The George Brathwaite Column – Rejecting Youth, Pillorying Women?
Submitted by Dr. George C. Brathwaite
Last week, Barbadians were exposed to several alarming political utterances when Members of Parliament (MPs) debated the Appropriation Bill 2017. Barbadians heard frantic reactions to the state of affairs. The Bill was theatrically delivered by MP Christopher Sinckler, arguably, the most unpopular Minister of Finance in the history of Barbados. The gravity of the socio-economic circumstances, and providing few realistic answers, prompted Sinckler to request help as both the economy and society came under the microscope of public scrutiny.
Sadly, Barbadians received the typical false narratives that serve to further divide a polity at odds with itself. The abject polarization that was on show, particularly by Democratic Labour Party (DLP) MPs, appeared disrespectfully desperate. Knowing that they were being seen on television and being heard on radio, the politicians postured and panted; they agreed and disagreed. The DLP MPs accused and angered persons inside and outside of the public gallery.
DLP MPs were at pains to be convincing even if this meant taking political rhetoric and grandstanding to extravagant extremes. By Friday night, Barbadians preferred to filter the folly, frivolity, and farcical ferocity that fanned flames of fury. Put differently, Barbadians although burdened to listen to the debate, readily denounced the unfolding social constructions that were recklessly spoken by absent-minded legislators. The politicians, for the most part, all looked serious although some signalled nothing useful or edifying in their contributions.
The posturing and the discursive practices merely exposed a refractory majority when compared with a more thoughtful minority. These phenomena have produced a cacophony of adversarial approaches and entrenched antagonisms that stretch across Barbados. Surely, with general elections now in the foresights of those gunning for a seat, the caustic tones and insults were anticipated to increase. Such infractions featured multiple times during the debate.
Ironically, the dear loving people made several controversial remarks and displayed strings of irrational behaviour. Barbadians are questioning whether the DLP used offensive statements purely for amplification or dastardly for distraction. Clearly, there was sheer worry by the DLP to the point of rejecting the youth and later pillorying women. There is the perception that a couple MPs crudely reverted to threat and bullying, instead of reasoned and logical statements of fact.
Firstly, Social Care Minister Steve Blackett sought to intimidate more than appreciate the positives of Barbadian youth participating in national affairs. An infuriated Blackett gave a stinging rebuke to the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and the parents of 13-year-old Khaleel Kothdiwala. The teenager had addressed a rally immediately following the national march of disgust on the previous weekend which attracted over 10, 000 persons. Notwithstanding, Blackett stepped into the chasms of stupidity when he showed a lack of reasonableness or clarity of thought regarding parental guidance and support.
Blackett stated that the BLP “had a young man, 13 years … parading across the stage with or without the permission of his parents, in full glare of all, exploiting the young man.” Shooting from the hip, Blackett made the illogical claim that Khaleel’s youthful presence on stage “is equivalent … to sexual abuse or physical abuse.” What an absurdity! Many persons have since dismissed Blackett’s sinister statement and more generally, pointed out his proclivity for not going after the real targets of sexual and physical abuse.
Ironically, the very Steve Blackett made another disturbing but hypocritical pronouncement. Badly hatched from his pious posturing, Blackett chose the identity markers of religion and racism to wrongfully condemn the oldest political party in Barbados. Blackett contemptuously complained against the strong signals sent to the DLP regime on March 11th. Blackett remonstrated by mockingly praying “that every single Christian, every single Muslim, every single Hindu get on their knees and pray for this country because the Barbados Labour Party is heading the country down a particular avenue that will cause bloodshed in this country based on how they are behaving and how they are conducting themselves in public life in Barbados.” It is a load! Clearly, Blackett was in a mistaken chamber.
Blackett’s unconvincing behaviour has subsequently done more to refocus the national gaze on the prolonged failings of Cabinet under Prime Minister Stuart than on the Queen’s College student who is presently preparing to fly to Bali, Indonesia. Khaleel Kothdiwala will represent Barbados at the World Schools Debating Championships in August this year. Given Blackett’s sordid judgement and erroneous condemnation, it may be best that Barbadians never again vote for Steve Blackett to sit in the House of Assembly.
With some pull back, although leaving it to interpretation, Minister Ronald Jones spoke and carefully suggested that he was not in Parliament “to condemn the 13-year-old youngster or the parents.” However, Jones did insist that “it was a bit unusual” to see outstanding teenagers take to the civic space afforded, given the politics of Barbados. The Minister of Education contended that Khaleel’s appearing on the stage of the political rally “would appear to be exploitative.” One can only hazard a guess as to the use or meaning of the term exploitative.
In fact, the DLP’s style of combining partisan invective with a redefinition of words and terms are by no means novel. So, as one moved away from the irate silliness invoked by Blackett, there was but short relief. Next came extreme pills of verbal bitterness from the MP for St. John. Mara Thompson; she contrived a display of feigned caring for the young. She may well have forgotten that her children were present and visible at many cat fights in and outside of the campaign trails in St. John and Barbados. Mara Thompson pompously cluttered in a level of ignorance that does not sit well with all those who became familiar with a teenaged David Thompson.
Damaging and inexcusable, Mara Thompson sunk to a vile low by disgracefully castigating the ‘childless’ females who are legitimate representatives of the people in their respective constituencies. In effect, Barbadians came full-face with Mara Thompson’s disdain for embracing reality. The public gallery saw upfront her insensitivity towards other women appearing not to be blessed with children of their own. Disgracefully, Thompson’s resentful tenor offended the youngest Member of Parliament. Thompson had to be scolded and reminded that her more fortunate electoral circumstances, practically guaranteed her a seat in the Assembly. Surely, such luck does not give Mara Thompson hegemony over other women in parliament or across the Barbadian landscape.
The damage was more implicit than explicit. Nonetheless, the hostile attempt to degrade the ‘Honourable’ women for being ‘childless’ is sufficiently vexing that Thompson ought never to be re-elected to the chamber. Regrettably, Thompson’s spineless spectacle reflected an attrition of goodwill. Her spiel of being ‘childless’ was too grave an insult to all the women in her constituency. It was very chilling for men that support the thousands of Barbadian women who never gave birth to a child. Yet, those women are known to have sacrificed in the interest of this nation’s children.
Moreover, the question must be asked whether Mara Thompson’s childless insult was yet another haughty proposition purporting that women need to have children to be complete human beings? I hope not, for that would be the height of ungratefulness to the Parliament and country. Clumsily, Thompson’s dishonourable behaviour happened while the DLP is busy erecting a self-determined moral high-ground. Nothing less than a public apology ought to be forthcoming, and it serves no purpose by repeating: “Mr. Speaker, I want you to stop looking at my daughters.”