This year’s Independence celebrations seem very low key compared to last year’s grand celebrations marking Barbados 50th year of nationhood. I guess that is to be expected as 50 years is usually a milestone worth highlighting.
Perhaps the economic challenges facing our country also play a part in how much we can celebrate. Prudent fiscal behaviour must be adopted by any responsible government in economically challenging circumstances.
Lack of adequate resources to celebrate, however, should not prevent us from reflection on such occasions. As a nation state past its 50th mark, we should use every opportunity to do an introspection and reflect on where we have come from, where we are and where we are heading.
There is a saying by William ‘Bil’ Keane, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.” Many will tend to say forget about our history, don’t worry about tomorrow and only care about the present.
Sadly, many are only caught up in the present. They think only about here and now. This situation is either willingly or unwillingly. Circumstances may be such that they can only think about their own present realities. No time to consider the past or ponder about the future.
The past is important in the context of knowing who we are and where we came from. Ignoring our past can be to our own detriment and human beings often repeat the same mistakes as their predecessors if they don’t understand the past. Marcus Garvey said: “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
Just like a tree requires roots to grow, nourish and strengthen itself, so do human beings require roots. Our roots are in our ancestors and their life experiences. Ancient peoples regarded their ancestors highly, recording their successes and their failures. These people built their communities upon the experiences passed on to them by their forefathers.
We as a people can learn much from the experiences of the past. Older Barbadians who lived through very trying times, came to appreciate what an independent Barbados meant to them. In recent days my WhatsApp has been filled with images of Barbados in the earlier years with captions such as ‘if you don’t remember these items, you are probably too young.’
These pictures include products such as JuC drinks, Sudsil soap powder and Joe Gum. And places and modes of transportation long forgotten. The past which is by and large recalled only in these types of images is much more than pictures. It is lived experiences which must be captured and relayed to our present generation.
For what reason? If only that we truly understand what life was like and what sacrifices were made to give us all that we have today and that we unfortunately take for granted.
I am approaching 50 years and I see many of my former schoolmates on Facebook as they reached that milestone ahead of me recognizing their arrival at that point in their lives. Much of it is introspection. We recognize that we have reached a point where life takes more from us than it gives. We celebrate the present having survived the past.
It is in this present that many focus exclusively on. Our present circumstances are largely determined by our past actions and events, while our future is determined more or less by what decisions we make and what we do now. We can’t change the past but we can learn from it. In our present we can determine to do what is right, fair and just to ensure a brighter, better future. And we also acknowledge that nothing is assured.
Variables can and will change, slowly or even dramatically. We live therefore in hope and trust. In one of Omar Khayyam’s quatrains, he says: “Your hand can seize today, but not tomorrow; and thoughts of your tomorrow are nothing but desire. Don’t waste this breath, if your heart isn’t crazy, since “the rest of your life” won’t last forever.”
Past generations lived in an era where much of their lives was planned for or revolved around a determined set of variables. It was not easy or comfortable for most but it was pre-determined by the situation that existed. Today, humankind has changed those circumstances dramatically. We live in an independent era. Every human for his or herself.
We live in a time that we must either rise, fall or just survive. This is a difficult transformation for some. From accustomed to living in planned circumstances to adjusting being independent means radical changes in expectations and practices.
Our younger generation are the most vulnerable in this changing world. The numerous expressions of their seemingly anti-social behaviour and actions are examples of their inability to cope with these rapidly changing variables and expectations. We want outstanding citizens, productive, healthy, law abiding and all the positive set of attributes we can imagine. But are we making the necessary sacrifices to ensure that we have what we want?
It not easy raising children, many will tell us, but are we prepared to do what is important and necessary to raise them properly once we have children?
Our determining factors for success are set by ourselves. It is what we are prepared to sacrifice for, that ensures the results we get. Human beings are gifted with the ability to achieve so much with so little.
I am often shown heart-wrenching stories of persons without limbs going about their lives like any other normal human being. We know of people with mental and physical challenges who have gone on to achieve a lot more than other persons with no challenges or limitations.
The brain is a wonderful part of our creation and once it is functioning, there are no limitations to its capacity to think and to empower the human being. We fail because we don’t fully utilize the enormous potential and power of the brain.
In our independent world, we are expected to behave independently but human nature is not such. We are all dependent on something or someone. Our whole existence is intertwined with the rest of creation, either with fellow human beings or with nature.
We cannot continue to exist if we don’t interact with either nature or other creatures. Understanding this means that we appreciate that our existence is dependent on the existence of others. If we set about on the path of destruction, we are ultimately destroying ourselves.
So, as our nation celebrates 51 years of being independent ,let us all work together to build a better now and a better tomorrow. We take from our shared histories to help us today and to work for a better future for the next generations.
Happy Independence Barbados!