The yam souse men­tal­ity

Daily Nation (Barbados) - - Opinion - Richard Hoad is a farmer and so­cial com­men­ta­tor. Email porkhoad

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!

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