The yam souse mentality
People who don’t insure their houses expect Government to replace or repair them after a disaster.
According to Ann Walcott Nov 22, 2018), “Barbados had a brief 30 years of Independence between 1966 and 1998, after which we returned to colonisation. Only this time, we became colonies of the regional and international multinationals which have taken advantage of changes in legislation (called liberalisation) and taxation policies pushed by right-wing groups which have been adopted by the last three, now four, administrations”.
I’m not sure the regional and international colonial masters gave us as many as 30 years’ Independence. I recall the enthusiasm for our budding new nation in 1966 when even the doubters had to admit everything we did turned to gold. Sugar would soon reach its highest output ever, windfall profits and all. Cotton made a comeback. We exported yams.
Manufacturing was swinging, garment factories, furniture. Tourism was booming. We who played in the many bands could get hotel and dance work all over the island.
So how come we lost the plot? How could an island with picture-perfect fields producing food and products for export end up in bush and scrub? Why did our manufacturing fail? Why so many hotel sites abandoned? How could the unique North Point Surf Resort patronised by hundreds every Sunday fall into disuse? And why did it all fall apart so fast?
Let’s start with our mindset. When I was a boy growing up on the plantation, I would often hear the older workers say: “Well, if muh family don’t want me when I can’t work no more, I can go in the yam souse and relax muhself!” The “yam souse” (it was always so pronounced) apparently didn’t refuse anyone.
The trouble came, in my opinion, when politicians realised the sure way to re-election was by turning the whole island into a freeness “yam souse”. Bajans, who had an enviable reputation as hard workers in the Caribbean, Panama, England, Canada and America, were handed everything free or heavily subsidised – housing, water, education, bus fares, school meals, you name it.
People who don’t insure their houses expect Government to replace or repair them after a disaster. So too, do people who built houses in danger zones without planning permission. Politicians even want squatters to be accomodated and rewarded for their illegal occupation of land.
Despite crippling taxes on the productive, Government finances couldn’t stand the strain especially having to pay a public sector bloated with non-producing political appointees. So, we borrowed ourselves into a bottomless pit.
Then the colonisers realised that advertising and promoting western lifestyle as “developed” could enslave much more effectively than actual slavery. We’re as hooked on imported consumer gadgetry as is any other addict hooked on drugs. In the early days, many gathered to watch TV through the window of the one or two houses that had. Nowadays, TVS are so big you have to go over to your neighbour to watch your TV from his gallery.
The justice system is in shambles. One wonders if lawyers have a competition going on to see who can have the most murder accused out on bail before Christmas. Motor cycles roar through traffic on their back wheels but the police don’t seem to see. Bright white lights blind you at night but it seems nothing can be done about it.
Meanwhile, we’re becoming a fat, obese, unhealthy population spending millions on medical drugs to alleviate lifestylerelated illnesses but we lack the will to save ourselves.
This column is turning out so freaking negative it’s depressing even me. Surely, we have positives which can give us hope of making Barbados great again? Okay, no hurricanes lately. Thanks, Lord, for a great location. Haitians mashed up the place over increased fuel prices; the French are now doing likewise. Despite Ann Walcott’s fears over a “not so quiet rebellion”, it seems Bajans are holding strain for now.
Dr Tennyson Joseph seems to support the Rousseau opinion that “people who are unable to free themselves should be forced to be free”. Of course, Dr Tenn means “free” as defined by him. Thank God our Bajan senators stood with their Caribbean brethren in rejecting a CCJ ruling even though we weren’t privileged to reject that court itself. We still have spunk!