“Do you agree?” I asked the group sitting around me, and out rushed the spontaneous, ‘in harmony’ response of “not me”, hoping that their demeanour would reflect a sincerity in their voiced statement. Unfortunately, the real truth was brought out in their obvious yet subtle actions.
However, in softer tones they carried on. Their request was simple – please let us ponder on the above as we prepare to fully enter into the new year. If we still have jobs we don’t want to lose them because “Joey” Harper writes something that identifies us; you know, walls have ears and people read columns. To be honest, I (the speaker) have stiff neck from looking over my shoulder. I feel like Freundel so I en saying nutting. Their final remarks were simple but worth thinking on.
The first week of the New Year is gone. Are there any indications as to what this year holds for Barbadians rich and poor, will we march…? Only Prime Minister Stuart knows.
Last year was the great equaliser – it acted as the levelling force, in some cases bringing many back to the harsh reality of the difference between real and transitional wealth and ever present poverty. This shocking fact has revealed that poor is not necessarily the burden that it is perceived to be. This social level is more armed to survive under the pending harsh economic conditions that loom ominously on the horizon. The poor are saved simply because of the fact that in many cases they did not qualify for the many now unable to repay loans, mortgages and hire purchase agreements now saddling the illusionary status termed middle class.
I have been locked on to this theme for a few weeks now and it is intentional. I have been around long enough to have met and spoken to a few old men and women who were either slaves or the dependants of slaves, who even though unshackled, still worked in Plantation yards and were still referring to the owners as massa and missus. I watched as a boy of 15 or 16 at a St George Plantation, while the manager threw keys from an upstairs window into a gang of workers who had just been given instructions for the
day; these keys were not the ones known today, they were big and heavy.
At that time, plantation managers and overseers rode horses among the cane workers, shouting orders, with whip used to control the horse in hand, but the workers had not yet fully erased the imbedded image – memories don’t leave like people do, they always stay with you, whether they’ve been good or bad. These men and women still worked and were paid like slaves.
Things have changed, or have they? The labourers have broken the shackles, but unfortunately the broken pieces of the shackles were saved and are now securely placed on a new group who are re-saddled with a more acceptable name, one that gives them a fragile but interesting status – middle class – a kind of socio-economic purgatory. This group has now borrowed, mortgaged, hire purchased, become material junkies and otherwise indebted themselves into a new and almost inescapable slavery.
The plantations are now banks, department stores, automobile sales offices and even doctors’ offices and cell phone dealers, while the animals are now party. The production factories are the new social sector that maintains the economic fabric of the society,
controlled by the advertising, marketing and sales overseers – a processing structure that mentally and subconsciously refines them into a buy more negotiable, a new system that is equivalent to planting, fertilising, cutting, and ensuring significant profits to the new expatriate/ local management. Positions of authority are now being designated CEO and boards – the new house slave with the capacity to pay a chauffeur/consultant an over million-dollar bonus.
The real question is has anything really changed from New Year 300 years ago to New Year 2012? The seasons for revelry have remained and we have even retained the end of crop festivities seen as a time for fun and relaxation for the field workers. Of course they – the planners – have maintained the name Crop Over, allowing the new but easily identifiable revellers to see it as culture. Even the dances have been maintained, veiled in the belief that it represents our African heritage while buying material from the masters’ stores, making them more powerful.
Whereas in the distant past the Church was the controlling element, today they have fallen into the trap of conforming to the real world, carrying with it a significant once believing part of our society. The saddest part, however, is how the new birth massa/slave structure has used the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ in a manger, to be an occasion to be metamorphosed to a time of partying, drinking, and being generally blind to the way Christ’s birth and the workers are being used.
Today, the first day after advent, let us take a look at ourselves in this New Year, recognise that entrapment today is more simple and try not to be caught in the web of spending ourselves back into the web of a different and more sophisticated type of slavery, bound by social, economic and electronic shackles.