Submitted by Charles Knighton
Reference is made to the editorial in the Barbados Advocate of March 06th, A culture of entitlement. First, some needed clarification. The British welfare state did not gain a firm foothold in Britain until the decade of the 1960’s, the same decade as independence for Barbados was achieved. To claim “Well over 300 years of unbroken British rule” as one of the reasons for a culture of entitlement in Barbados attempts to shift blame away from local politicians only too willing to offer “freeness” from the public purse for votes.
As to the heart of the editorial, paragraphs six and seven are key. “Why hasn’t entrepreneurism taken off in Barbados the way it has elsewhere in the world? Perhaps because too many Barbadians, young and old, believe that the government should be providing them the means, not just the ways, to do whatever project they wish to do?”
Following which we read : “…what we have that sets us apart is our people. We have already transitioned to a services economy, but we cannot turn that very special resource, people, into the economic powerhouse that it can be, that it needs to be, without a change of attitude.”
Your curative prescription? “Teach people to fish, make it easy to fish, but don’t give them the fish”, only the third part of which is desirable. Making things easy rarely provides a satisfactory sense of accomplishment nor nurtures a strong work ethic, while teaching people to fish will only bear results in an an avidly eager population, though rarely in an avidly complacent population such as Barbados. While I stand to be corrected, I am not aware of any truly successful educational campaign in Barbados resulting in long-term behavioural changes in a target group, as complacency always seems to trump concerted effort.
Your Editorial begins by quoting the charismatic and inspiring President John Kennedy. Mr Kennedy challenged citizens of the United States to ask what they could do for their country while providing neither ways nor means to meet such a challenge, only the inspiration to do so. Barbados needs such a leader, not simply the government functionaries it has been saddled with for so many years.
Inspirational, motivating oratory to challenge the status quo, leaving it to the people how best to meet any challenge is key. If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather inspire in them a longing for the endless immensity of the sea.