I wrote this article one year ago on 20 January 2020. It is now applicable to other issues in Barbados. That is why, regardless of your position on: the vaccine, reparations, a republic, same sex marriage, Nelson, COVID protocols, reimbursing tourists, and any other issue, it is important to allow a discussion.
Trying to shut down discussions is not helpful to us as a nation.
The main reason given for demolishing the structurally sound 6-storey old NIS building, is that it is not compatible with the “sacred ground” of the proposed Clement Payne park.
The Government did not properly maintain the building, and several workers got ill. We are told to believe that the building is a reminder of people getting ill, which is not compatible with what Clement Payne advocated.
We are told to believe that the building is beyond maintenance, having been abandoned for so long. It may be beyond maintenance, but it is clearly not beyond repair, and it is certainly very far away from needing to be demolished. But such thoughts are considered heretical.
To oppose the demolition is to be accused of being against workers’ right to a healthy work environment. To question why a building, with the most expensive foundation system in Barbados (piled), and no apparent structural cracks, should be demolished, is to attract the wrath of political operatives.
The public relations on this matter reminds me of George Orwell’s masterpiece, ‘1984’. It was written in 1949, and shows what happens to a society when the Government does not tolerate independent thought. I will extract part of it for your interest.
‘It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party. That is the fact that you have got to relearn, Winston. It needs an act of self-destruction, an effort of the will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane.
‘He paused for a few moments, as though to allow what he had been saying to sink in.
‘Do you remember,’ he went on, ‘writing in your diary, “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four”?”Yes,’ said Winston.
O’Brien held up his left hand, its back towards Winston, with the thumb hidden and the four fingers extended.
‘How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?”Four.”And if the party says that it is not four but five – then how many?
‘The word ended in a gasp of pain.
The needle of the dial had shot up to fifty-five. The sweat had sprung out all over Winston’s body.
The air tore into his lungs and issued again in deep groans which even by clenching his teeth he could not stop. O’Brien watched him, the four fingers still extended.
He drew back the lever. This time the pain was only slightly eased.’How many fingers, Winston?
”Four! Four! What else can I say? Four!
‘The needle must have risen again, but he did not look at it. The heavy, stern face and the four fingers filled his vision. The fingers stood up before his eyes like pillars, enormous, blurry, and seeming to vibrate, but unmistakably four.
‘How many fingers, Winston?”Five! Five! Five!”No, Winston, that is no use. You are lying. You still think there are four. How many fingers, please?
”Four! five! Four!
Anything you like. Only stop it, stop the pain!
”You are a slow learner, Winston,’ said O’Brien gently.
‘How can I help it?’ he blubbered. ‘How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.
”Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.
”Again,’ said O’Brien.’How many fingers, Winston?
”Four. I suppose there are four. I would see five if I could. I am trying to see five.
”Which do you wish: to persuade me that you see five, or really to see them?
”Really to see them.
”Again,’ said O’Brien.Perhaps the needle was eighty–ninety.
‘How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?
”I don’t know. I don’t know. You will kill me if you do that again. Four, five, six–in all honesty I don’t know.
”Better,’ said O’Brien.
Fellow Barbadians, it is time to evaluate your progress. If you did not know your party’s position on the demolition of the old NIS building, would your response when questioned have been, “I do not know”?
If you know your party’s position, would you automatically agree with it? Do you enjoy when your party’s political operatives try to damage the reputations of those who do not similarly agree? If so, then you have been adequately trained to actively support a totalitarian state. Wise up.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com