Submitted by King Ja Ja
But if Barbados was a Bajan, it would explain a lot about the state of our national psyche. When approaching 50 years, a Bajan man or woman might reflect on his or her life […]
and think about how little time is left to make his or her mark.
If Barbados was a Bajan, she might recall how meek and naïve that first 10 years of her life was by 1976. Running and playing, her colonial-born parents lovingly shielded her from worry while trying to establish a legacy. When she stumbled, someone picked her up and dusted her off, but her scraped knees betrayed her adventurousness. She was unconsciously being nurtured to take the biggest exam of her life, the 11+. In fact, it might have seemed like the most important thing that she would ever do and when she was kicked up the ladder to secondary school, life would just be made easier because the hardest transition was finally over.
She was still unaware of the futility of the exercise and that her changing body would create the most difficult transition in life – looking in the mirror and daily transforming the image staring back at her into a picture of beauty and confidence – of acceptance and resilience (Am I too black? Am I too white? Am I beautiful? Is my hair too kinky? Is it too straight?). The already set exam in the midst of oil crises which would be one of the first global tests of Barbados’ economic resilience showing her vulnerability, but resilience. She added. Subtracted. Wrote a little something. She did not have to analyse, plan or problem solve for the future. But she triumphed (well in the eyes of her colonial parents) – maybe was even in the top 10 (no one can remember now – it was so long ago).
Everyone put her on a pedestal and believed she could succeed. She believed it herself, and a consciousness started to develop. She eventually grew out of her awkwardness and started to explore her identity in new ways and make the most of her education. Maybe she could become anything…
If Barbados was a Bajan at twenty, you could say he was bold – maybe even a bit cocky. But maybe even a heady mix between idealistic and confused. There was a lot of wealth around him – but he resisted trying to ‘roll’ with others who had come up with obvious advantages because of who they were and what they had. The advantaged ones. They stood tall – their shadows cast far behind them stretching deep into the past – so far and so long you could not even tell where their heads separated from their bodies. It was hard to excel in their shadows. They had cars, grand properties, business interests. He had none. He went off to university to get that paper – to do what his parents said he should do, maybe not quite what he wanted to do – but at this point who knew what that was? It had been drilled in him to succeed – to become something…
By the late 1990s, he was something – he had cars, grand properties and business interests. He had secured his own advantages for his children and pretty, intelligent wife – who had reconciled some sort of hybridized balance between acceptance and confidence but who was so exhausted striving to be everything…
He wanted more. Those with inherited advantages just kept moving beyond him. He was already leveraged to the hilt. That last overseas degree was expensive. The way too big house on the hill was expensive. The Mercedes put him in the hole. But still more was desired, but how? How could he get there? How could he finally get power over the advantaged ones? It was settled. He could run for power.
The next 10 years was spent accumulating – revolving credit – not only of his household, but the country’s economy. He was getting there. But where was ‘there’? Would he know it when he reached? Probably not. He didn’t care. The advantaged ones sought the trail of his desperation and the power he thought he had was just reversed. He soon was following their trail as they threw him crumbs, instead of helping eachother to read the map. He got to the top, and there was another mountain to go – and not only one mountain, but several – the IMF, World Bank, United Nations, the US, CARICOM, IDB – and #omg China was the mammoth on the horizon.
Beleaguered, he retreated to the comfort of his home on the hill he could not afford, with teenagers siphoning his pocket and draining his energy with their constant complaints and castigations of perceived deprivation. Exhaustion had overwhelmed his pretty wife in her high-powered job trying to keep up with the excesses of children, life and work. She was not happy with anything.
But where else could he escape to? Remember — Behind the hills were mountains. But then he thought, maybe he could dig a small cave in the foothills of those mountains – maybe even in a den called Miami. No one would know. He could fly there and stash away a little happiness for himself and if there was some left over after the flashy SUV rentals, condos and stripbars, he might consider leaving it for his ungrateful children – but probably not his wife.
By 2010, the mountains eroded, greed was excavated and exposed, unpaid bills were landfilled there. Concrete edifices littered the landscape. The sewage sloshed beneath them. The advantaged ones did not care. They could import water for themselves and their foreign guests while everyone else pumped out and consumed their own impurity. The debt mounted. The cave just kept receding into nothingness. He would just get lost trying to find his way out.
If Barbados was a Bajan at 49, he would remember a life of promise – of hard work spent taking exams – of being tested. He would ask himself, is this what a mid-life crisis is? He already had the women and the cars. He would reflect on the fact that nothing in this land is actually his. It belongs to banks, Trinidad and the advantaged ones.
His big empty obzocky house on the hill looks unfinished with the cracks in the foundation starting to show. His wife has a perpetual smile for everyone else outside, but a turned down frown for him inside. The children don’t complain anymore. They don’t speak. They like silence. They spend their days plugging into social media when someone should just take the plug out. They are studying away. They will probably live there. They have graduated to sending their expenses by Whatsapp and he opens the mobile banking app to transfer money from his soaring credit line to them. He doesn’t even tell them that he did. He does not expect a thank you.
At forty-nine years, Barbados is at a crossroads – can it emerge from this mountain of debt while trying to salvage its future? If Barbados was a Bajan, he can’t remember making his contributions to the NIS. He can’t remember all of the concessions that he gave away or how much they amounted to. Was that even investment? Or was it a clever robbery? He can’t remember. What is he going to do? Is there a future to invest in now? Who will take care of him when he starts to leak everywhere – when he forgets his name – when he can no longer find his home?
These are the questions we have to face as we approach the beginning of 50 years of Independence next year. If Barbados was a Bajan like you, what would you want for your future and how could you build on your achievements while translating the hard lessons of the past into prosperity not only for yourself, but also for all of Barbados in the future. But, on the other hand, you might also ask yourself, will I just stand still and continue to do nothing?…