The 5th century Greek philosopher Zeno of Elea is credited with devising a set of philosophical problems known as Zeno’s paradoxes in support of Parmenides’ doctrine that despite what one’s senses say, the belief in plurality and change is mistaken, and motion is nothing but an illusion.
Parmenides, himself a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, explained in his The Way of Truth – part of his poem, On Nature – that change is impossible, and existence is timeless, uniform, necessary, and unchanging.
This is a concept that we would find unbelievable, even laughable in today’s world. We much prefer the philosophy of Heraclitus, also a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, that change is the only constant.
As part of his argument to counter the Parmenides at the time, Heraclitus wrote: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” The belief here is that the river is changing as it flows and you are changing.
Therefore, we agree that change is not only possible, but constant, why, then, do we so frequently resist change?
For example, why are we so umbilically wedded to a public transport system run by Government?
It is a discussion that we must have because in a small economy such as ours, at a time when the demands are great and resources are few, should the Government not get out of the public transport business altogether, and leave it to private bus companies to move people around?
The recent internal memo from Transport Board Chairman Gregory Nicholls to General Manager Felicia Sue stressing the need for a “leaner” agency emphasizes the problem that we face with maintaining such a social service.
The Board has fewer than 100 of its 277 buses on the road and is $172 million in debt. There appear to be no answers to the bleeding, yet our Governments have adopted a cravenly approach to the Transport Board, evidently based on political considerations.
In his email dated August 11, 2018, to Sue, a copy of which was obtained by Barbados TODAY, Nicholls left little doubt that it was the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that had demanded a leaner Board, along with a fare rise.
However, while the conversation was about a proposed organizational restructure, nowhere was there any reference to disbanding the board.
Is it really this difficult for us to survive without a Government bus service? The examples of our neighbours tell us not at all.
In St Lucia, for example, there is no government bus service. The transportation system is all private, with a national association, while government sets the fares and the routes. The situation is similar in virtually every other Caribbean country.
When the Transport Board was established in 1955, there might have been good reason to, as private concessionaires were having a hard time maintaining their bus fleets.
The situation was also different 63 years ago and priorities were different then.
The current conditions demand that things have to change, and change should not be a leaner Transport Board, it should be a disbanded Transport Board, with the millions of dollars saved going towards other services, such as higher pensions for the elderly so they can pay for transportation, improved roads and better policing of the sector, among others.
While it is true nearly 600 people will lose their jobs, Government can also use some of the millions saved to create opportunities for them to find employment elsewhere.
The fact is, in country as small as ours, when the private sector already transports the vast majority of passengers anyway, we do not need a money-guzzling, Government-run public transportation system.
This may seem unpalatable to some who would much prefer the status quo. But let’s think like Heraclitus for a second and accept that not only is change possible and constant, in this case it’s necessary.