The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – A Miscellany of Observation
Today, I have neither the time nor the inclination to draft an essay on a single topic for this space. Instead, I propose to write brief notes on some various topical matters that I have come across in my readings, conversations, listening, viewing and other communications that have served to amuse, bemuse, confuse and, at times, to defuse me.
The silly season
We are in the midst of what Barbadians choose to call “the silly season” although, as I have noted in this space before, this usage might be merely another case of our “humpydumptyesque” usage of words and expressions to mean exactly what we want them to mean, nothing more and, assuredly, nothing less. In this context , the Merriam Webster online dictionary gives as the definition of silly season -“a period (such as late summer) when the mass media often focus on trivial or frivolous matters for lack of major news stories or a period marked by frivolous, outlandish, or illogical activity or behavior…”
So that strictly speaking, our usage of the phrase, while patently inapplicable, both with respect to time and context, to the primary definition that views it as a late summer mass media phenomenon, may nevertheless comport neatly with the dictionary’s secondary meaning, especially given some of the conduct exhibited by the political parties and their candidates in a bid to win the electorate’s favour.
Indeed, such is the stuff of legend. We have heard of landlocked constituencies being promised beaches or even “seas”, of plans to effect certain specified reforms within the assumedly magical period of the first 100 days that rarely seem to eventuate, and of even more arguably outlandish, though alluring, projections such as a reduction of criminal activity, the prosecution of members of an outgoing administration for corruption and a miraculous removal of all those blights that might affect the national spirit. I leave readers to judge for themselves whether any of the current projections by those now aspiring to national political leadership fall into this category.
Politics and the priesthood
Our current constitutional arrangement does not preclude a priest of whatever status, faith or denomination seeking political office. In fact, a number have already served as so-called Independent Senators under section 36 (4) of the Constitution that stipulates as follows:
“Seven Senators shall be appointed by the Governor- General, acting in his discretion, by instrument under the Public Seal, to represent religious, economic or social interests or such other interests as the Governor-General considers ought to be represented…”
One has even served as a Cabinet minister in an earlier Barbados Labour Party administration and at least one other, to my best recollection, is seeking membership of the House of Assembly in the upcoming general election.
The season has nevertheless managed to engender a debate as to whether a priest should at all be engaged in local political life. I understand the debate to be centred rather on the issue of whether a priest should be demonstrably partisan, given that in a constitutional democracy that guarantees the freedoms of expression and conscience such as Barbados, the priest, as any other citizen, may not be legitimately debarred from commenting on matters of policy that impinge upon his or her opinion of what constitutes the ideal society.
Indeed, as with any society in transition, we have had to confront in recent years, a number of issues that conflict with traditional religious precepts and I do not refer solely to the legislation that permits the lawful termination of pregnancy under certain conditions, or the recognition of the union other than marriage or the legitimation of those children born to unwed parents and thus conceived in sin.
In light of the overarching tenet of Christianity that one should love his or her neighbour, the priestly view on matters such as the execution or abolition of the death penalty, the decriminalization of marijuana possession and supply and of homosexual acts between consenting adults in private would add significantly to the debate on any of these.
These contributions do not however require the priest to become partisan in any fashion, in fact it may be argued and is submitted that the priestly opinion is most cogent if he or she expresses an independent perspective with reference to authority. For the prelate to be perceived as merely echoing the dogma of the one political party or the other would, in my view, weaken the argument considerably and, perhaps, irreparably.
I have found the time this week before the commencement of lectures to take in some of the television presentation of the just concluded cricket match between India and South Africa. As expected, the performances of the players were of superior quality and it was indisputably enthralling television. What struck me most about the entire episode, however, was not the apparent gap between the performance of the lowly current regional side and that of these two contemporary leaders of the game. It was the seeming transformation of South Africa itself from what I had imagined the situation to be during the apartheid era. Given human nature, I am under no illusion that there was a stark division of the races in all facets of existence nor that all is now hunky-dory so far as that is concerned. But to see white South African males, especially, lustily cheering a dismissal by Kagiso Rabada or Lungi Ngidi or a boundary by Vernon Philander does warm the cockles of the heart and causes wonder as whether many white South Africans do not now rue in some measure those dark years of legislated separateness.
To be continued…