“A national, learned helplessness”
Barbados – as we all know – is suffering from a dearth of national political leadership, and is currently in a state of crisis and great peril. But the good news is that we are beginning to see positive signs which suggest that the “fight-back” to save and restore Barbados has begun!
These recent positive and hopeful signs of a national “fight-back” consist of such phenomena as:-
(1) the new young leaders that have come to the fore in the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), and the renewed spirit of courage and activism that the Trade Union Movement has begun to exhibit;
(2) the courageous and patriotic Budget reply speech that Opposition leader Mia Mottley recently delivered in the House of Assembly;
(3) the effort recently undertaken by such elder patriots as Sir Henry Forde, Ian Archer, Sir Woodville Marshall, Sir Stephen Emptage and Peter Laurie to propose and design a system of “People’s Initiatives” that would permit the citizens of Barbados to put forward proposals for new pieces of legislation and for changes to the Constitution;
(4) the new effort that is underway to bring together the forces of consciousness and progressive thought in Barbados to address many of the centuries-old problems of Barbadians of African Descent under the unifying banner of the recently proclaimed “United Nations International Decade For People of African Descent”;
(5) the initiatives that have been embarked upon by such notable citizens as Ras Simba, Hal Martin, Onkphra Wells, John Howell, David Denny and others to launch young Barbadians into independent business and artistic activity via such new formations as the African Heritage Foundation and the Pan-African Coalition of Organizations (PACO);
(6) the concerted effort that is now being made by this writer and other citizens such as Bobby Clarke and Muhamad Nassar to expose and put an end to the still existing old colonial practice of conferring outrageously privileged taxpayer-funded Government contracts on a clique of elite Barbadian business-people; and
(7) the admirable initiative undertaken by Messrs Andrew Bynoe and Patrick Frost to highlight and tackle the corrupt practice of “vote buying” that is now routinely engaged in by our Barbadian political class.
What makes these recent developments so encouraging is that they have emerged in a Barbados that has been through a virtually unrelieved ten year period of depression, disappointment and disenchantment, courtesy of a highly deficient and defective national political leadership.
If we go back to the last three years of Mr Owen Arthur’s 2004 to 2008 governmental administration, we will recall that we were saddled with a highly dysfunctional Government that deflated and depressed our nation.
But if we thought that the latter stage of Mr Arthur’s reign was bad, worse was to come with the Democratic Labour Party’s ascension to power in 2008! Under both late Prime Minister David Thompson and current Prime Minister Freundel Stuart our country has been saddled with a pathetic “do little” Government that has preached a message of national helplessness to the people of Barbados over the entire period that they have been in office.
For seven long years now all we have heard from this Democratic Labour Party administration is that our country is in the grip of an international recession and that there is virtually nothing that we, as a country, can do about it. And so, armed with this dispiriting and defeatist dogma, Prime Minister Stuart and his cabal of Ministers have been content to preside over a gradually sinking and decaying Barbados, with nary a word, idea or proposal of positive or inspiring endeavour being proferred by them to the nation.
Thus, for some ten long years now our deficient and dysfunctional political leaders have generated a miasma of “learned helplessness” that has settled over our nation and stifled it.
But the time has now come for us – the citizens of Barbados – to bestir ourselves and dispel that negative miasma!
I would therefore like, on behalf of the people of Barbados, to tell Prime Minister Stuart that the people of Barbados have never been a defeatist “do-nothing” people! Rather, our history has shown us that whenever the people of Barbados have been faced with calamity or crisis they have always been able to come to grips with the situation and to apply their energy, native ingenuity and creativity to overcome the crisis and move forward.
And so, the biggest problem we face in Barbados today is not any “international recession”, but rather, an uninspiring and unenterprising Governmental administration!
We Barbadians should therefore be encouraged by the recent signs of a renewed national spirit in the labour movement, in our Opposition Leader, in our community activists, and in patriotic elements within our civil society.
We – the citizens of Barbados – need to nurture this new found spirit, and find a way to get this dispiriting and dysfunctional Governmental administration off of our backs, and to put in place a new administration that is capable of inspiring the nation, unleashing the pent up energy of our civil society, and collaborating with both our Labour Movement and our business community.
This is the time for a new governmental administration that is capable of thinking and acting outside of the proverbial box– an administration that, for example, would appreciate the need, in a period of economic stagnation, for every Government Ministry to be mandated to identify and pursue at least one concrete developmental project that can add new economic value to our nation!
We must aim for a new development – focused Government that could rise to the challenge of collaborating and partnering with the private sector to ensure that all national assets that possess the potential to earn foreign exchange are developed and utilized to the fullest extent.
We must also aim for a new labour – respecting Governmental administration that could take the trade unions into their confidence, and genuinely consult and collaborate with the trade unions to sensibly restructure the public sector and the statutory corporations.
And what about the many ways in which a new labour oriented Governmental administration could empower and facilitate the credit unions, cooperatives, trade unions and other working-class and community based organizations to develop a new “People’s Sector” of the economy? Or to develop a national “Employee Share Ownership Programme” that would permit Barbadian workers to share in the ownership of the businesses that they work for and help to develop.
There are many, many ways in which Barbados could and should be moving forward! But before any of this can or will happen we must first throw off the dead weight that is holding us down.
Time to fight back and move forward Barbados!
DAVID A. COMISSIONG
Clement Payne Movement