Independence message by the United Progressive Party
Happy Independence Day Barbados, from the United Progressive Party! We hope and pray for a day of peace and prosperity, happiness and hope, but most of all a day of honest, open reflection on who we are, where we are and where we must still go as a nation.
We are a proud people and we have a lot to celebrate and be thankful for. I have lived abroad and during my time away from home, I was always eager to return to contribute to the continued development of our country. Our country is one of the best places one could want to live in this world. We have maintained a relatively safe environment, and our citizens feel free to venture anywhere on these 166 square miles of land.
In our 52 years of self-governance, we have shown resilience and commitment to elevate the standard of living for all of our citizens; above, and beyond what we have inherited from the colonial government. We have shown superiority in our governance as compared to the former colonist. So, we should be proud. Remember, we walked off plantations just the other day, had centuries of torture and dependency, yet still we have achieved so much comparatively. We fought for our freedoms; we resisted the terror of our former captors, and we worked our way up to becoming independent.
Some will say that it was a strategic move by the colonist, to give the new majority natives some sense of power, while they maintained a stranglehold on the country, only allowing it to progress as they saw fit. One of the things they did was to give reparations to the plantation owners after slavery was abolished. The masters controlled most of the land, oversaw the political process and still created conditions that smacked of slavery.
So, Independence for us, despite the possible negative intentions of the colonizers, was pivotal. We began to prove to them and the world that we shall never be kept back from progress. We excelled under gruesome conditions; we rioted, formed unions, planned, strategized, built organizations and seized the opportunity on that 30th day of November 1966, to champion our future.
And here we are, with all of our challenges, all of our inherited deficiencies, staring history right in the face, ready to take on the next 52 years, bigger, bolder and better than ever. But it would be silly of us not to introspect, reflect, critique and re-purpose our vision for the future, in order to maximize the value of independence.
Celebrations are in order, so we say celebrate, remember the founding mothers and fathers of our nation. However, now more than ever, it’s essential to go back to nation building basics. After independence then comes nation building. The objective of nation building is to carve out a national identity, then use that identity to shape the direction of the country. The relationship between the state and the citizen forms a major portion of that identity.
The African Nation Rwanda, after its genocide, understood the importance of healing and nation building. Rwanda has emerged from being a country stricken by genocide, to become, in a short period, a nation worthy of admiration.
Our independence movement may have forged ahead the value in forgiveness for the wrongs, but very little has been done to address the legacy of slavery left with our citizens, which largely limits our human potential. The morbid history of enslavement and the impact of post traumatic slave syndrome permeate throughout the society. The medicine needed for identity recovery must be strategic. PTSS negatively affects the child and the adult, the homeless and the politician.
It is against this backdrop that the strategy for nation building must be properly institutionalized. Once we identify areas of low self-esteem, abuse, classism, racism, inequity and inequality, then the state should move swiftly to rectify them. These issues are deeply intertwined in how our society functions. These institutionalized disparities undermine the success of our nation. To nation build, we need a level playing field where no citizen is developmentally disadvantaged. Our new identity should seek to redress the traumas of our people as a priority. We have to understand how we have been impacted in all areas of human activity as a result of that historical trauma.
A new national identity will fuel the nation. It would power the economy, manage social interactions and give us a clear vision for the future. The leaders of our independence movement saw education as a vehicle to empower our people. However, with our identity crisis, the nation has become stagnated. A new national identity with a progressive people-powered movement will ensure that the average citizen feels included in that vision. The internalized concept of a Bajan should largely reflect joy, happiness and progressive thinking, with confidence that our leaders truly represent our best interest. This unfortunately is not the public sentiment and has put stumbling blocks in the way of a developing nation.
The concept of independence is difficult to fulfil when government and citizens are in a tug-a-war with each other, both hoping to win, but not knowing they are fighting for the same objectives. Who we are as a nation must be clearly articulated and synchronized, through the development and execution of public policy, and through the delivery of public services. Who we are as a nation is still a question that begs to be answered.
Where we are as a nation may cause the founders of our nation to shed a tear. Are we a 52-year-old baby still working our way towards maturity? What is most commonly spoken of is the economic challenge we face. Barbados is in a peculiar position where our debt status and management deficits over the last 52 years, have brought us in a head-on collision with the IMF extended fund program. Just as we have rushed into this IMF agreement, not disputing its necessity, we also rushed into development, without properly building our identity as a people.
Having walked off of plantations and again rushed into managing our own affairs, especially against the giants of developed nations, who sucked the life from our country to build their own, without reparations to compensate for their committed crimes, we made the mistake of not properly establishing that important identity and vision forward.
With the largest cabinet in history and the largest electoral win in political history, we are witnessing a national, political divide, continually fostered by partisan propaganda and manipulation of the electorate. This will only serve to weaken our national pride. Our debt to GDP far exceeds comfortable levels and our foreign currency is depleted. Our social services are in chaos and the public sector employees are being sacrificed to facilitate a rushed IMF loan agreement. The projected way forward is deeply scaring the population and public confidence in their elected officials continues to dwindle.
Even though we have expanded our democracy, which should be celebrated, welcoming more diverse voices into our governance model, we still struggle with our lack of political maturity. The gaps between the haves and the have-nots continue to widen while the contraction of the economy will cause smaller businesses to collapse. Where we are as a nation is somewhat dire unless we can once again produce visionary leadership to advance the rebirth of a nation. Where we are isn’t where we want to be.
Where we must go is back to the beginning. It’s called Sankofa, a West African philosophical concept that inspires one to go back to the past, be informed by it, then use the information accumulated to go forward. What we call Barbadian is a fusion of the best with that of the worst. We have to extract the best. We must remember our rich communal culture that we brought with us in captivity. That spirit dictated how we treated each other, how we celebrated our women and children, protected and cared for the elderly and empowered our men. We have to recapture the beauty of that culture and try desperately to erase the culture of our captors or at least suppress it. From that we will find our medicine, our respect for life, our tools for education and the gold dust from which economies are built.
Culture is the foundation and we have to rebuild and repair ours. Our passion for punching above our weight must be cautioned. We are fighting a losing battle. We have become fatigued and we will have to retrain and rethink our strategy. Our internal chi must be elevated. We have to rebuild our people. We have to reform our education, retrain our teachers, police and society at large, preparing for the new Barbadian.
The next 52 years must be of total reform and the reclamation of the total freedom and genius of our people. This is what we should do for the next 52, reach backward, learn from the past and go forward with wisdom.