Sunday, March 3, 2024

GET REAL: No-confidence culture


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IF A CALYPSONIAN does not bring a song this year, themed, “No Confidence”, then I have no confidence that social commentary can survive.

Raw material for social commentary is flowing more freely than tap water in these times. 

The way things have been going in my area, I can have no confidence that my water will be on when the day comes. But every day I can look forward to a shooting, controversy, conflict or confusion in the NATION newspaper.

There was the no-confidence motion brought by the Barbados Labour Party against Prime Minister Freundel Stuart. The same week, president of the National Union of Public Workers, Akanni McDowall, charged that there is a conspiracy to bring a no-confidence motion against him.

Those of us not involved in politics, may not be the subject of, nor bringing no-confidence motions, but we may still be moving with little confidence in one another.

The Ministry of Culture has introduced the Cultural Industries Bill as an expression of confidence in the arts to contribute to the GDP. However, talking to artists, you don’t get the sense that they have confidence the ministry understands the situation in the arts.

F.A.S. Entertainment recently revealed that they would be looking outside of Jamaica for performers to be featured at the Barbados Reggae Festival. Meanwhile, local reggae and dancehall artists continue to suffer from limited airplay on local radio stations when compared to their Jamaican counterparts. Despite the reported overwhelming response to some of the home-grown acts at recent events, there still seems to be no confidence in local artists.

On the flip side, Barbadian reggae and dancehall artists have long been criticised for having no confidence in their natural speech patterns, preferring to chant and sing like Jamaicans.

West Indies T20 captain Darren Sammy surely expressed no confidence in the West Indies Cricket Board during his victory speech at the recent World Cup. His sentiments were supported by the West Indies Cricket Legends. The Legends called for a dissolution of the board in line with the recommendation of a CARICOM review panel. They have also demanded that board president Dave Cameron step down.

The ill feelings towards Cameron stem from actions such as when he retweeted a fan’s expression of no confidence in batsman Chris Gayle which said: “Gayle goes . . . . Can’t buy a run. Let’s give him a retirement package.”

The WICB seems to be placing their confidence more and more in youngsters. In their defence, some members of the board have lashed back, saying that the old Legends are being used as political pawns, showing little confidence in the Legends’ abilities to think and act independently, at least on this issue.

Aside from economic benefits, arts and Sport have a big role to play in the confidence of a people.

A high-profile divide emerged in the area of race and history. At the Elsa Goveia Memorial Lecture, Sir Hilary Beckles showed no confidence in Dr Karl Watson’s ability to recognise and overcome our prevalent psychological tendency to assume the supremacy of whiteness. 

Dr Watson believes that Washington Franklin was the leader of the 1816 rebellion. Watson has confidence in the report of the House of Assembly at the time which names Franklin as the ringleader. The House of Assembly was made up of members of the white plantocracy, and Franklin himself, was half-white.

Earlier, Dr Watson had implied that he had no confidence in the research of Sir Hilary, which points to Bussa as the leader. He questioned Sir Hilary’s motives and those of the National Heroes Committee that chose Bussa as a National Hero.

In response, Sir Hilary, defended his confidence in the historical memory of the black population of the time, among other sources, which recalls the leadership of one “General Bussa”. He argued that the House of Assembly of the day would have preferred Franklin as the leader and not Bussa, because they had no interest or confidence, in seeing a black African as a legitimate challenge.

According to Sir Hilary, the Bussa Rebellion shook the confidence of the institution of slavery. It prompted one British military leader who fought against Bussa’s army in Barbados to speculate that slavery in the colonies could no longer be held, because, “if we can’t hold it here, we can’t hold it anywhere.” Such was the confidence in the subservience of Barbadian blacks at the time.

Sir Hilary went on to outline the brutal methods used by the planter class to destroy the emerging confidence of Barbadian blacks, which included random executions and public displays of dead bodies.

He draws a link between this history and a current lack of confidence throughout black Caribbean society. He says that, just as there is little confidence on the part of the public in the demand for reparations, Errol Barrow was faced with little public confidence in the call for independence, and many enslaved Africans would have doubted that emancipation would ever come.

Confidence can be hard to come by. We often do not even need hard evidence in order to feel fearful. To feel confident, however, we look for something to hold on to.

In today’s Barbados we are not so confident that the buses will come, that water will run, nor that our social services are secure.  It is easy to forget we have made it through worse. As we have seen, our sense of history is fuzzy.

With all this, the young people especially, may not see themselves as a link in a chain of history. Not seeing themselves as part of a progressive social train they can have no confidence in it. They get off. They may find no reason to not bring it down in an attempt to get up.

Our leaders, seemingly comfortable and confident in the foundation laid by their predecessors, either do not know how or are not interested in inspiring confidence.

Adrian Green is a creative communications specialist. Email


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