We usually do not, on a daily basis, pay close attention to the kaleidoscope of shades that exists. Is the sky really blue or is it cerulean, arctic or lapis? Are the clouds white or are they cotton, daisy, powder or chiffon? There are so many colour possibilities and our world would be such a dull place if colour did not exist, or rather if the ability to perceive colour did not exist.
There is a group of individuals who cannot perceive some, or in worst-case scenarios, any colour at all. This condition is known as colour blindness and it is more commonly seen in men. The eye is a specialized organ and located at the back of it is a ‘high-tech’ area called the retina. Without getting too technical, there are specific cells that are responsible for colour vision called cones which contain different photopigments that respond to red, blue or green light.
Based on the abnormalities in these photopigments and the consequent impairment in colour perception, persons are commonly classified as red-green, blue-yellow or totally colour blind. In living colour, (pardon the pun), for an individual who is red-green colour blind, red, orange and yellow appear greener and colours are not as brilliant. For someone who is blue-yellow colour blind, blue appears greener, and it can be difficult to tell yellow and red from pink. It is consequently easy to understand why some persons leave home, having donned astronomically incorrect colour combinations, and walk down Broad Street with no remorse.
That is an inherited condition for which an individual can be easily tested using special colour charts. However, genes cannot be blamed for racism. Straight off the bat, there is no excuse for it and in this day and age, I remain astounded that the colour of one skin or the other has a bearing on the outcome of the life of an individual. We hear about persons who become victims of violence based on the colour of their skin. I cannot personally speak to one individual getting a job in preference to another based on the degree of the melanin concentration in his or her skin. What I can comment on, however, is the number of our young ladies who are still using bleaching cream to ‘lighten’ their skin with the hope of ‘getting ahead’.
This sort of thinking must come to a screeching halt. Those persons who fought for equal rights locally and internationally did not sacrifice sweat, tears and very often their very lives, for us to still be living in the dark ages. Bob Marley said it best when he penned the words “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds”. This is one circumstance under which colour blindness is not only allowed but is certainly encouraged.
There is another type of colour blindness more closely related to the inherited form I spoke about earlier. In medical school, we were taught that we should take a history, do a physical examination to make an initial diagnosis or possible diagnoses, and then use relevant investigations to come up with a more conclusive diagnosis. I will dare to deviate from that training and make a diagnosis based solely on observation. The founding fathers of medicine, if they could, might be rolling in their graves as I persevere. If by now you have not guessed after reading my articles that I am fascinated by cars, allow me to say: I am fascinated by cars! I live towards one end of the island and I make a daily trek across several parishes to get to St Michael. Following on from that, I believe I have been able to collect sufficient data to come up with my diagnosis of a problem on our roads.
The prevalence of this diagnosis is high and those cases I have seen affect mostly males in like fashion to the inherited condition. It is not only seen with private vehicles but public vehicles as well, so perhaps this condition is contagious, which of course will need further scientific study. This disease is chronic and to date, there has not been even a hint of a cure. This condition is an automotive variant of the inherited red-green colour blindness.
Anyone afflicted with this malady displays the inability to distinguish between red and green traffic lights. As such, many remain stationary when the lights change to green, especially if reading a newspaper or typing that ‘necessary’ response to a juicy message on the mobile phones. The more popular symptom, however, seems to be a reflex action leading to the driver pressing suddenly on the accelerator and flying through a red light.
Nine times out of ten, both these scenarios are followed by a symphony of irate horns and curse words. To date, no brilliant scientist has found the cure for this automobile colour blindness although many have tried. The placement of cameras on traffic lights and officers of the traffic division of the Royal Barbados Police Force have not made a dent in the number of cases.
I throw out the challenge to you to embark on the tedious journey of creating a vaccine, tablet or behaviour-modifying entity to rid our roads of this potentially fatal condition. I admit to a degree of selfishness in my quest for a solution since I have to spend a significant portion of my day on these roads.
(Renee Boyce is a medical doctor, a wife, a mother and a Christian, who is committed to Barbados’ development. Email:[email protected])