I dug this out of my Blogger blog. It was originally published as an editorial when I was editing HYPE Magazine back in 1999 or early 2000.
Because I grew up in Barbados, I have always wondered why Barbadians never get angry enough about anything to engage in civil protest. There are no demonstrations for anything–no one feels strongly enough about anything to take to the streets in protest. Being the daughter of a man who went to prison for social protest, it’s something I respect greatly in human beings. There is much nobility is standing up and saying, this is bullshit! I’ll shout it outside your door until you fix it.
Barbadians young and old, seem to prefer to talk among themselves about conditions in this country, write letters to the editor, while complaining about and making fun of those who do so regularly. Then there are the few that use the radio talk shows to vent their frustrations. But where is true activism in all that? No one acts upon their dissatisfaction in any meaningful way, no one cares enough to protest march, or print newsletters speaking for their cause.
Around the world, students take to the streets to protest undemocratic moves by their governments, to protest high education costs, to protest environmental apathy in government agencies–in Barbados, everyone lets everything slide.
I have often sat contemplated–if a child molester gets a light sentence after being convicted of henious crimes, why doesn’t this society PROTEST?! If environmental concerns are taking a backseat to easy, ill-conceived and temporary ‘solutions’, why don’t we PROTEST?! If someone is killed in police custody under dubious circumstances, where are the PROTESTS?!
I raise this question in numerous gatherings, because I want to see if anyone can provide me with an insight that I currently don’t have in this issue. I want to hear what my colleagues and peers have to say about this real lack of anger about the blatant errors in calculations that are made not just with Barbadians lives, but with our futures. The answers (or attempts at answers) never seem good enough. Barbadians seem far too sedate sometimes, to still be alive in the truest sense of the word.
Could it be that this country has no experience with administrative treachery? Could it be that everyone is so concerned with job security and social standing, that the thought of protesting rape, murder, grandscale theft, environmental destruction as things that are worthy of us raising our voices in unison to say, “Enough’s enough!”
It is your RIGHT to protest! In comparison with many of our neighbors, (Trinidad, Jamaican, Grenada, Haiti) Barbadians seem to find it easier to ignore injustice that to actually do anything about it. Bajans seem to discount the power of their voices.
For all their displays of ‘civic duty’, Bajans will vote, but not get involved. When they do, it is often to become ‘yard fowls’ rather than become agents for change. Am I encouraging anarchy? Indeed I am not. Social protest however, is as much a part of democracy as voting. Violence is just plain stupid, but organised protest is clever and effective.
Personally, I have felt cheated. Since the first day I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X, followed closely by that life story of Angela Davis’ and the Communist’s Manifesto, I have felt cheated. I feel that the people who have gone before me, my parent’s generation has sold out. And in their selling out, they have offered their children up to the God of Materialism. They would rather catch their crumbs than rock the boat, and they have passed their apathy on to their children with the over-priced food they buy in their modern supermarkets.
My contemporaries mostly disappoint me as well. Rather than seek knowledge, to act upon that knowledge and empower their voices, the youth give strength to the dollars that fuel our ‘First Second World Nation’ economy. They give little or no thought to the effect of backward, feudal, provencal social policies and what they will ultimately cost us and our children.
In one such sedate discussion (discussions in Bim are almost always sedate unless it’s a truly IGNORANT person) someone plainly said, “Bajans are never going to have that political voice, that protest nature because they have seen what revolution does to their neighbours and see that it ultimately goes nowhere. Why bother to get involved if when nothing is going to change?”
I replied, “Why bother to live if you know you’re going to die. Go ahead! Divorce yourself from your environment, but your environment cannot function without collective consciousness. You might as well lie down as soon as your mother pops you out and stay right there on the ground until death comes to take you back. Don’t learn to use your muscles, or talk, or reason, or laugh or play. None of these things are worth it, if you don’t will them into reality.”
We read with admiration the efforts of now historical figures–Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Kwame Ture, Kwame Nkrumah, Clement Payne, who engaged the population in struggles for equality, fair pay, better working conditions–but after the first quantum leap forward, we have stagnated in a near comatose state taking whatever is placed in front of us, good or bad, with equal disinterest.
This is a sad condition, one that will continue to degrade our society until all is left is ignorance and unwillingness. I urge my peers: DO NOT LET THIS PASS TO ANOTHER GENERATION. If we believe that we are being short-changed, investigate, illuminate and work towards CHANGE! Anything else is laziness.
Apathy is like bile sitting on your stomach. You may think it matters naught in your functioning, but it is killing parts of you. We need to stop fooling ourselves about the extent of our problems, and start making real efforts to change things.