Sunday, April 14, 2024

BC’S BDOS – Hang on

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THE WEEKEND’S NEWS seemed Trinidadian: six dead in a fire deliberately set as part of a violent robbery. In Port-of-Spain at the time myself, I gave it short shrift and no credence. “That don’t happen in Barbados.”
“But it did,” my pardner insisted. “I know you’re an apologist for them Bajans, but you really think Barbados is so very different from Trinidad? Or Jamaica? Or Guyana?”
The territorial similarity my friend discerned deepened with the Bajan reaction, same as the Trini one, the Grenadian one, same as it ever was: first the wave of prayerfulness; and then, hot on its heels, the vitriolic demands for hanging.
Now I don’t get the prayer part; it’s not like God can order an extra police patrol in the City, and it won’t be a wondrous act of God, but hardnosed police professionalism, that catches the criminals responsible for this heinous and all other common or garden crime.
The bloodlust, though, I follow. It has always been so. There is no act of violence West Indians can’t fix by applying more violence. If “they” throw a firebomb and murder six, “we” throw a tantrum and hang six dozen. Once “they” understand “we” mean business, “they” will behave.
Violence has always worked well enough for some here. A bad slave runs away, you cut off one foot. If he runs away again – really “hops away’”, I guess – you cut off the other foot: he won’t learn not to run away, so you have to stop him from running altogether. The simple social truth is, the more repressed a society is, the more order it enjoys.
When we were all repressed, we had no problem, apparently. (Well, I supposed “they” repressed “us” back in those bad old days but don’t think about minor details like that.)
Difficulties must arise when former slave colonies set out to assume the responsibility and assert the liberty of citizens. Anyone, any place, can follow orders. It takes a nation to find its own way.
Many of us here feel sure the Caribbean is one of the best places in the world to live; nearly every Bajan will tell you Barbados is the best, bar none. What makes it so? Is it this important order that can only be preserved by popping necks? The slave-owners of old on this very rock enjoyed the same security and order Bajans love today.
In the heat, and the hurt of moments as savage as what we wish never happened two Fridays ago, people react emotionally, and shoot from the lip, as it were. But we need to think before we talk.
Hanging people would make Barbados a more, not a less, violent place. What has made Caribbean people so special is that, in the face of the most barbarous treatment that went on for so very long, we have never once lost our own humanity. By all means catch and punish wicked men; but let us try to step away from the violence that has not stopped for 400 years, and works against us and our very spirit.
Let us remember, when things are bad, that it was our own good hearts, and not the whip, that formed anything we could love on these rocks.
• BC Pires will be stoned all the way to the gallows.

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