A Heather Cole Column – Barbados: Politically Independent Country-Economically Dependent People

barbadosI may have finally understood the concept of independence in Barbados. It is of a country which gained political independence from Great Britain in 1966 but somehow the teetered yoke of dependence remains firmly affixed to the necks of its people. I hope the sociologists and political scientists from the UWI will weigh in on this one.

We have had a long history of dependence. It was shaped by the slave masters who created a dependence for food and shelter during slavery. It was enhanced by the British Government during the colonial era and for the past 52 years that dependence has been enshrined by the successive political administrations which ruled after 1966. So, for the past 52 years politics has shaped our economic dependence.

The Bizzy Williams, Cow Williams, Mark Maloney’s and the lot all depend on each political administration for lucrative contracts and sweet heart deals to become successful. They have benefited from dependence. The poor and the middle class depend on the government for a job which technically ends up as a trap as they deny themselves independence.

The dependence on government jobs is a trap for life but most see it as job that belongs to them until they retire. That job security has instilled the dependency syndrome. They have failed to understand that they are not economically independent.

The two-party system has also been to our detriment. We have developed a penchant for political promises and believe that everything should be provided by government and if is not provided by one administration, the other plays a game of bait and switch. We have allowed successive administrations to prevent us from becoming economically independent.

We have not pressed for a referendum to effect change in any area; we are leaving it up to government to make those changes if they want to; we have not agitated for inclusions to be part of the ballot. Our dependency has put our fate in the hands of each administration. Two good cases that we have at present to press for a referendum on are the decriminalization of marijuana and the creation of a new mortgage legislation. Changes in both areas will alter our economic dependence. However, we are waiting patiently, depending on government to makes these changes that we need in its own time frame.

The retrenchment by the present administration has touched a sore nerve, everyone expecting the worse, pondering what people will go home to do, wondering how they will pay their bills, referring to the fact that they have children to send to school, being over reactionary about last- in first- out scenarios, the union are on high alert and predicting even more job losses. It is as if the skies were falling but all we are hearing are echoes of dependency.

It is the same dependency that has led us to be thinkers and not doers, to make abject criticism of everyone who has a difference of opinion, to discourage new ways to doing old things. We display the apathy of being stuck in rut when we are intelligent enough to do better. We have become so dependent on government that it has taken what has occurred during the past 10 years for some of us to admit that government does not have all the right answers.

Ultimately the one question that must be asked is if the only persons to receive economic freedom on November 30th, 1966 was the political class. Our success or failure should not depend on the political actions of government; we must become economically independent by becoming involved in activities to make us economically independent. We must change our mindset to understand that if ever a national retrenchment occurs, it is viewed as an opportunity for a people to change the course of their history.

215 thoughts on “A Heather Cole Column – Barbados: Politically Independent Country-Economically Dependent People

  1. Yours is an underestimation of the circumstances.

    Yes there has been an historical cultural dependence

    But there has also been a new wave of imposed dependence as well.

    Cases in point. The privatization of public assets – Sagicor, the imposed limitations on co-ops, the normalization of the ethic that big business is White business. All dependencies.

    The dependence on dated knowledge, mis-education

    To depend on Cave Hill for misguidance is a dependence not at all worthwhile.

  2. Bajans needs forget all the NANCI STORIES they tell THEMSELVES and EACH OTHER…it is way past time to FACE REALITY.

    As is well known…Barrow had NO FINAL SAY in any independence plans…Charles Duncan O’neal adopted the political doctrine that is now an albatross around the necks of the majority population on the island…AND ECONOMIC SLAVERY is STILL as much a blight and curse in UK as it is in Barbados and pretty much everywhere else….even these many, many decades later over one 100 years, as a matter of fact, it is even worse than in O’neal’s time.

    “NOVEMBER 30, St Andrew’s Day and possibly the future Independence Day of Scotland, is already the Independence Day of Barbados (1966). It is celebrated annually with an arts and cultural festival and a popular national holiday.

    While living there I sought out sources for the decision to make St Andrew’s Day Barbados’s independence day. There is a St Andrew Parish and the first British settlers were sent by our James VI/I. The island was “given” to one of his male friends, his “gentleman of the bed-chamber”, a young charming Scot James Hay, later first Earl of Carlisle –thus Carlisle Bay on which the capital, Bridgetown, was developed.

    Although the English were the major plantation owners and slave masters (the Scots came much later and found plantation land already owned) there are detailed records of Scottish prisoners transported to Barbados (ie Barbadosed). Three waves of transported Scots, first under Cromwell, then as Covenanters as well as several hundred in the post-45 punishment of the Jacobites.

    The poor-whites of St Andrew – the red-legs – lived in Scotland District and some still live there. But the real reason for the selection of November 30 has more interesting modern political and Scottish connections. The Barbados independence movement was led by the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) under the leadership of Errol Barrow, who won a mandate in the election of 1961.

    He negotiated terms with the colonial office, who insisted late into the agreement that another mandate would be required through another successful independence election. In November 3 of 1966 the DLP duly won the mandate and so a date for the declaration was required. The decision was made to commemorate the birthday of Charles Duncan O’Neal, November 30. O’Neal was a pioneer of independence and an intellectual political advocate of democratic socialism (who happened to be Barrow’s uncle).

    But there is a Scottish narrative here, for Dr Charles Duncan O’Neal (one of the first Afro-Bajan medical doctors) was educated at Edinburgh University in the early 1900s. While studying medicine in Edinburgh he came under the political influence of Keir Hardie, went to meetings, met him and adopted much of the Hardie social democratic doctrine. O’Neal went on to practice in the north-east of England, where he stood as a candidate for Hardie’s Independent Labour Party.

    It is reported that at the Sunderland branch of the Independent Labour Party in October 1910, he told the crowd: “Although slavery has been abolished, and we sing ‘Briton never will be slaves’, there is still slavery in this land. The working men of this country are economic slaves.”

    On his return to Barbados in the 1920s, he advocated for much-needed social and economic transformation with independence as the vital tool for implementing change. Although a middle-class doctor, he dedicated himself to the Keir Hardie principles of working-class development by forming the first grass-roots political organisation the Democratic League, the first proto-trade union the Working Men’s Association, as well as advocating free education and votes for “lower-class” men and women. Charles Duncan O’Neal is honoured as one of ten National Heroes of Barbados.”

  3. Some people just like Barbados and or do not wish to live in places where they are really not welcome. For instance, I have rights to full citizenship in England. I chose to stay here.

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