Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today Inc.
Divorced from ethics, leadership is reduced to management and politics to mere technique. Barbadians often speak of Barbados as a law-abiding society.
In my opinion, we should, more importantly, be able to speak of Barbados as a country built on ethical principles.
A society can have many laws but without an ethical system in which its citizens are grounded these laws will not make the society a safe space.
According to Tacitus, the more numerous the laws the more corrupt the government. One can replace government with society.
The ethical principle in a democratic society should be understood and practised by those who are given the opportunity to govern and by all citizens.
Numerous news articles can be found worldwide of people in authority (usually politicians) being accused of impropriety, adamantly repeating, “I have done nothing wrong”, “I have broken no laws”. Yet to the average man it appears as though something has gone wrong in the actions of this person(s) at the centre of the allegation.
At these times the ethical and the legal issues need to be clearly discerned, indeed the action may not be illegal but unethical.
To my mind, many of our citizens may find it difficult to discern this difference as unfortunately, our educational system does not give our citizens a grounding in civics and ethics, not necessarily for formal qualifications but for life adjudications.
As stated by C S Lewis, “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather make a man a more clever beast”.
This question to my mind we as Barbadians should ask ourselves: “Should those in authority act only lawfully or also ethically?”
The distinction between acting lawfully and acting ethically is well summed up in this quote by Michael Stephenson: “Ethics is doing more than the law requires and less than the law allows”. There are many ethical theories but from deontological (Kantian) ethics simplified, one should act only if one believes that his/her actions should be undertaken by all other human beings.
Our elected representatives being in the public eye are looked upon by citizens (most importantly our youth) to set the country’s ethical standards. Unfortunately, many of our politicians from all political parties have failed in this duty over the years.
In my experience, many Barbadians tend to resignedly accept that this is expected and normal behaviour of those in power and this to my mind is regrettable.
This brings me to the incident which occurred on Good Friday in Deacons Road involving our Prime Minister and it has been debated on the various media outlets in Barbados and beyond.
The PM has argued that she has done nothing wrong and her supporters, including noted academics have agreed that she has done nothing wrong, broken no laws nor violated the Barbados constitution. Her critics have made the opposite arguments.
The question to my mind, in this case, is not one of the law but of ethics. The PM took a call from a citizen who was at the time involved in an ongoing incident with members of the Royal Barbados Police Force (it does not matter if we agree or disagree with the police actions).
The PM proceeded to ask a junior police officer questions (reportedly on a phone speaker) and at the conclusion of the questioning by the PM the police officer(s) left the scene without carrying out the actions which it appeared they had come to perform (reportedly being jeered by young people who were at the scene).
I would like to ask the PM and all Barbadians this question: “Is it now alright for anyone with whom the police force attempt to carry out what they consider lawful enforcement of Barbados’ laws, to call the PM, an MP or anyone with some authority and then that person in authority questions the police officer(s) regarding their actions while they are actively carrying out their duty? To my mind, there is only one answer to this question.
All Barbadians including the PM should answer this question and follow their conscience as to the right ethical actions to take regarding their answer.
Dr Peter Grimes, Manchester, UK