If Barbados Was a Bajan – Part (i)

Submitted by King Ja Ja
Barbados flag

Barbados flag

Is turning 50 significant? In the life of a Bajan, or any human, it probably is. In the life of a country, in historical time, it probably is not as significant as we might think.

Fifty years in a state’s life is really not that long, but when analyzing Independence transitions, 50 years is usually signaled by crisis, […]

and if you are lucky as a citizen, some sort of reformation – but usually the continuation of some sort of military, economic or political tyranny. We never cast off the shackles of colonialism with violent revolution in 1966, but in comparison with states that did, the transition has been similarly fraught with a lack of confidence in state institutions and often the deepening of conservative and even restoration of ancient imperialist values.

Fifty years of the Revolutionary War ended and Independence began, the new American state was still battling Southern secession and the fissures in the ideological basis of western expansion were showing with the Indian Removal Act (1830) demonstrating that the US was carving a space for its own economic destiny at the expense of First Nations while negotiating whether it would be on the backs on African slavery.

In France, 50 years after the French Revolution, the French people were still on the verge of renewed revolution in the Second French Republic and the Second French Empire. Interestingly, French slavery came to an end in 1848 a year before their ‘50th’ year of Independence.

In Haiti, the Haitian people were in the midst of a Second Haitian Empire under the ‘violent’ rule of Emperor Faustin I [Faustin Soulouque (1849-1859)] who tried to re-annexe the Dominican Republic several times.

But these are examples which where the people won their Independence by violent means, which was not the case in Barbados so let’s look at some other Commonwealth examples.

It is hard to note the several dates in which Canada obtained increasing powers over its own affairs – many people take the year of Confederation (1867) as the start date, but really in was not until the British Government was asked to pass the Canada Act (1982) in French and English to patriate Canada’s Constitution that one could say that Britain finally relinquished official control over the country. I am not sure if in 2032, Canadians will be marking that date with as much pomp and circumstance as Barbados is. I am sure many Canadians are not that aware of the significance of that date.

In India, 50th Anniversary Independence in 1997 were marked with some pageantry, but it was a somber reminder of the price of partition and just how much further the country has to go to achieve self-determination for all of its peoples.

In South Africa circa 1984, the apartheid state was embroiled in its own internal conflicts with the violent suppression of anti-apartheid protests and extra-judicial killings of anti-apartheid activists. The South African state was also involved in attacking the liberation movements in neighbouring states, notably Angola so Independence had a different meaning.

All of these examples demonstrate internal and external struggles to define the nation-state fifty years after Independence and settle or maybe even consolidate internal secessionist and political, social, cultural and economic conflicts that could potentially threaten the viability of the nation-state.

It might just be that Barbados is experiencing the same level of conflict in its development of the idea of nation-state, but on a much more localized level where the global impacts of economic turmoil, and the political impasse of a failing Westminster system and a social and cultural crisis of consensus on values is creating a measure of uncertainty and perhaps disaffectedness. In glacial time, 50 years is really not that long.

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11 Comments on “If Barbados Was a Bajan – Part (i)”

  1. NorthernObserver November 30, 2015 at 7:53 PM #

    Well written. Well thought out.
    Personally, while I cannot disagree with your chronology of Canada, the constitutional patriation was as much of a ceremonial affair than a significant change. For example, the senate challenges of today are found in the constitution which makes parliamentary seats relevant to senate seats (or vice versa) which in terms of today’s population means the Atlantic provinces will lose.
    But 50 years is not a long time. Things can improve.


  2. David November 30, 2015 at 8:49 PM #

    Interesting commentary to establish how different countries have been able to transition through epochs. What we know for sure is that there will be tension and the need to struggle to withstand and overcome the challenges sure to be present. It makes a mockery therefore of those who generalize and are dismissive of critique from the citizenry – usually politically motivated. BU’s sense is that post Barrow and to a lesser extent Adams we have drifted as far as political stewardship is concern. This applies to the NGO arena as well.


  3. Exclaimer December 1, 2015 at 3:56 AM #

    This is an excellent posting. It is balanced and nuanced.

    I believe that we can all agree that landmarks such as a country celebrating their fiftieth anniversary are irrelevant. It is imperative that the citizens of this world remain vigilant of their governments and should always be the ultimate gate keepers of their society.

    We, the citizens of Barbados, have negated our role as gate keepers of our county. We have given free rein to our two major political parties and have observed in horror as they have gorged themselves on the life blood of their citizens.

    King Ja Ja, I would like to share your sense of objectivity. However, I remain deeply pessimistic for the future of the Afro-Bajan in Barbados. Within time the majority of them will quit the island. Take a look at Irish migration throughout the ages in their struggle with the English colonists. Those Afro-Bajans who remain could well end up institutionalised in our mental hospitals or within our prison system.

    This is my prognosis. It really is that grim.


  4. David December 1, 2015 at 4:38 AM #

    It is obvious the government plans to use national sentiment of the 50th anniversary to win another term. In the ideal situation the response from the citizenry should dissuade such an approach.


  5. lawson December 1, 2015 at 6:54 AM #

    Why is it that Barbados celebrates independence day on the same day Britain celebrates beggars be gone day


  6. David December 1, 2015 at 6:59 AM #

    Having a conversation about what we have achieved since ‘Independence ‘ is important. It is what an educated society does.


  7. Vincent Haynes December 1, 2015 at 7:54 AM #

    The last paragraph sums it up nicely……In essence we never fought for anything and compared to those mentioned we know nothing of hardship and that leaves an aching want in us to be something and to do something……….trouble is we dont know what.


  8. lawson December 1, 2015 at 8:43 AM #

    A country needs to keep its history…in the paper today trudeau is going to use his fathers desk…..and his mothers flask


  9. Colonel Buggy December 1, 2015 at 11:20 PM #

    lawson December 1, 2015 at 8:43 AM #
    A country needs to keep its history…in the paper today trudeau is going to use his fathers desk…..and his mothers flask.
    In Barbados our politicians do similar. They use their fathers, mothers , aunts ,uncles,sisters, the old, the infirm, the sick the bedridden, the unemployed, the yardfowls.


  10. David December 2, 2015 at 1:38 AM #

    If we examine the vision Singapore showed/embarked in the 60s and 70s are we comfortable Barbados has a similar road map delivered by present leadership?


  11. Exclaimer December 2, 2015 at 5:16 PM #

    “What African leaders failed to learn from Singapore
    Across Africa, Singapore’s founder has been lionised and some have sought to replicate his autocratic methods.”



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