Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.
by Ralph Jemmott
On Monday, January 16, while hosting Down to Brass Tacks, moderator David Ellis made an interesting comment. He said that he often asked himself whether in discussing today’s Barbados, he was being too critical, too prone to see the negatives in our society.
In recent times, I have wondered the same thing about my own patterns of thought on the said matter. No right-thinking person wants to be seen as merely a creature of grievance. Old age can bring on us a sense of disenchantment, a lot to look back on with some awareness of missteps and failure and, given the shortness of time, not much to which
one can look forward.
Beyond that, there is much in today’s world that can bring on feelings of disillusion. Objective realities can create ‘winters of discontent.’ Globally, there are struggling economies, the war in Ukraine with its mindless savagery, the now quite apparent effects of climate change, droughts, floods, forest fires, etc. Even the usually optimistic Fareed Zakaria described this year’s annual Davos Conference as ‘a gloom and doom’ one.
Closer home, there appears to be increasing crime, poverty, homelessness, deviance, and a diminishing sense of social discipline and order.
I subscribe to the English newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, and the stories coming out of Britain are mind-boggling. Not least of all is the state of the National Health Service (NHS). There is also rising violence in many of Britain’s larger cities.
In Britain, as in Barbados, there is rising inflation, particularly increased food, gas and electricity prices. An increasing number of persons are relying on charitable Food Banks. Many service providers are on strike.
In France, the people have again taken to the street. An English commentator has observed that the French have never gotten rid of the revolutionary temper that began in 1789. Apparently, in France there are always winters of discontent and Bastilles to be stormed.
Some of our own sources of discontent are genuine. Our road network is deteriorating. The concern is which roads are the worst and most deserving of attention. The quality and quality of our water supply is another concern.
These are both long-term issues and cannot be fixed overnight, although it might be difficult to convince the still suffering inhabitants of St. Lucy and St. Peter. However, the water problems in St. John and St. Joseph seem to have been reasonably resolved.
Violent crime must be a concern to all, but that is a more complex issue than most seem to realise. It is not one that can be solved by a youthful minister of State in any office of government.
As he ‘hit the ground running’, Mr. Corey Lane seems to have suffered a few bruises, at least one of which was self-inflicted. His statement, allegedly blaming the press for reporting incidents of crime, was unbecoming.
The newspapers only report crimes that actually occurred, they do not make up stories.
Reports of two small country shops being robbed showed another change in our social climate. One robbed shop keeper stated that in the future she would close shop around six o’clock. Before, small rural shops would be open until quite late to accommodate inhabitants of the area.
Some of us are concerned about the country’s indebtedness, about the possible burden we may leave for our children. Some are worried about the seemingly unending selling off of local business to foreign ownership and control.
As a career teacher, one thing that bothers me is the seeming decline in the behavioural cultures in our schools. A ‘good’ school is any school that maintains a sufficiently high standard of academic, behavioural, and sporting/cultural performance.
It reflects the kind of ethos that students internalise to their and society’s benefit. Not all schools can be expected to exhibit the same ethos, but that culture must not be allowed to fall below an acceptable standard.
Drug dealing, recurrent fighting, bullying, foul language, pilfering, and sexual indiscretion are not reflective of anything resembling the ‘good school.’
Years of classroom experience tell me that good education can only take place in that rectangular area called a classroom and is only possible if that environment is truly conducive to effective teaching and learning, both on the cognitive and affective levels. Anything that does not conduce to the efficacy of that environment does not conduce to the process we call ‘Education.’
Another source of our discontent must be what seems to be a growing political apathy within the country. Two 30-0 victories have seemingly destroyed the political sense of balance that used to characterise our politics.
The obvious failure or inability of the DLP to resuscitate itself leaves an intolerable void. Increasingly, we are seeing what looks like the formation of a cult of personality that is nought for our comfort. It is in Barbados’ best interest that it remains a viable, active, two-party democracy.
Given these circumstances, it is easy to become either cynical or apathetic and to look only to one’s own personal security to feel that we cannot change the world beyond our own doorsteps.
We are being told that whatever difficulties we face, we are all in this together, that we should stay the course. It is always good to appeal to the communitarian spirit, but it is difficult to convince people of these imperatives if it is felt that the invocations to unity and resilience are not accompanied by transparency and accountability. Otherwise, the exhortation can begin to sound remarkably hollow.
Ralph Jemmott is a respected retired educator.