It is Crop Over last lap weekend, a time when Barbadians from all walks of life tend to take a break from their hectic day-to-day schedules to simply relieve some stress, and mingle with friends and family, amid the national festivities.
God knows there’s more than enough stress to go around in Barbados nowadays, when one considers the issues we face, be it at home or in the office — and don’t even get us started with the economy and indeed the vexed issue of the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), which, although not yet in full effect, has simply been eating into everyone’s pockets.
We are not going to go as far as Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler did recently to suggest that “if your girlfriend horn you, they will say it is NSRL” and that the dreaded tax is at fault for everything that goes wrong in Barbados today.
But, however you dice it, there certainly can be no disputing the level of financial stress that Barbadians are currently under.
Never mind the general appearance of national stability, from our vantage point and based on the numerous unedited and unfiltered reports we receive daily, life is definitely not what it has traditionally been for most, if not all Barbadians.
Eight years into a global recession, even some of our top businessmen are now crying out and many of the professionals who make up the so called middle class would better be lumped with the ‘working poor’, as theirs has become an endless struggle to make ends meet and to maintain the lifestyle of the ‘Joneses’ while sipping champagne on their mauby pockets.
Also, don’t be fooled by the large crowds at Crop Over fetes. In fact it would be foolhardy for Mr Sinckler or anyone else in Government for that matter, to look at those gatherings and believe for one moment that Bajans can afford to pay more in taxes.
Truth be told, Barbadians are now taxed to the hilt, and short of crying out, ‘Lord, I can’t tek it no more’, many are now forced to swallow their pride and to operate in circumstances in which they would not ordinarily operate.
A better gauge of the current reality can be gleaned from talking to the leaders of our commercial banking sector about the number of credit cards that are maxed out and the number of companies that are surviving on overdraft and barely making their minimum payments when they become due.
The rising crime situation is another tell-tale sign of our deteriorating economic and social conditions for which we need not look too far for corroborating evidence, on the heels of the recent senseless murder of 58-year-old Colleen Payne who was gunned down while attempting to use an automated teller machine.
Hence, why Lil Rick’s popular refrain, ‘Peace, I praying for peace’ is as relevant, as Red Plastic Bag’s powerful warning, ‘we rocking left, we rocking right, we hope the mast stay in tact’.
And whether we ‘vote, vote, vote, vote’ as Ronnie Clarke would have us do once general elections are called, we can only hope that it is not naivety on Queen Aziza’s part when she suggests that this country still standing tall given currents to our very physical beings.
Daily we are issued with reminders that there are dark elements in our midst who are simply bent on ruining our reputation as “the gem of the Caribbean”. These criminal elements are determined to drive fear into our hearts and to rob us of what is left of our innocence and alluring natural beauty.
And while we certainly cannot and must not lie down and play dead, we also must not walk around as people wearing blinders, believing that our faith alone in the Almighty God will protect us from these dastardly individuals.
Coupled with our abiding faith must be greater care for our personal safety and that of others in our care – particularly our children and our elderly.
Those of us who will be heading to Crop Over events this weekend, must take the necessary steps to safeguard our homes and other personal property. We — especially the ladies — must also be mindful of simple things, such as where we park our vehicles, where we place our handbags and our drinks, who is the designated driver at the end of the night and how much alcohol we consume and from whom.
For surely, we must be able to enjoy yourself but not to the point of a stupor that leaves us vulnerable to predators who are only too willing to cause untold damage.
Just this week, we had two men appearing in the District ‘A’ Criminal Court after a verbal altercation turned physical at the end of a Jolly Roger pleasure cruise.
Based on the report, both “had in little drinks”, which is what got them arguing in the first place. And over what? One man reportedly wanted more room on a dance floor “packed up with people”.
“The next thing I remember is that I feel a knock on my head and I feel it and saw blood,” said the complainant, who was struck in the head as he was leaving the boat.
He received seven stitches for that injury, and another three for one to his back.
“Suppose you had killed this man? Do you know that murder cases happen like that? You know that you can kill people if you give them a little lash and they fall down and flutter and you get charged for murder? Why do you want to throw your life away like that?” the magistrate rightfully asked the defendant before ordering him to pay $500 in compensation to the victim for his injures within the next two weeks or spend a month in jail.
It only serves to emphasize to us all how important it is to enjoy everything in moderation.