Meet O

Submitted by William Skinner

O has been a beach vendor and small entrepreneur for almost forty years. He graduated from “Comprehensive” school and almost immediately, had to deal with the death of his still very young mother.

While “scotching” a room at his older sister, he realized there was a piece of vacant land adjoining her very modest dwellings. With an old fork and nothing else more than the desire to be independent, he worked the piece of land diligently day and night. The mammoth clearing task took almost a fortnight. From the sale of lettuce, beets, okras, peas, and other vegetables, he purchased his first stock of coral to sell on the beach. He started as an illegal vendor.

He eventually got his license and about twenty-five years later, was fortunate enough to get a stall. He was approached by a young artiste and he invested quietly in the young man’s entertainment career. Today, he has been at home for almost five weeks because of the curfew surrounding COVID-19. He struggles to maintain the comfortable bungalow; he built many years ago when vendors commanded hundreds of dollars in daily sales.

His thoughts about COVID-19 fits his general belief about the struggles of life. He says that it is bad, and many are falling victim worldwide. He maintains that if the centipedes, broken glass, rusty nails and other challenges, without garden gloves or boots, ‘did not get me” clearing that piece of land forty years ago, he stands a pretty good chance of surviving the virus !

With pride he reflects on the days when all he had was the generosity of his older sister. He is proud that he employs a lady to assist him occasionally in the stall. He is slowly building a home maintenance business and has two young men who assist him. He gleams when as he put it: “I am putting some food on a table or two.”

Generous to a fault, he is protective and dutiful to his family. His father never lacked anything when he was alive. He has seen his share of personal tragedy: a son who died tragically way too young; a failed marriage he tried to desperately save and a house fire that almost wrecked him emotionally and financially. On the good side, his two children attended good old grammar schools and show academic stamina.

O plays by the rules and he contributes to the national insurance scheme because he wants a “little something” when he gets older. He has qualified for the assistance that PM Mottley has promised self-employed persons.

I first met O many years ago when Comrade Glenroy Straughn and myself were organizing beach vendors to take on the hoteliers who wanted them chased off the beaches. It was during one of those meetings that I saw the letter, written by a white Barbadian hotelier, and circulated among the hoteliers. The letter started thus: “I have found a way to keep those people off our beaches…….”

Unfortunately, some perhaps well-intentioned contributors to BU, find great comfort in branding our workers and civil servants lazy and unproductive. They apparently have never met an O.

27 comments

  • @WS
    Top notch!
    Many want to rewrite our vile history and conveniently try to present the white merchant class and neo plantocrats as some sort of heroes.

    Like

  • We shall comment later. Let the detractors have first serve.

    Like

  • Vincent Codrington

    Nothing to add nor subtract from this submission. This is who we are. A typical industrious independent Barbadian. Those who want to change us will have a very hard time.

    Like

  • William Skinner

    Excellent article!

    O’s story could be slightly modified several times over to detail the significant contributions made by many bajans who operate beneath the radar and who, by the sweat of their collective brows, make or made a decent living for themselves and their families and thereby also disproportionately fuel the high standard of living of some individuals who write loads of targeted but unthinking stuff, if one follows their arguments to a logical conclusion.

    They want the government to devalue the dollar, the people to abandon the Unions, the Government workers to have their salaries / wages significantly reduced. They fail to see that implementation of much of the ideas they promote will unfailingly do the unthinkable i.e, promote the violent regression of Barbados to the times of the mid-1930’s.

    Barbados is blessed with many families that are similar to O’s. Families with a significant number of the younger adults working in “good jobs” or who are involved in modern entrepreneurial pursuits. We have achieved this because of the sweat and foresight of the patriarchs who sacrificed much and worked hard to ensure that their children and grand children would move out of the environments they struggled in and who now are poised to move forward if they have the foresight to recognize the hidden agendas of the Johns and others who populate BU’s pages.

    Covid-19 has provided a good, even if unwonted wicket, for us to join together and move towards a new Barbados. Do’nt let us squander it by following nonsensical arguments. Good, not necessarily perfect, leadership is the key.

    Like

  • The authorities have been touting that the business sector is made up of about 65% small and micro business. The blogmaster wonders how many micro businesses are included in the official number and therefore escape ‘formal’ support. A good example is the financial assistance currently being offered by government where to qualify micro business must ‘register’ with the NIS and SBA. Not against pull tactics to draft microbusinesses to the formal sector but what a time to crate a layer of bureaucracy to qualify for financial aid.

    Like

  • Sir William

    Barbados has never been fortunate enough to benefit from the memoirs of those with special insights into seminal events, is it your wider intention to reverse that history. LOL

    Like

  • William Skinner

    @ All
    Thanks for the comments. Highly appreciated @ David thanks for an outstanding graphic. @ Pacha Let is do some work on Comrade Cumberbatch.

    Like

  • NorthernObserver

    To brand “our workers and civil servants” within the same group, is a disservice to our workers. They operate in two completely different environments. Entrepreneurs by definition must work, and produce, their life depends on it. As pointed out, Mr O contributed to the NIS, and hopefully that entity will provide for him as anticipated. He doesn’t get a non-contributory pension. He doesn’t get sick days. He doesn’t get paid vacation. Barbadians are generally a hard working people, it is certain work environments, which do not encourage, nor demand, productivity, which cause the bad rap.

    Liked by 1 person

  • If some people are angry with me because I seem to call all citizens lazy, it is based on a misunderstanding. Of course, many Barbadians, for example in the tourism industry or taxi drivers, have to work very, very hard. We really should not mix up these hard working people with the civil service.

    If we get currency devaluation, it is not because of the hard working population in the private sector, but because of the unproductive civil servants who live at the expense of the community.

    Therefore, we should not say “workers AND civil servants”, but “workers AGAINST civil servants”.

    Like

  • de pedantic Dribbler

    @David, am I misunderstanding your statement re “Not against pull tactics to draft microbusinesses to the formal sector but what a time to crate a layer of bureaucracy to qualify for financial aid”?

    The entrepreneur brother O filed his NIS contributions which afforded him “official” recognition for this unemployment financial assistance … but how would any gov’t recognize the ‘non-fraud’ efforts of that type of micro businesses-person unless they seek to get some ‘layer of bureaucratic’ data from and about them! …. Of course if like Bro O they are visible via annual taxes or some other gov’t program then it would be un-productive to make them jump through too many hoops to access the aid…. But let’s also note that without proper paperwork lots of money will be provided to ‘SBs/MBs’ that never did a day of entrepreneurial activity… besides ‘crowing as a partisan fowl cock’ …. The extra layer is preferable to that type of fraud!

    And senor @Skinner, I smiled as I read your feature for 2 main reasons… smile one was in reflection of the easy and effective style of writing and then smile 2 was how you came right back to the same ‘we and them’ theme your piece seemed to be ‘assaulting’!

    Maybe its just our natural reflex but when you cited that the gent went to a ‘comprehensive school’ I was waiting for the other shoe to drop and surely it did when you then later noted that two of his children attended “good old grammar schools and show academic stamina”. 🙂 …. Is that to suggest that attendance at such (old grammar schools) is an indicator of such (academic stamina) ???

    The father, based on your story, is a shining example of success starting with tilling the small plot of land to sell produce; to investing in a new business venture and employing a part-timer; and along the way raising a family and dong it all according to gov’t social norms … There are thousands of other Bajans like him, as you know… so that is ABSOLUTELY ALL GOOD.

    But as I said , subconsciously your piece still played on that grammar school vrs comprehensive school- academic vrs mental/manual skills dynamic. Just an observation brother!

    And by the way, there are many workers and those in the civil service who are lazy (as some of many of us are) but those of us who try to brand ALL the folks like brother O or the ALL the thousands of government employees who work their butts off to improve this nation as such are simply being foolish and spiteful!

    Liked by 1 person

  • @ Tron,

    You may jest. It is rumoured that Mia is keen on tripling the population. Be careful with your daily attacks on the Barbados populace; it may trigger of unintended consequences. The footnote link is twelve years old. Since then, by all accounts, Zambia appears to have been swallowed up by the Chinese state.

    ” On June 5, 1873, in a letter to The Times, Sir Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin and a distinguished African explorer in his own right, outlined a daring (if by today’s standards utterly offensive) new method to ‘tame’ and colonise what was then known as the Dark Continent.
    ‘My proposal is to make the encouragement of Chinese settlements of Africa a part of our national policy, in the belief that the Chinese immigrants would not only maintain their position, but that they would multiply and their descendants supplant the inferior Negro race,’ wrote Galton.
    ‘I should expect that the African seaboard, now sparsely occupied by lazy, palavering savages, might in a few years be tenanted by industrious, order-loving Chinese, living either as a semidetached dependency of China, or else in perfect freedom under their own law.’

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1036105/How-Chinas-taking-Africa-West-VERY-worried.html

    Like

  • @ TLSN

    I knew Andrew Malone, the author of that article. He was at one time news editor of the Observer. I can tell you I am not surprised he excavated Galton’s proposals. The Chinese are not the only racists.
    Where is @Mariposa?

    Like

  • @ TLSN May 19, 2020 3:27 PM

    I apologize most emphatically. Of course I have the GREATEST respect for the hard working people in the private sector. With the right leadership and motivation, Barbadians work JUST AS HARD and EFFICIENT as the Chinese!!

    I may only be the court jester, but I don’t have to follow every fantasy of our leader. Barbados has already reached its breaking point. We can’t handle any increase in population.

    Like

  • Northern Observer; I wrote above “They want the…….. Government workers to have their salaries / wages significantly reduced.” I said nothing about civil servants.

    You seem to transmogrify what I said into my branding “our workers and civil servants ” within the same group and therefore doing a disservice to our workers.

    Government workers consist of a wide range of workers ranging from knowledge workers to those who work with their hands. In many cases they provide absolutely essential services to the communities they serve.

    You appear to only consider non civil servants to be workers. Where does that put the workers from the BWA who work day and night to bring water to communities badly affected by drought?; Where does that put the workers within the MInistry of Health who protect us all in selflessly working day and night to contact trace individuals who might be spreading Covid19 virus? Where does that put the Policemen and women? The Garbage men and women? The secretaries in various Government offices? The doctors and nurses and and other ancillary staff in the polyclinics and Hospitals? The workers in the Met services department? The drivers in our Public Transport system? etc. etc.

    You also said: “They (workers and civil servants) operate in two completely different environments. Entrepreneurs by definition must work, and produce, their life depends on it”. But NO, Government workers’ livelihood also depend on their doing proper work, perhaps not to the extent of persons like Mr. O and as modified by lax application of rules and protocols in a number of branches of the Public service. There are a number of entrepreneurs in the Public service too. Those people who operate on the sidelines of the ministries that are charged with proper identification and supervision and control of big projects are entrepreneurs. So too are a legion of workers who do small farming on the side to supplement inadequate incomes.

    Tron;
    Your style of writing ensures that no one can easily and with certainty decipher where you stand on many important issues. The clarification you give here seems to point to a standard presumption by several persons on BU that civil servants equates with workers, paid from the public purse, who do NO discernible work. I can’t say that all Civil Servants get paid at a level commensurate with the degree of effort they put into their job, but I do know of several government workers of all grades and types of work, whose output and productivity is much stronger than that of many similar workers in the Private sector.

    Liked by 1 person

  • @ Hal,
    I believe that Mariposa has been blocked by the Blogmaster. Which is a pity. Welcome back.

    Many years ago on BU, I stated that Barbados majority population had become “surplus to requirement”. Over the years we have seen a whittling away in all areas and sectors for them to make a living. From the absurdity of creating uneven competition by allowing a tax concession of fifty years to Sandals; putting barriers in place at the Port of Bridgetown that have severely limited taxi drivers from making a living; giving permission to companies to employ non-residents for jobs which nationals are qualified and capable of doing. I could go on as the list is endless.

    Labour is heavily exploited in Barbados especially within the private sector. Unfortunately, Tron’s jibes creates the oxygen for Mia and the business community to look outside for their workforce.

    I am afraid that “O”, his off spring and their off spring are unlikely to fulfil their dreams in a modern Barbados. An influx of new groups to the island will relegate them further to the margins

    Like

  • NorthernObserver

    @lyallsmallMay 19, 2020 4:25 PM
    my comments were not directed at anything you penned, rather the final paragraph of the thread
    “Unfortunately, some perhaps well-intentioned contributors to BU, find great comfort in branding our workers and civil servants lazy and unproductive.”

    My comment related to placing all in the same pot. My greater point was, it is less about any one person, than the ENVIRONMENT in which they work. To brand all civil service employees as lazy and unproductive is wrong, however, more than the fair share work in an environment where productivity beyond a set level is not encouraged. Or demanded. What they choose to do for additional income is their business, and beyond the scope of my comment. We have a host of school teachers in this country, who engage in construction, landscaping and camp activities during their summer vacation. They will work from 6am-9pm. The uproar if one tried to start school at 7.30am, or have it go to 5pm would be met with a backlash. The difference is environment.

    Like

  • William Skinner

    @ DPD
    Comments well taken. I used “Comprehensive” school because I did not want to mention the name of the school. Some of us call them “ Newer Secondary”. It was similar thinking when I used “ older grammar”. When I mentioned “ academic stamina” I merely meant that having dealt with the loss of a very young son , he had the good fortune of his other kids doing well. I tried to set the story the way the subject would see it. It’s really his story and in reality most parents find joy in their children “passing” for the old grammar schools
    I also think we have an excellent public service. The problems within have most of their genesis in political interference.
    However I really enjoyed reading your critique.

    Liked by 2 people

  • Piece the Prophet

    @ Mr William Skinner

    You have honoured Citizen O with your pen strokes across the industrious pathways of his life.

    In this atom of existence, like the grains of sand which would have encased his feet over his tenure as an entrepreneur, you have shown the man to be a time traveller who has raced across the universe fueled by a perseverance that outshines any inferior solide rocket fuel

    Well and respectfully written to this giant of a man.

    Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  • Northern Observer;

    Seems like I really messed up in my earlier response to you. I read your post as the usual denigrating of public workers and their contributions, not the opposite.

    My apologies.

    Liked by 1 person

  • William Skinner

    @ Piece
    Thanks for your kind comments.

    Like

  • @lyallsmall May 19, 2020 8:44 AM “Barbados is blessed with many families that are similar to O’s. Families with a significant number of the younger adults working in “good jobs” or who are involved in modern entrepreneurial pursuits. We have achieved this because of the sweat and foresight of the patriarchs.”

    Now, now, now. Don’t go and spoil William’s good article by talking ’bout patriarchs. Don’t write strong, hard working, loyal Bajan women out of our history. Please, please don’t do that. That would be to adopt a “Western” ethic that women are only dependents. That we only put out our hands and say “gimmee, gimmee” Note that William said that it was O’s sister, i repeat SISTER who first gave him a leg up.

    My own dear aunt Mary [great aunt or grand aunt to foreigners] born in 1868, just 30 years after the abolition of slavery was the one who first gave my dad a leg up. After she had raised her two sons, she said to her nephew “you shouldn’t have to spend the rest of your life working as a laborer. I will send you to learn a trade.” And out of her wages as an agricultural laborer she sent my father to learn a skilled trade. My father subsequently raised nearly a dozen children of his own. One woman, all of the children in one good home. The current income from the now rented out family home, a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom wall house which he built with his own hands, helped to fund the education of his last grandchild, who just last year graduated with a degree in civil engineering from a great engineering school. Of the 14 grandchildren, they have earned 19 university degrees, including one doctoral degree. All went right to work, although COVID19 has thrown a couple of the younger ones out of work right now.

    So therefore let us remember to salute all of Barbados’ Aunt Mary’s. All of the tens of thousands of them. Those valiant women who alongside the men fought the good fight, and who still continue to fight the good fight.

    Liked by 1 person

  • @Tron May 19, 2020 2:22 PM “If some people are angry with me because I seem to call all citizens lazy, it is based on a misunderstanding. Of course, many Barbadians, for example in the tourism industry or taxi drivers, have to work very, very hard. We really should not mix up these hard working people with the civil service.”

    So Tron if you or one of your political or capitalists master’s needs to be on a respirator for COVID-19 in Barbados or the United States or the United Kingdom who do you think knows how to operate a respirator except 3 of my father’s “lazy unproductive civil servant” children, or a few of his grand children? Or a daughter in law, or a few of our medical professional cousins who were raised in the same rural Bajan gap?

    You think that the respirators are operated by damn greedy, selfish political nuisances like you?

    Stupssseee!!!

    Looka get lost do.

    Got me so vex this morning. Always ’bout pun BU telling lies pun MY PEOPLE.

    Liked by 1 person

  • @Tron May 19, 2020 2:22 PM “If we get currency devaluation, it is not because of the hard working population in the private sector, but because of the unproductive civil servants who live at the expense of the community.”

    You moron. It is the “unproductive civil servants” who deliver ALL of the babies of Barbados, who immunize ALL [or virtually all] of the children of Barbados. It is the “unproductivecivil servants” who teach ALL of the children of Barbados. It is the “unproductive civil servants” who pick up all of OUR garbage, it is the “unproductive civil servants” who inspect all of the food handling places so that we do not all get “the belly” when we eat out. It is the “unproductive civil servants” who ensure that every aeroplane lands safely, and that every ship is docked safely at port. It is the “unproductive civil servants” who patrol our streets at nights, when you are drawn up under your man in your comfortable bed. It is the “unproductive civil servants” who are now managing the COVID [andemic.

    And most of all it is many of those “unproductive civil servants” who after a hard day’s work, have to work hard in their beds at night in order to REPRODUCE AND RAISE.

    in their beds at night and REPRODUCE the work force.

    If we had left REPRODUCTION of Barbados’ work force to the lazy LITERALLY unproductive capitalist/political class like you where wold Barbados be?

    It is the political and capitalist class who are the ultimate parasites living offa everybody else.

    Looka, don’t get me vex do.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Cuhdear bajans

    An oversight! substitute parents for patriarchs.
    Nice posts! Reminds me a bit of Bushtea’s posts of yesteryear.

    Like

  • @ Cuhdear Bajan May 20, 2020 9:45 AM

    Yes, there are civil servants and workers in state enterprises who have to work hard. That’s why I give the garbage men some money now and then. But they’re the ones with citizen contact. We’ll need them too when we halve the number of civil servants.

    But I stand by my statement about the sleepers in the ministries. You know very well that I’m targeting ministry officials.

    Like

  • @Silly woman

    My father subsequently raised nearly a dozen children of his own.
    +++++++++++++
    Nearly a dozen? Is that ten, eleven or thirteen? Who says my parents raised nearly a dozen children?

    A report like that calls for some accuracy.

    Like

  • @argeant May 21, 2020 4:32 PM “A report like that calls for some accuracy.”

    Of course I know the exact number…I just don’t want to say.

    Like

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