Submitted by Charles Knighton
Three separate offerings in the Nation of Wednesday Feb 09th prompt this letter. In his School of Thought, Ridley Green laments:” the way many of us parents behave on behalf of our offspring, it is as if we are telling them resilience and character are not quite the key.” Justice Worrell Court Cry, in blasting “dropout witnesses” observes: ” It is a trend which is showing the complete decay of Barbadian society, the complete decay of the moral fabric of Barbadian society”.
Though there are many other examples of the malaise, if not complete decay in Barbadian society, they are not necessary to enumerate here, as most are aware of them. While the psychologists, sociologists, and priests busy themselves trotting out their pet theories as to why such a state of affairs exists, the overarching cause, just as in dysfunctional families, organizations, or businesses is the lack of strong and inspirational leadership. And while it is not required that such leadership emanate from the political class most believe, for better or worse, that it should.
Which brings me to Sanka Price and his “Only Human” column, We expect more form politicians. This column could easily have been written during any of my twenty years living in Barbados. The pettiness of spirit and pedestrian nature of what passes for intellectual jousting over issues is disheartening. And while Mr Price mentions those who have brought intellectual heft to Parliament, with the notable exception of Errol Barrow and perhaps Tom Adams, these people do not represent what I would refer to as speakers of soaring rhetoric and inspirational thought. While it is all well and good to deliver well reasoned arguments with a sense of authority, at the end of the day if people have not been moved to take action then all that has been
accomplished is the stimulating effect of mental masturbation.
In the recently released movie”The King’s Speech” George VI watches a newsreel of Adolph Hitler dominating an arena with his voice. It’s a poignant moment for the newly crowned king, who is desperate to rally Britons to meet the existential threat of Nazism but is hobbled by a debilitating stammer and a host of insecurities. Who will follow a leader who can’t summon his own voice?
In “Mein Kamph” Hitler wrote that ” every great movement on this globe owes its rise to the great speakers and not the great writers.” Fortunately, the Fuhrer had an oratorical competitor: Winston Churchill transformed Britain into the home of the brave in part by his repeated, rousing pronouncements that it was so. Similarly Franklyn Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr, and John F Kennedy shaped perceptions, events, and history through spoken words. Hitler turned a forked tongue into a vicious weapon. But as “The King’s Speech” reminds us, oratory can also elevate a nation, maybe even save it.