One of the clichéd responses of ruling classes to the economic crises that have emerged out of the very contradictions of the economic system with which they identify is the obnoxious perspective that “one should never let a crisis go to waste”.
On one level this perspective carries with it the usual hubris of a class unable to concede the failure of its own system. On the other, it represents an intention to impose greater levels of “market discipline” and to demand even greater sacrifice on the groups who have no vested interest in the existing system, but are its principal victims.
Thus, in the context of the post-2008 economic challenges of Barbados, those who proudly declare the crisis as too good to waste are basically thumbing their noses at the poor and boasting of their plans to reduce the size of their workforces, discipline the trade unions, reduce the expectations of the public in the expected availability of social services earned by their taxes, and to generally shift the burden of adjustment from owners of capital to non-owners.
In other words, despite the severity of the crisis, the notion persists that the system is perfect, and where there are failures, they exist only because “we have not allowed them to work”.
It will be difficult to find a better example of the operationalising of the concept of “abuse of power”.
This perspective represents a stance of supreme denial, and indeed militates against any serious commitment by decision-makers to genuinely address the failures of the system.
One of the difficult situations confronting Barbados in the present however is that such denial exists not only from a class perspective, but from a country perspective as well. In much the same way that ruling classes avoid all self-introspection into the internal weaknesses of their preferred system, so has the country of Barbados failed to examine the extent to which elements of the “Barbados way” might have been responsible for the desperate confusion now emerging given the sharp and rapid collapse of the post-colonial order.
Reactionary readers will quickly read a call for reviewing the “Barbadian way” as justification for the ongoing onslaught against the social-democratic rights of the people.
However, what is being suggested here is the need for an examination of the extent to which the more conservative aspects of the Barbadian collective consciousness may be responsible for Barbados’ inability to ride the crisis.
For example, is the “Barbadian way” closing the country out from embracing regionalism in overcoming the current crisis of development? Are issues of race and class militating against a genuine shift in social relations and in overcoming exhausted options? Has the traditional political conservatism contributed to the prolongation of the crisis?
Unless such questions are addressed, the crisis will persist. Silence will not work.
• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, specializing in regional affairs.