I recently examined category 5 hurricane damage in the worst affected Bahamian islands. As usual, it was the simple things that caused unnecessary building failures. I plan to publish our findings, for the benefit of home-owners, in a subsequent article.
To visit the Bahamian islands and return home, I had to go through airport security eight times. After the collapse of the Twin Towers in 2001, airport security guards confiscated water and sharp objects from carry-on luggage. However, once you passed through the security scanners, you could purchase water and sharp objects in the departure area, and board the plane with them.
That same year, an airline passenger tried to detonate explosives hidden in his shoes. Since then, everyone must remove their shoes for inspection before boarding a plane. For safety reasons, I do not object to the inconveniences of airline travel. However, I do object to the unsanitary methods.
The guards would to direct travellers to place their shoes in the same bins that they instructed travellers to place their cell-phones, wallets, pens, and jackets. For the past 18 years, I explained to the guards the unsanitary nature of their instruction, and would place my shoes directly on the conveyor belt in protest.
Dogs and birds walk on the same pavements as humans. Therefore, most people unavoidably walk on animal excrement. After walking through animal jobbies, those same shoes are placed in a bin. Passengers are then forced to place their cell-phones in these filthy bins, and then place their jobby-contaminated phones to their faces when answering calls.
I have seen improvements in my recent travels. However, Barbadian guards still allow this unsanitary practise at our airport. While they are trained to protect the public from harm, they appear to be allowing more harm than they are preventing.
Barbadian guards who work at our public buildings appear to be trained differently. They do not seem to be trained protect the public from harm. Instead, they seem to be trained to protect public officials from the public.
It is important that our public officials, including judges, tax officials, and regulators, feel safe while working. If a judge feels that his life is in imminent danger, he may render an unfair sentence. A fearful tax official may erroneously calculate an excessive tax demand. To keep them safe, they are provided with our elite unarmed guards.
Before the public can enter some government buildings, they must have their bags and bodies scanned for weapons. However, most public buildings do not have this service. Perhaps, because it is not weapons that our public officials fear.
Our public officials are intimidated by a greater threat – an untucked shirt. Our unarmed guards spring into action when they see one of those. It matters not that the shirt was specifically designed to be worn untucked. Our guards insist that there are only two options, tuck it in, or leave.
In order to do business at some government offices, I have had to tuck in all sorts of shirts designed to be worn untucked. So far, I have only been inconvenienced. However, I was reliably informed that a guard insisted that a fellow tuck in his shirt jac. His choices were to either walk around like a clown or leave.
These guards do not care whom they humiliate. They are sworn to protect our public officials from untucked shirts at all costs. I can only hope that the next time they see me, they do not insist that I tuck in my jacket.
While men merely suffer inconvenience or humiliation, our women are forced to miss important appointments because they are denied entry. There are few things more intimidating to our public officials than a strapless dress. Our women can return home and put on an identical dress with straps, and they would be allowed entry.
If a woman arrived with a back-out, then that would justify a code-red. A back-out is simply too much kung-fu. However, the greatest threat to the safety of our public officials are exposed toes.
It matter not how much the shoes cost. Once our guards see the ten commandments, they go into a cold sweat, and start to see those black stars. If the lady makes it into the building, there must be a mandatory evacuation.
Why are our public officials such fragile snowflakes? We graduate hundreds of secondary school graduates every year, who will have to visit public buildings for the first time. They are not aware of these dress codes. Why frustrate them so early? Why can’t our guards exercise some discretion? Why should our women have to travel back home to change, just because the dress does not have straps?
Countries that try to control every aspect of their citizens’ lives know these methods all too well. Once you make insignificant actions major offences, with severe consequences for non-compliance, then you can get a compliant population without much national disruption. A secondary benefit of this method of control, is that it easily identifies those who would likely be non-compliant in the future, so that they can be targeted for re-education.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com