It pays, every once in a while, to step back and take a break from whatever is consuming our attention, so as to reflect, reassess and refocus on your role and purpose before resuming those pursuits.
I’ve been engaged in such an exercise over the past weeks not only in relation to contributing to public debate through writing this column but also with a view to clearly determining what future role, if any at all, should I play in Barbadian politics and, by extension, national development. Hence, my absence from these pages.
No, I have not returned to the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), as one curious reader enquired via email, nor have I have crossed over to the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), or any of the other parties for that matter. I am thoroughly enjoying the freedom of my independent political status since quitting the DLP three and a half years ago.
Sad to say, things have not gotten any better since I last wrote. In fact, perceptively, things have gone from bad to worse. Never before in my lifetime — and I’ve been around for many moons — have I seen Barbadians so dispirited when it comes to the state of the country and the prospects ahead.
I remain optimistic, however. Do you know what is so beautiful about life? The fact that nothing, absolutely nothing, lasts forever, save God and His abiding unconditional love. So that regardless of whatever challenge you may be currently experiencing, even though at times it may seem insurmountable, you can rest assured that it too will pass, like every problem that has gone before.
It just requires us to have a little faith and patience while we wait. It is this understanding of life, drawing on Christian theology, which underpins my optimism in the face of the worst national crisis we have experienced as a nation since Independence. In particular, the last four years of Democratic Labour Party (DLP) rule, under the uninspiring leadership of Freundel Jerome Stuart, has been nothing short of a nightmare for the vast majority of Barbadians.
With the regime demonstrating through recurrent failure of its policies that resolving the crisis is beyond its capability, Barbadians quite rightly have been longing for the next general election. Well, we don’t have to wait much longer. It is certainly much closer today than it was at the start of the year. And when Christmas comes, if it has not been called by then, it will be even be closer.
So, just keep the faith in the meantime. The next general election, however, is about serious business, not trivia to which the regime is resorting in an apparent bid to distract the public from its poor record, even though it repeatedly says it has nothing to be ashamed of. The next general election must be seen as an opportunity to extricate ourselves from this nightmare and to chart a new course for Barbados after full discussion and evaluation of the options before us.
Now I would never be so stupid as to suggest that Barbados somehow is immune from adversity. Adversity is inescapably part and parcel of life. However, what always makes the difference is how we respond to adversity. If we believe in and keep the focus on possibilities, rather than dwell on impossibilities, we enhance our chances of rising above adversity. We need to adopt more of this mindset not only at the level of Government, but also within the private sector and, indeed, across the whole spectrum of society.
As a 16 year old Foundation boy studying Latin for O Level at the feet of Colin “Couchie” Reid, I was introduced to the importance of having a positive mindset. It came through exposure to a well-known line in the chapter of Vergil’s Aeneid that deals with the Funeral Games. “Possunt quia posse videntur.” You can if you believe you can.
Those inspiring words, set in a context of winning against the odds, are also the motto of the Lodge School. It is from this perspective that we must approach our problems collectively as a nation with the confidence that we can win. Errol Barrow invested in educating us and, as a country, we certainly do not have a deficit of ideas. Throughout history, ideas have formed the basis of every solution to every human problem.
Besides the well-known fiscal deficit, our country suffers terribly from a deficit of leadership, not only at the governmental level, but in many other areas of national life as well. Leadership is about much more than occupying a position; it is about inspiring people, rallying them around a common vision and getting them to work together to transform dream into reality.
The crisis confronting our country clearly underscores the need for a Barbadian reformation and renaissance. It is ironic that I am speaking of this need on the eve of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, a sweeping change movement that began in the church and has had profound influence on the direction and development of Western society.
It all began when Martin Luther, a simple but courageous monk, posted his 95 theses on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. Several other contributors to public discourse have also been speaking, without using the exact words, about the need for reformation and renaissance if we are to succeed in restoring the glory of the Barbadian Jerusalem.
Going forward, we need, above all, leadership which is open to promoting free thinking and accepting and considering new ideas, especially if they come from critics. No leader, no matter how much he or she may fancy him or herself, has a monopoly on ideas. We can learn something from everyone, sometimes from persons whom we least expect. They may not be able to articulate their ideas in the polished language of a university graduate but, often when analyzed, what they have to say makes a lot of sense.
So I am really looking forward to the next general election campaign, not to hear who is sleeping with whom or who happens to be “immoral”, but to nothing less than a serious discussion of workable solutions that will get this country out of the present mess.
Make clear of the candidates seeking your vote that your only real interest is how do they propose to restore the Barbadian Jerusalem. Demand that they engage in a high standard of debate. Your responsibility is to ensure that the campaign discourse focuses on policies rather than the political personalities.