Saturday, April 20, 2024

GET REAL: Message of the corned beef tale

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A CALLER ON one of the calling programmes a few months ago, told a chilling tale. 

We have no way of knowing whether the tale is true or not, but the very professional producers of the programme, whose fingers are known to be quick on the mute button, allowed it to be aired.  The veteran moderator engaged the caller with a respectful seriousness.  Even if the story is not true, those I’ve repeated it to do not find it hard to believe.  Sometimes there is as much truth in fiction as there is in news reporting.

The caller had the voice of someone who was well past the age for a BARP card.  He spoke in well-structured, standard English.  If the story were an untruth it was a well-rehearsed one. 

According to this gentleman, corned beef that had been rejected from several countries because it tested positive for an above the acceptable level of radiation, found its way onto the local market.

The alleged whistle-blower said that he instructed his close family members to stay away from that particular brand of corned beef, but told no one else.  He made this decision to protect his family from the possible ill effects of radiation poisoning. He also made the decision not to tell anyone else to protect family members who depended on him, from the possible ill effects of him losing his job.

It is now several years after the alleged event. The caller is now retired.  He said he now feels free to unburden himself from the past, and that was his stated reason for making the confession on the popular radio show.

The above story can currently be read as no more than an urban legend but it begs the question: Who can Barbadians trust?  Who is watching out for your interests? Would any such breach of public trust ever truly come to light in Barbados?  Will the public ever get a chance to cry: “Come out tings” to anything other than the rumoured bedroom business of politicians? Or are business and politics in Barbados as clean as a whistle, so much so that whistle-blowers would likely be full of hot air? 

Even if there are true tales to tell, the person with the intestinal fortitude to break ranks with a powerful organisation in Barbados and expose illicit activities would be a rare bird. 

Not enough

It is quite likely that their squawks would fall on the deaf ears of an apathetic and disenchanted public. They would need to have solid evidence to avoid a lawsuit in litigious jungle.  A paper trail would not be enough, though, in the court of public opinion.  To enchant a populace which does little reading, nothing less than cellphone footage or voice notes will do. Especially in the social media age. In a fast-food media environment, a whistle-blower may not be able to count on the media to latch on to the story and follow it through.  Investigative journalism is a risk and an expense. 

Those of us not in the inner circles of power are left with rumours, innuendo, assumptions and legendary tales.

Like the corned beef confessor, many persons might choose the immediate, close to home benefits of silence over long-term, broad-based benefits to a wider community.  It is not far-fetched to believe that many others would also allow the public to be poisoned, in order to protect their pay cheque and save themselves from the fall-out of falling out of the ranks.

When an individual turns on former allies it is often, not because they have chosen to fall out of formation.  It is often because they have been pushed.  Dr Maria Agard was critical of her former leader during the recent no-confidence motion. Because of her expulsion from the party, there will always be the question of how much of her criticism is valid and how much is sour grapes. Would she feel the same way if she were still a member of the party?  If she would, would anyone but her closest confidants know?

Remember, there was virtual silence after the news broke of an alleged planned coup within Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s Democratic Labour Party.

Maybe calling Crimestoppers is an option for those who are aware of political underhandedness or unsavoury business practices. Or maybe snitching is as frowned upon in politics and business as it is in some other communities.

The legendary corned beef confessor waited until he was retired and all the corned beef had been consumed before he exposed that can of worms.  He may have counterparts that will take their secrets to the grave.  There may be many of us who are sent to the grave by other radioactive secrets.

Meanwhile, by our own silence and passivity, we express immense faith, that the food on our supermarket shelves is safe, the water we cannot get from our pipes is pure, our vaccines do what they say they do, and the captains of politics and industry are steering the ship with our best interests at heart.

Adrian Green is a creative communications Specialis. Email Adriangreen14@gmail.com

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