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By Ralph Jemmott
It is not a good thing to find oneself becoming increasingly cynical as one grows old, but it happens, given the state of a world that even the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calls ‘unhinged’.
A BBC commentator speaking of the ‘New World Order’ contended that there is no ‘order’ in the world. He reflected on the war in Ukraine, the tensions between the United States and China over Taiwan and the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. This was before the present horrors of the crisis in the Gaza Strip and the real fear of the possibility of its escalation if the Iranian-backed Hezbollah gets involved. There is a lot to be cynical about the world we inhabit.
There are lines from the 1974 movie The Tamarind Seed, much of which was filmed in Barbados at the Paradise Beach Club and on the East Coast. Omar Sharif plays a Russian diplomat and Julie Andrews a Secretary in British security in London. They are both vacationing in Barbados when they meet. He confesses to her that he is becoming disenchanted with the Socialist ideal. His words represent the height of cynicism. He says: “Do not believe anything you are told. Do not trust anyone, but believe that any person is capable of doing just about anything.”
The prevailing notion of policy change in Barbados is one of transformation, a concept that the government wants Barbadians to buy into since “we are all in this together”, “all hands are needed on deck”, “many hands make light work”, and the “Government can’t do it all”. For example, the Barbadian education system will not be “reformed”; it is to be “transformed” as collectively we “go for the gold”. The New Republic is supposed to represent a significant departure from the colonial past that after nearly 60 years of independence was apparently still keeping us in thrall. We, whoever we are, have allowed the colonisers to win, or so we are told.
Transformation, one supposes, is a good thing, supposing that its results are positive, but it must be perceived and promoted not just as a set of buzzwords and pious self-serving platitudes aimed at convincing the unthinking and the untutored. The prime minister tells us that we are on a journey and she wants us all to come on board. Her responsibility, she says, is “to secure the victory”. But beyond the facile rhetoric, one is not sure precisely what the endgame is. We are binding a partnership with households and communities, she says, but still, there is a lack of transparency as much remains hidden in the shadows.
This notion of securing a victory seems to ignore many of the ongoing existential realities that we face, none of which are easy solutions. Indiscipline on our roads, rampant drug use by our youth, persistent gun crime, increasing homelessness and poverty within sections of our population, and a struggling economy buffeted by difficult exogenous forces. What would incline us to believe that a victory is assured or assurable?
A number of people have bought into the transformation notion. Let us hope that this is out of a conscious recognition and understanding of the idea and not just on hitching their wagons to a star that is seemingly on the rise. Those who remain sceptical and maybe cynical are now being described as “naysayers” if they show any reluctance to blindly follow the leader.
One last thing. If our prime minister is in fact seeking the UN Secretary-General post in January 2027, will she be around to see the journey on which we have embarked to its very end? Certainly, as our Chief Naval Officer, she would not want to jump ship before we reach a safe port sometime around the expected arrival date of 2030. Then, presumably, we could all sing the funeral hymn, “The strife is o’er, the battle won.”
Ralph Jemmott is a retired educator.