Tuesday, April 23, 2024

WILD COOT: Still halfway up


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There is a big difference between what happened in November 1966 and what happened on Thursday, September 18, 2014 up north.

“Supposing” instead of leading a delegation to solicit Independence, the father of our nation had been on a journey to reaffirm strong cohabitation with our colonists. After all, they had nailed the wooden cross at Holetown to the nearest tree, and claimed our beautiful and bounteous island. Do you believe that we would have succeeded in continuing to be part of that once vast empire? Our people had fought the great fights of 1914 and 1938 and our children were singing Rule Britannia.

Indeed, many of the British elite still held plantation domain in our fair island. Our systems – Westminster, legal and economic – were modelled on the Mother Country. We were still producing the sweet sugar and making companies and families in Britain rich. What were we thinking of that would have made Independence a richer legacy for us and for our children? (Professor Welch would perhaps say, the struggle between Assembly and Crown).

We were no longer slaves and the door to emigration was not closed. Did we not have it all? But we wanted to be self-determining; to rule our own destiny. And where has it got us? Creditors knocking at our doors, hardly able to tend our sick, school our children or fix our roads while taxes gouge out the eyes of the citizens only to pay down a mountain of debt that was now not structured on any economic benefits save to prosper a few pensions.

Now we are reduced to beggars, while Trinidadian and Canadian companies suck our life and blood (hendiadys).

We go cap in hand to claim an ephemeral reparation. Our impassioned plea, impressive as it was, will fall on deaf ears. The British will claim that they were not the only ones to inflict rape, plunder and mayhem, and in any case it was you who wanted Independence, and it was you who made your situation worse. What were you thinking when you proclaimed that a society maxed out on an economy?

You have nothing to offer us now, not even 10 000 tonnes of expensive sugar.

Just look at how our prime minister fought to retain our beloved Scotland after 300 years of cohabitation. We would have offered them gold, frankincense and myrrh. For us, separation would have been like a dagger under the fifth rib if Scotland had seceded with its oil and bagpipes in our hour of need when even our own people head the beheading of our own people.

We have lost our Empire. We once owned the United States, Australia, Canada, India, Indonesia, parts of China, parts of South America and nearly the whole of the Caribbean. Sparrow puts it nicely – “once a mighty power”. He was right when he spoke of London Bridge is falling down. Our once mighty Empire has fallen apart like that of previous empires. You even see how we fought to retain our little Falklands. It is sad, and to lose Scotland would have stabbed us in our heart.

Perhaps we are paying for our many sins of the past. Perhaps we had no right to transport thousands of black people from a land where they had mostly peace and a structured management and culture, filled their head with a confusing mumbo-jumbo doctrine, and left them permanently brainwashed and senseless. No wonder they see reparation and religion as a way out.

Maybe the proliferation of worship that you thought would bring order to the society has been taken too liberally, and now it is out of hand. Maybe we are accustomed to having others think for us and our effort in 1966 was an illusion, a mirage, a hope longed for by a few thinkers, but that the conception of which has been misinterpreted.

Scotland did the right thing. You people in Barbados must listen to our ambassador. Stop making dirty jokes about LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights, the most she can offer at this time.

• Harry Russell is a banker.


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