Barbados! Fifty Years of Independence

Barbados Flag

Barbados is the Gem of the Caribbean Sea! Well that is what various people and a few songs say. This year, Barbados and Barbadians from all around the world have the opportunity to celebrate fifty years of Independence from physical colonial rule. I say physical because many of must be aware by now that Barbados, like any other West Indian, Caribbean, non-North American, developing or post-colonial State, is controlled by external forces, powers and economic circumstances apparently far beyond its reach. Put aside the futility that is seemingly our reality alright? It is time to celebrate!

We have sun, we have sea, we have, oh yes we have sand: lots of sand. Fifty years of Independence and all that comes with such a time. Fifty years of gloriously filthy politics where in an island number fewer than three hundred thousand people we pit one section against another in political parties. For what? Apparently instead of making our futures brighter together our time is better spent squabbling over a land much larger than few other island territories and smaller than many many many other territories (not just countries) in the world. One other thing! We have sex but hush hush we are too hypocritical to admit what tourism largely entails.

There is no need to worry and every reason to rejoice for Barbados is the land of Calyp … well no that is Trinidad and Tobago or at least they lay the strongest claim. Maybe we are the land of Reggae and Dub? Well no that is Jamaica. We cannot even claim Reggaeton. Leave that alone. It belongs to Latin America a la Jamaica of course. No, no, no. I am not trying to put Barbados down at all. Of course not. We are the land that invented rum but let us leave that alone. If I get into that now I may have no idea when I would stop. We have Spouge. A music, a beat, a language we all but abandoned as we did its pioneer and our fellow Barbadian Mr. Jackie Opel. Surely, we will hear a bit of Spouge now that we are celebrating the big Five Zero.

Five-Nought! Yes, for fifty years are but a speck in the eye of so many others humans have existed but let us celebrate being adults now. Let us also celebrate all of the people who put us in this position save those who do not or did not belong to your ideological camp, was or is not the skin colour you prefer or whose ideas were just oh so far out there that you consider that person a downright fool. Yes. Celebrate. 

Poverty abounds and surely women, hard-working and industrious as they are must be feeling the pressures more than ever now. In this matrifocal society women head most households (let us not fool ourselves by thinking otherwise) yet we have men beating women at so many turns. Of course we cannot blame women for this predicament. We must blame the absent fathers and everybody else not in the child’s life. Curse me, hate me even for saying this but who raises a child matters less than how that child is raised. Children need love more than homes with nuclear families. I have always found the term nuclear family quite amusing. Sounds to me like something will explode. You know what? Blame no one. Responsibility need not be taken at all. Let us burry our heads in our glorious independent sand and wish reality away, away, away. 

Listen, I am not bashing women. Not at all. Another term I find amusing is testicular fortitude. The testicles, balls, nuts, whatever you want to call them are so fragile that such a term should be an oxymoron. Vaginal fortitude is the strength worthy of such acclaim. It should be obvious why but apparently not since that foolish term about male genitalia is still in vogue. With all of the women ever born to claim Barbados as home and only one female national hero? Alright. Whatever you say.

Who are you by the way? Who are the people who decide what, where, why, with whom and how things happen? Fifty years of Independence and not only must we still have to struggle against external forces (that is is only natural since there greedy humans abound) we must also deal with home grown oppressors using the rule of law to bind us. We must also deal with their supports hiding in the bushes intellectually and otherwise masterbating to the thoughts and wishes of their appointed leaders. What a waste of a people and opportunity.

Let us end this on a good note. We, Barbadians, have accomplished much in these fifty years. We have accomplished so much we can forget everything that ever happened before Independence. We are a proud people. We will be the best. Pride and Industry are our watchwords.  Hollow words now. The words our “leaders” often feed us like rotten porridge. We are too accustomed to drinking hollow words. Hollow words are all we have and all we will ever have until we fill them with action.

Time For Change?

Close-up of a clock showing the words "Time For Change". Shallow depth of field.

From time-to-time we often hear there is a need for change in the country. Someone calls in on a radio programme. Another person in your neighbourhood, maybe a friend, makes a comment about how the politicians are ‘wicked’ or ‘corrupt’. You know how it goes. Election time comes and the politicians begin campaigning with promises of ‘change’. Yet, somehow, after all of these calls and decisions made in hope of change things, today, seem so much like the same. 

From election cycle to election cycle in countries around the world the calls of change are made. Outside of election time, committees and organization, local, regional and international, are created with the purpose of making some change in some place in this world. Where is the change? 

I will list some questions for you. You can take the time to think about them when you have a chance. I have some responses but I will keep them to myself at least for now. Here they are:

  1. If the world is supposed to be such a loving place why is there so much poverty?
  2. If certain doctrines, religious and legal, label us all as created equal then why are we making a world that is not?
  3. Why is it that that in many parts of the world people have the right to live in poverty but are barred by lay from ending their lives?
  4. Is there really a way to end poverty?
  5. Is political correctness the way to conduct public discourse? Maybe there is room for the not-so-nice-talk.
  6. Are safe spaces necessary?
  7. Why is it important to have Black people represented at awards shows?
  8. Is atheism the answer? One may ask the answer to what?
  9. Do we need governments?
  10. What would the world look like without money?

It seems as though we have a lot of the wrong change in this world. People doing little things with little effect. Pocket change maybe?

The Caribbean Reality

European-Imperialism

Drawing from the colonial period, which only functionally ended with the British West Indies’ labour unrest in the 1930s, the West Indian reality is today one of systemic un-freedom due to the maintenance of the plantation society which perpetuates a plantation-like socio-economic structure. To believe that the end of colonialism-proper means the end of authoritarian governments and anti-democratic mechanisms such as criminal libel laws to control the media would be a mistake. One must understand that the Caribbean in general, and the West Indies in particular, are substantially defined by colonialism. Consequently, the Caribbean may be seen as a post-slavery civilization with a mirroring politico-economic structure.

The influence of Euro-American foreign policy, facilitated through international aid, dictates the Caribbean development agenda; limiting the extent to which the region exercises its right to self-determination. This situation dates back to independence of the then colonies; being preceded by the implosion of the West Indies Federation in 1962. Though popular sentiment may resist Euro-American policies which, inherently carry with them the refashioning of the Caribbean way of life, there is a tradition of compromise with international powers to facilitate local development. This explains why, for example, even though in many Caribbean countries while corporal punishment is a popular statutory mechanism for disciplining school children, the UNICEF’s call for its end was not vehemently rebuffed as imperialism; but instead compromise was made by establishing ‘child-friendly’ non-‘flogging’ schools.

The Caribbean understands its dependent disposition relative to more developed economies and uses diplomacy to safeguard its future. This inherently means compromise at the expense of sovereignty. The Caribbean way of life, like Latin America, has a fixation on peace and investment in our greatest, and in the case of countries like Barbados, our only abundant natural resource; its people. The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States’ (CELAC) declaration of our region as “a zone of peace”, and the exclusion of this hemisphere’s military and economic great powers, the USA and Canada, from its ranks at its establishment in 2011 are testimony to this fact. This concept of peace, created through mutual respect for culture and individual history guides the Caribbean, of which various Latin American and South American countries are geographically a part, in its quest for prosperity; however limited it may be. This exploration of the Euro-American Nexus’ relation to the Caribbean creates greater appreciation of the ensuing topic of Caribbean domestic policy.

Barbados proves the greatest case study for understanding Caribbean development philosophy and its inextricable link to education as evidenced by 14.27% (2009) of government expenditure allocated to that sector. Unlike Jamaica with an abundance of bauxite and Trinidad and Tobago controlling vast oil reserves, Barbados is without natural resources; circumstancing a people-centred society. Historically, Barbadian politics and economic initiatives were primarily constructed by the people’s needs. Consequently, profits derived were used for their benefit. With a size of 166 square miles and a population under 300 000, Barbados has over 70 and 20 primary and secondary schools respectively, leading to being among the top 5 literate countries at 100% in UNESCO world rankings.

Human development policy emphasis and the creation of the welfare state directly derived from colonialism and cannot be ignored. Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor designate of the University of The West Indies (UWI) and Chairman of the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) Committee On Reparatory Justice, in addressing the British Parliament in 2014 explains that Caribbean poverty is systemic because the British Parliament, “in 1833 determined that the 800,000 enslaved people in the Caribbean were worth, as chattel property, £47M [£3.892B Conservatively (2013)]” and in compensating slave owners for the loss of ‘property’, “provided the sum of £20M [1.656B (2013)] in grants”, while refusing compensation to freed Blacks. Compensation was denied and poverty institutionalized by way of British Emancipation Acts which gave Caribbean countries independence while holding that, “ ‘property’ cannot receive property compensation”.

Less than a century ago, Barbadian children attended school barefooted while pit-toilets and outdoor kitchens fuelled by firewood were commonplace. In fact, these conditions are but some of the reasons for the labour unrest earlier mentioned. This reality is only but a half-generation (25/2 years) removed from the general populace but various aspects are a mainstay in contemporary Caribbean life. Circumstances like mass child labour prompted Caribbean countries, to compromise with the economic (white planters) and political (black descendants of the enslaved as well as indentured servants) majorities in order to secure the universal right to education but it was Barbados that made it free up to tertiary level.

Contextualized by these maladies, one is dismayed by the Barbadian government’s decision in 2013 to limit the access to universal education. Until then Barbadians enjoyed, through heavy direct income taxation (20% to 35%) and indirect value-added taxation (17.5%) tax-payer subsidized education up to university level. The ruling party’s argument during the Fiscal Estimates Debate (2013) highlighted education as exponentially increasing government spending to uncontrollable levels; resulting in debt of student fees to UWI exceeding $100M BBD ($50M USD). In accordance with the ruling party’s solution students now pay tuition fees while the economic cost is tax-payer funded.

While this seems fair, understanding the Caribbean reality illustrated above, the payment of tuition fees is a barrier to social mobility for the average Caribbean person because Barbadians still pay heavy taxation rates in addition to this new barrier. What placed Barbados ahead of many Caribbean countries including the more historically powerful Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago and what makes Barbados’ achievement the Eastern Caribbean countries such as St. Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis is the rapid transformation of the socio-economic status of individuals unilaterally facilitated by way of ‘free’ education. Though great strides have been made, the reality remains, that systemic generational poverty bars many from being able to pay the tuition fees. Notwithstanding the assurance of loans being available, the impact of high cost of living induced by heavy taxation makes the loan repayment simply impossible.

The generational revolution is under threat!

Proud Cuba Highlights America’s Shame

RealTalk.BB - Cuba - America

The recent announcement by President Barack Obama of The United States of America (USA) that there will be a concerted effort to establish congenial relations between his country and “nemesis” Cuba is welcomed news but it simultaneously highlights the historical reality that the world has failed Democracy. We welcome this new push towards geo-political democracy after years of uni-polar totalitarianism brought about by the neo-liberal agenda still afoot. The Republic of Cuba deserves to be able to freely exercise its right to choose its own developmental path unencumbered by any other entity; especially those who lack the various capacities to understand the metamorphosis which took place during the Cuban Revolution.

The North American Federal Republic only has itself to blame for Cuba becoming the antithesis of everything that is “Amurka”. Lest we forget that Cuba, like Puerto Rico, at one  point, developed a protectorate relationship with the USA after the Spanish-American War. In relation to Cuba, as a protectorate, arguably there was even more starvation, physical oppression, economic exploitation, political manipulation and despotism during the Cuba-USA agreement than when Cuba was a Spanish colony. It was as though Cuba had merely changed ownership from one Mother Country to another. These are the conditions which led Cuba to a revolution with a national ethos underpinning it.

We must let history speak truth to power and leave the media-driven demented drivelling demagoguery for the sheep’s grazing. Contrary to popular misbelief, Cuba’s revolution was neither communist nor socialist in origin. It was a child of the political and economic enslavement which occurred under the USA-backed totalitarian regime of Fulgencio Batista who, acting as the metropole’s puppet, ensured that American interests were served by enabling the extraction of wealth using Cuban labour, the total monopoly of Cuban utilities by American companies, the theft of Cuban land from its people and the brutal slaughter of Anti-American activists and political dissenters. Are these not reasons for revolution? These things should make people question the reality in which they live.

Americans and Caribbeans often speak about Communist Cuba disparagingly but Communist Cuba is a result of the USA’s illegal embargo of Cuba. Without anywhere in this Hemisphere, including the rest of the Caribbean Region, to turn it was only logical for Cuba to seek refuge in the arms of another geo-political super-power; The Soviet Union which was communist. Castro, like Lenin did in his time, found communism to be a cement more binding  than national pride and used it to establish Cuba as a geo-political juggernaut fighting off the wrath of the leviathan that was and still is the USA. Summarily, this embargo which sought to cripple Cuba, forced what one may argue was an unintended consequence to occur.

Yes! The United States of America, to a large extent by parasitism and embargo, created the Cuba we see today.

Cuba and Haiti, despite what certain media may tell you, are shining Caribbean Pillars of excellence in terms of philosophical and ideological fortitude. The Cuban and Haitian Revolutions bring true meaning to the word Independence which Caribbean politicians and “leaders” bandy about like a sex toy to romance the masses and rape the mind.  The Haitian Revolution (1791–1804) established the First country of the Modern world to implement universal adult suffrage. Yes, Haiti, before Britain which granted limited suffrage based on property right and sex, France on sex and the USA on property rights, sex and race, granted universal adult suffrage to all Haitians without restriction. For winning its right to self-determination Haiti by economic circumstance was coerced into paying France for its freedom and Cuba paid the USA by way of suffering for decades under an embargo which retarded its economic growth. Yet, in spite of these obstacles, these two countries exist today and are making strides in developing in their own image much to the chagrin of world geo-political powers.

Cuba like Haiti, is a world symbol of determination and humanity’s ability to persevere even in the worst of times. For The United States of America, Cuba is a staining  record of its immature geo-politics and perversion of Democracy. The USA’s record on global democracy stands so far as a “one-size fits all” approach which we must know by now is a childish view of the world. Let us pray that the world, including the USA, uses the remaining time humanity has in this temporal realm to create a truly inclusive world where we learn from and with each other in order to grow and improve ourselves. The normalization of relations between The United States of America and Cuba shows that the time is ripe, as it always was and will be, for  a conscious revolution toward universal peace.