Extracted from Open Letter to the Prime Minister: The People’s Price Tag on a Republic posted by flyonthewall.
Barbadians love their biblical stories and heroes, and they are adept at finding parallels in their own time. The story that resonates most strongly for black Barbadians, as indeed it has done for black Christians everywhere, is the freeing of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. It is not by coincidence that Grantley Adams was called the “Black Moses”.
But as we know, while Moses led his people out of Egypt, it was not his destiny to take them into the Promised Land. That responsibility – that privilege – would fall to Joshua. It would be Joshua whose army defeated the Canaanites; it would be he who would blow his horn to blast the walls of Jericho and, one by one, also bring down the other citadels of Canaan.
In 1966, there were many Barbadians who saw Errol Barrow as Joshua and were eager for the sound of his horn. The citadels would fall and the Canaanites would be routed, and within the context of Barbados at that time it’s not hard to figure out who the “Canaanites” were.
Errol Barrow shunned that role and we should all thank him for it. Had he embraced it, Barbados today would be another bankrupt experiment in democracy, a dysfunctional little rock in the Atlantic. He left the “Canaanites” in place in their citadels (i.e. White-run commercial enterprises) and set out to build a nation that would accommodate them.
I believe he knew that, in time, there would be more Israelites inside the citadels than Canaanites. What is more, they would build their own. Besides, he needed those White-run commercial enterprises – those citadels – to function well to help fund the vision he had for Barbados.
And Barrow was very adept at drawing on the talents and experience of those White business leaders. He knew that these men, despite their colour, would help him build a new Barbados. He asked them to serve and they did. What is more, they did it for free.
As I see it, Barrow chose the path of evolution rather than revolution, even though he knew it would be a far more gradual process than many wished it to be. And he made that path attractive by paving it with education and making it smoother to travel on. Across the Atlantic, in Africa, other leaders in newly independent countries chose differently.
There, a plethora of highly destructive “Joshuas” held Africa back for decades. Fifty years on, there is hardly a country on that continent in which democracy is anything but a thin coat of varnish.
Errol Barrow wanted to build a more equitable society but not by fire. What many people don’t appreciate is that, in the social hierarchy of Barbados – at least the Black hierarchy – he was an aristocrat. And aristocrats tend to value rather than despise order and stability.
He was an international thinker, extremely well educated and with a world view honed by participation in a world war. And on November 30, 1966, he knew EXACTLY how precarious his country’s future was.
Contrary to what some may believe Britain did not resist the idea of Independence for Barbados. What concerned the British Government of the day was that, having helped push the “Good Ship Barbados” out to sea, they would have to come rescue us as we foundered within sight of shore. Errol Barrow must have had the same fear. He knew that if it all went pear-shaped Barbados was well and truly f—-d.
That things did not go pear-shaped is due to his leadership and a vision that went far beyond politics. I have heard it said that he was autocratic, but in the early days of Independence he probably needed to be. (Besides, I have this said of other prime ministers we have had. From all accounts, Tom Adams was no “sweet bread” and neither was Owen Arthur.)
I’m grateful to Errol Barrow, and to the other leaders that Barbados produced since 1966. We may say they were flawed, but which of us isn’t. Fifty years on, I believe many Barbadians would willingly settle for some of that old-fashioned autocracy instead of what currently exists. We are drowning is politicians while starved for statesmen.
The difference between the two is this: a statesman thinks of the next generation; a politician thinks of the next election [BU’s Emphasis].