The length of this article will constrain, to some extent, the efficacy with which my points are carried to your mind but I am sure you will be able to pick the sense and construct your own opinion in reply. For the sake of ourselves, in the memory of our ancestors and for the promise of tomorrow let us do a short but very needed preliminary inquiry into the nature of the Barbadian psyche.
I love my people but I detest some of their ways at times; especially that knack for holding the tongue in periods when it should be unleashed. It is this seemingly minor peeve that brings me to more widely question the extent to which we, though seemingly free in body, are, in reality, free in mind. I think, if only but for clarity in understanding what makes the Barbadian tick, we must ask questions like these.
We must ask. We must prod. We must debate. We must analyze and evaluate. It is only when we do these things that we can create for ourselves the lives that we truly want to live. I believe we have failed, if only because of time and circumstance, to undertake proper scrutiny of our lives. Consequently, the Barbadian in particular like many Caribbeans in general is wandering in a quandary mixed with sediments of self-denial, inferiority and superiority complexes, schizophrenia as well as economic, social, political, cultural and ultimately spiritual instability.
Firstly, we must distinguish the Barbadian from other Caribbeans; not for reasons of superiority or inferiority but simply because we, at this juncture, want to focus on the particular traits that make Barbadians, at an essential level, who they are. Unlike other Caribbeans who also have their own unique, inspiring and notable histories Barbadian history is universally one of development through consensus. There is a reason why, besides the Battle of Jamestown, few slave rebellions and the 1930s Riots, Barbados has been a sanctuary of peace throughout the centuries. This consensual state brings great admiration from regional and international leaders who laud The Idea of Barbados and challenge their people to create an idea of their own but is the Barbadian Ideal made in the Barbadian image?
It is at this point that I want to challenge the extent to which Barbadians are aware of the Barbadian Ideal. It seems to me that this ideal is more of an external construct by those who see Barbados as a bastion of hope but for the Barbadian this ideal is but a series of painful compromises made over time to appease those who would wilfully destroy any chances of a happy life for our people. The Barbadian way of life at this point, instead of being characterized as a people charting a path of their own choosing, may be better described as a people given limited liberty by past masters to choose their own path within already prescribed parameters.
I cement this claim by noting that I believe (yes a belief and not a ‘fact’) most Barbadians dead and present, regardless of political and ideological affiliation, if they have or have not, are fundamentally unhappy with the way Barbados since gaining Independence from Britain has developed. The people may be appeased by the garnishes such as the standard of living and strength of the dollar but at a personal level they must feel as though their truest potential is untapped, restraint, retarded and eroding.The Barbadian wants more but knows that in order for more to be had a great fight may have to be made with short-term and even long-term consequences reminiscent of previous projects of outright self-determination even if more subtly created in this new age of global diplomacy. It is with this in mind that I charge that the unhappy Barbadians, unable to truly act in their own right, appease the spiritual, universally felt but hardly ever spoken disquiet with the platitudes given them by the very people who constrict their souls.
Barbados is truly a model for the Caribbean because this country’s history shows others how to navigate waters that they do not own but this ideal must end; for though it created a good way of life where the people may enjoy the modern things it also created a people fettered to the whims of others. I caution those, however, who will take my argument to mean that Barbadians are outright slaves and should be shunned. Barbados’ history shows the resilience of those who were enslaved and their ability, knowing their positions and dispositions of power, to negotiate the harsh realities of life while creating their own space of living.
In short, I am grateful for the compromises which afford me this opportunity to want more but now I argue that the time for compromise is over because The More calls the soul to unchain itself from appeasement. My challenge to the Barbadian is to use the foundations laid by the sacrifices of personhood made in the past to construct a true Barbadiana.Though stagnant for so long, inherent in the Barbadian Ideal is a sense of action which must be re-kindled.What this means is that our tongues which were held in order to survive must be unleashed in order to prosper. Let the feet walk, the arms swing, the lungs fill with air and the voices bellow.