In the recent ‘Season of Emancipation’ we are called upon to reflect… on – our choice? So let me call forth reflections of my own – some personal, some general.
For instance, those of us who attended the Barbados Academy (last location was the corner of Country Road and Bank Hall) – perhaps one day called “One Academy Place” – the Skipper and his belt shall always be a lasting memory no matter what part of the world we live in or what profession we practised, and they have been myriad.
For those of us who joined the scout movement, as I did at another school, there may be many special memories such as in St. Vincent where we climbed the Soufriere and the more proficient swam in the crater lake; we also visited Young Island and Bequia. Later, while in Trinidad, we were part of the Federation celebrations and also visited the Pitch Lake and an oil refinery.
In Barbados, we carried out a number of expeditions in Coles Cave and made sufficient observations which allowed the then Scout Master, Ralph Mann, to create a map of the explored portion. It is unfortunate that he gave the map to the local oil company instead of making it part of the history of that scout troop. I remained in scouting for decades helping where I was asked.
In broadcasting, today’s radio news and production staff would probably never embrace the thought, far less the action of having to produce “Year in Review” on December 31 when the station had only just begun to broadcast December 15 of that year. We just did it.
Today’s television news readers could not imagine having to rehearse the news, in the back of a speeding van – Black Rock to Sturges – driven by Jimmy, only by the illumination of a single courtesy bulb.
After the Performing Rights Society and the Caribbean Copyright Centre put money into the first two Caribbean Song Festivals at the request of the then Secretary General (SG) of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU), did the members, through their managers, ever latch on to that SG’s vision of making available for sale the live recordings – sound and video – of the Festival?
Then again imagine being the only anchor – radio and television – for General Election results. Not likely today.
And so it (time) goes.
Part of our current annual emancipation celebrations begin at the Emancipation statue. When some people began to call it Bussa, I spoke to Karl Broodhagen, the sculptor, and asked him if he approved. He replied that he was commissioned to produce an emancipation statue but we could call it what we wished.
Since then our historians have given Bussa several officer field promotions, so much so, that they now refer to him as General Bussa. Far be it from me to argue with such distinguished colleagues. Am I to understand, however, that one of the principal reasons for the conferment of high office was the fact that his name had been noised abroad in the village prior to the 1816 uprising? One would have thought that such a secret undertaking might have required fidelity to stealth, not the broadcasting of plans so that all and sundry knew at least one person who would be involved. Was he just blabber-mouth?
It also puzzles me that the “General” somehow got other people of colour to go along with his plans even though history suggests that a black man could hardly persuade many of different complexion to ‘move with the times,’ even up to the era of our distinguished National Hero, the Right Excellent Sir Grantley Adams in the 1940s and 50s. So there must have been some unknown ‘Bussa magic’ since he was hardly free to roam the island organizing. Yet, I am only reflecting not contradicting.
Reflecting too on a fish story (not the Bussa story) told to me several years ago at Bathsheba about the huge fish which they could not catch, but as I recall they named ‘Apsee.’ They did not spell it for me and I have no inclination to spin that tale into an early prophecy of today’s computer apps, but rather, I hope some relative of those fishermen might confirm that story. What is a fact, however, is that Tent Bay has been decimated beyond recognition by the relentless seas since the “experts” decided, against local knowledge, to widen the entrance to the Bay. I remember there used to be a beach there where boats could be drawn up and where I once helped to beach a fishing boat.
We can also reflect on the fact that there was a time when many people grew flowers, on even a small patch in front of their homes. Remember also how people kept slipper drains in front of their property clean. Now, the weed-wacker reduces the grass to fine bits which is then swept along the gutter with a fan rake. Result? Grass eventually grows in the same gutter and over time it blocks the free flow of water.
Perhaps on the same side of that coin in the past we used to ‘throw it away.’ What we did not want we threw away, often in what we perceived as the nearest point for disposal. As scouts, when camping, we would ‘burn, bash and bury’ our waste. Today we realize proper disposal is critical; we can no longer ‘throw it away.’ Indeed it is my belief that there is one simple thing that would bring a smile to every Barbadian and every visitor if we did just that one thing – stop littering and illegal dumping.
Yes, if we stopped littering and illegal dumping Barbados would be on the way to again becoming one of the best places in the world to live and visit. We would also need to remove ALL derelict vehicles, drain oils for incineration then crush for export recycling. Every vehicle so removed would have its engine and chassis number noted. The service would be free to the person who has authority to so dispose of the derelict. Household appliances and electronics would also be removed, but for a fee. The company that would be exporting the trash would be free to negotiate the best price with the company willing to buy.
We would also need to remove ALL derelict houses. Any valuables found inside before demolition and removal would be tagged and stored for a period of time. The owner of the property would be notified of the time span for storage prior to disposal. Monies made would be held by the Central Bank for a generation.
Keeping the country clean may well mean that we have to build an incinerator. I recall that many years ago we sent a team to visit various cities to see what might be the best possible incinerator fit for a country our size. Where is that report?
Let us also reflect on the fact that we once had a public transport service that was the envy of the rest of the region. I wonder who would take responsibility for degrading that service, whether by over staffing from a certain constituency and/or by also giving out private licences. We have never recovered. Clean country, reliable transport – all part of our emancipation?
Education and communication go hand in glove. Remember the transistor radio was to put information into the hands of, well at least in the ears of, all who would use that information to move forward, particularly the farmers and other producers. Egalitarian! Huh! Fast forward to the mighty computer app, available today on cell phone, laptop and desktop. The be all and end all? The purpose is to force us all into a single file in the use of the technology.
That ‘tour de force or force de credit card’ has not taken into account our culture where we are more comfortable in that single file to pay our bills, check our bank balances, make queries of the tellers and if necessary the supervisor or the manager, in person. And it is also in our culture to resist paying a credit card interest rate of 28 per cent for using our own money. Is the app removing the independence of individuals who are not computer / smart phone savvy and/or who prefer not to have to ask a third person to ‘get into their business’ especially banking and bill paying? Yes, eventually most of the population may be somewhat comfortable with the use of computer connections but maybe not all.
Yes, we can give the computer any number of voice commands, but can we ask it to go next door and ask the neighbour to – ‘Lend muh de shilling oil cause the pain in muh hip come back?’ Will the computer app lead, not only to apparent isolation one neighbour from another, but to actual isolation where we only know our neighbours by vehicle registration numbers? Indeed, they may not even be on our WhatsApp or other messaging services, so we never ever ‘talk.’
I wonder what will happen when we begin to register the vehicle and not the owner – where a vehicle has the same registration number for the life of that vehicle as happens in other countries.
In all of this we look to our education system to provide people who can offer us solutions not yet thought or heard of. When we reflect on the fact that class rooms have been virtually the same for more than a hundred years, and indeed some of them in need of refurbishment may look and feel like that, is that progressive?
What I am getting at is that the talk of a change of curriculum needs to be matched by the design of any new school. For instance, if there are a number of students at different age levels who realize that a spoken foreign language will be useful for a career decision or to explore the possibility of a future career, will a student who is now at what we would call fifth form level have to sit in the class with first formers who are also starting to learn the same foreign language? How do we accommodate flexibility in learning? Will schools be built with large covered open spaces so that a tutorial, by say Babbel, can be provided to large numbers at different levels, each student with their own laptop, headphone and microphone? Open space, because closed may present a cacophony rather than a learning environment.
As we reflect on where we have been in education, where we are now and where we want to be, will all schools, say in ten years or even less, be able to provide more flexible learning environments which could include distance learning? This might entail a teacher facilitating a subject matter such as Geography or Physics across a number of schools at the same time. Discipline would be the responsibility of the recipient school.
And so it is. Does reflection brings elucidation? Perhaps.