes with the resulting behaviours, how much longer again before we strengthen the Child Care Board and other systems to ensure that we can rescue more at-risk teenagers before they end up in prison?
I mean, France has just elected a 39 year old President. What is the difference between their society and ours? We are losing our young males at an alarming rate to drugs, death and the penal system. Meanwhile, this new French President conquered the private sector, became a millionaire by 34 and rose quickly after that to the highest public office in France.
At the rate that young people in Barbados are opting out of the traditional society, the National Insurance Scheme will be made redundant quite quickly. We are not producing schools that deal with the issues of our children. We are not producing high net worth young people. We seem to be struggling terribly, and it is all because of how we treat people and manage the human condition.
So, as we reflect on the nurturers of life over the weekend, let us really commit to making their labours worthwhile. Let us commit to supporting mothers and their children as we seek to change the Barbadian society and how we view life. Let us continue to work on ourselves individually so that our families become stronger and then our schools and then our work places.
Blessed Mothers’ Day, mama! Be gentle with yourself and never forget that you have to be selfish with your energy and your time so that you have that energy and time to invest in your children. This is not bad selfishness; it is wholesome and sustainable sense.
(Marsha Hinds-Layne is a full-time mummy and part-time lecturer in communications at the University of the West Indies.