On the meeting with the US in Jamaica
One of my favourite sayings of all time is that the definition of madness is to continually do the same thing but expect, by some miracle, a different result.
CARICOM chairman, Prime Minister Mia Mottley, has categorized America’s hand picking individual countries of the grouping for talks as divisive. I view Jamaica’s response to the CARICOM Chair’s statement as simplistic and disingenuous. Whether America understands the symbolism of having such a meeting in Jamaica or not, certainly the Land of Wood and Water should.
The West Indian federation was thwarted by Jamaica following the 1961 referendum where Jamaicans expressed their wish to discontinue participation in the union. Thus, although sovereign countries are free to engage whoever they wish to bilaterally, signals of Jamaica’s historical defiance to Commonwealth Caribbean unity are reignited with meetings such as this one.
The legitimate question can also be asked as to what Jamaica surmises are the benefits of bilateral negotiations with America when so many of the issues that we have as CARICOM countries with America are singular and could benefit from collective discussion. America is not interested in bilateral relationships with the countries of the CARICOM grouping and they have signalled that to us covertly and overtly.
All of our passports are treated as one in terms of travel to America. Our opportunities to live and work in America are just as restricted for each of these territories and the use of bully tactics on various matters as America deems necessary is also not exclusive to any one territory. America, at times in its various foreign policy iterations, has always seemed to clearly state that it prefers to treat to the Caribbean as a single bloc. Given that historical position, it is clear to see, and further agree, with Mottley’s analysis of the Jamaica overture.
On the sea around us
There have been some crashing waves on various beaches across Barbados in recent days. The movements of the sea that encircles us has again got me thinking about the erosion that is occurring in some parts of Barbados and whether we have a comprehensive management plan for the sea.
I accept that we have just launched a ministry responsible for maritime affairs for the first time in the history of Barbados. Perhaps I can be accused of not giving enough time for the ministry to become fully functional, but I do not know how much time we have in the face of the quickly changing global environment. I feel as though the changes in the sea’s behaviour have caught our attention because they have impacted the west and south coast seas this time.
However, people who frequent the east coast of Barbados can speak of the significant erosion that has happened in areas such as Bath. The train line, which was quite some way inland, is now quite some way in the sea. Residents of Zores and surrounding districts speak of an entire pasture where they played cricket as children having been lost to the sea. I continue to ask whether we plan the development of the west and south coasts with the cause and effect clear. It seems as though we pay more attention to tackling erosion and concerns on the ‘gold’ coasts than other places.
On mental wellness and paying attention to mental health
I was happy to see DJ Puffy encouraging men especially, to change their perception about counselling and talking out their issues. I too believe that taking personal responsibility and trying to fix personal problems is a part of being a healthy person. Ironically though, a few hours after I saw that article, I learnt that the National Insurance Scheme no longer pays sickness benefits for the diagnosis of stress.
Many people in Barbados are under stress due to financial pressure, fractured family or workplace issues. Sick leave offers a release valve for individuals to either get away from their workplace stress or negotiate familial issues. I concede that perhaps people have abused the scheme but I think that removing this type of claim is counter productive to encouraging people to manage their mental wellness.
I hope we continue to move in a direction that encourages people to articulate when they are not alright. We need to ensure that we create the societal supports that enable people when they take the initiative to try to better themselves.
Marsha Hinds is the President of the National Organisation of Women.