The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – Things Fall Apart…
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity…” –The Second Coming –William Butler Yeats
Frequently, on the Facebook social medium, one will come across an invitation to title a random situation with the name of some film, song or other creative work. Were I invited to do the same with a book title for a global assessment of the year 2016, I would submit that of “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe. This work was part of my exposure to English Literature at secondary school, although I do not now recall the year. I choose this not because of the motif of the plot, although this itself (the conflict between tradition and a new culture) is not inapposite; but because of the seeming correlation and the direction in which the world seemed to be heading for the past twelve months.
More over, the title is likely, given its source, to find favour with those who believe that we are rapidly approaching the end time. The phrase comes from the poem by Yeats, “The Second Coming”, itself an event that has been prophesied to mark that occasion. According to Yeats,
“…Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming!”
Mankind is, however, if nothing else, an animal of hope. And no matter how inauspicious things may seem, we have managed to transpose the hope wrought by the traditional story of Christmas into an integral aspect of the change of the Gregorian calendar from December 31 of one year into January 1 of the one following.
Hence, despite our apparently intractable adverse economic circumstances, the deplorable state of the roads; our significant loss of standing as state debtors; the damaging and unfortunate categorization of our nation as a tax haven; the uncertain outcomes of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as President of the US and its implications for a settled world in future, we somehow expect, albeit illegitimately, since we have no reasonable basis for doing so, that 2017 will give rise to a brave new world of peace and prosperity.
…Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned…
Today, as we greet the first few hours of the week, month and year, it is worthwhile to contemplate what the months ahead portend for us personally, nationally and globally.
I had stated earlier that the human being is an animal of hope. He or she is, arguably no less, a political animal, and I use that epithet in its populist sense. For Barbadians, 2017 marks the final full year, constitutionally, of the current governing administration since next year, 2018, will be the fifth anniversary of the last general election in 2013.
And as is constitutionally provided by section 61(3) -“Parliament, unless sooner dissolved, shall continue for five years from the date of its first sitting after any dissolution and shall then stand dissolved”. Of course, under our system of governance, these considerations, as stated, do not preclude the Prime Minister from exercising his awesome power to advise the Governor General to dissolve Parliament at any time prior, thus clearing the way for a general election.
This colloquial “ringing of the bell”, whenever it occurs, is likely to result in a cavalcade of partisan campaigning inclusive of the usual promises and representations by all concerned to ensure electoral triumph. Much as it was in the US in the months leading up to October where, in spite of his alarming manifesto of xenophobia, intolerance and vain boasts of imprisoning his Democrat opponent that resonated with a plurality of states, Mr. Trump now finds it appropriate, thankfully, to recant from those very stances that served so significantly to ensure his success. We should hope for a more sincere electoral courtship in our circumstance whenever that fateful day arrives.
At the global level, we would wish too for a more equitable treatment of those nations with less geopolitical clout by those that are more substantially resourced in that area. The frequent changing of the goalposts as to the definition of a tax haven and a crude reluctance by some to recognize that one salient characteristic of these entities is their affinity for secrecy; a factor far more evident in and synonymous with well known larger jurisdictions- have led to an unwarranted labeling of Barbados as a tax haven with all of the disreputable connotations attached thereto. The struggle to correct this error that might only do further damage to our fragile economy should be national and not merely partisan.
The personal aspect should be particular to each of my readers and I should not be so presumptuous as to suggest how you should lead your lives during the coming year. Nevertheless, as we begin 2017, permit me to wish you good health , prosperity and freedom from distress during the months ahead. In any case or those of us of a certain age, the phenomenon of the apparent shortening of periods of time, whether owed to our slowing metabolisms, heartbeats and breathing rates or to the logarithmic scaling of time -that we perceive a period of time as the proportion of time we have already lived through, it should, hopefully, soon be time to wish you a blessed New Year again!