What we in Barbados can learn from “Us”


Scary movies give me nightmares (I don’t go beyond “The Sixth Sense” in level of creepiness) and I don’t like gore (although I’m a die hard GOT stan).  However…..after watching the trailer for Jordan Peele’s “Us” on Christmas night with a room full of cousins, we were pretty much speechless after watching it and general “WTFs?” and “I gotta watch this!” went around the room.

Also, since the movie was coming from the brain of Mr. Peele, the man who sent me to watch “Get Out” three times, I knew I had had had to see it.  So fast-forward to last Saturday night in a cinema filled with Bajans, boyfriend by my side, popcorn in lap and a way too sugary drink to calm my fears (*side eye*).  I proceeded to watch “Us”.

While I was genuinely surprised that Adelaide was Red and Red was Adelaide, I felt sliiightly let down by the way the BIG REVEAL was, well, revealed.  That aside, I was hollering at Winston Duke’s character Gabe along with everyone else in the theatre when he made dumb decision after dumb decision and when Adelaide got out of the car to finish off her daughter’s doppelgänger instead of moving the hell along.  Then there was the #suddenmurder of the family friends and the cackle-inducing blasting of NWA’s “F&%$ the Police” which made the movie even more fun to watch.  I also love Lupita Nyong’o even more thanks to this movie and hereby crown her The Bawse actress whose skin is made of the finest Melanin.   I even tried the “Red” voice on the bf a few days ago and he asked me to immediately refrain from creeping him out, haha.

But I digress.  One of the main themes of this movie is classism and how a stifled and/or continuously oppressed group could one day negatively react to those who live in the more comfortable areas of society.  Another theme is privilege and the fact that sometimes those of us who have either always been better off or have recently found ourselves in that position, either pretend to help the less fortunate or don’t help at all.  I think of Peele’s use of the “Hands Across America” charity event from 1986 as a central event in the movie and of the many grandiose events held over the years in many countries that were to “eradicate poverty” or to “stamp out hunger”, only for there to be more poverty and hunger in the years to come.

I think of those of us who join charitable organisations or give assistance to causes because it may enhance our CV or give us the opportunity to pose in a photo next to someone famous or for us to be featured in the Press.  While exposure is bound to happen in this world of social media and can certainly be beneficial, what do our hearts say?  How would we feel if the special photo we took at the special event didn’t make it into the newspaper or on Instagram?  Would we care?  Shouldn’t our actions be governed by how we can make a meaningful difference, however small, to someone’s life?

In the Barbados of 2019, the entire population is aware of the economic situation.  In the last few weeks, we have been inundated with cries from the bus-catching population that the pending increase in bus fares is an additional hardship which they simply cannot afford.  There are persons in this country who make $250 to $400 per week, who have to support children, pay bills and buy food.  Many of these same persons are beholden to a broken bus service that results in commuters on some routes waiting for hours for a bus, while facing the possibility of being late for work yet again.

We have parents who willingly allow or forcibly send their children into a life of crime because there just isn’t enough to go around at home.  There are persons who have found themselves swirling down the drain into persistent poverty, which will affect generation after generation, with seemingly no end in sight.

Then there are those like the Wilsons in the movie who live lives that to them, may not be ideal but to those who don’t have the opportunity, are close to perfection.  Families like the Wilsons may not even consider that they have the means to contribute to the betterment of others even in the smallest of ways. The thing is, we do have the means, sometimes those means are small but we have them.

A single event like “Hands Across America” or any one outreach programme is not the remedy to every problem we face in Barbados.  It will take a mountain of effort, serious action and with regard to the crime situation, the courage to bring down those at the very top.  There is no one miracle fix.  Each person who has the means to assist, from taking a neighbour who may be waiting at the bus stop for hours every day to work, to helping a child with homework, to joining an organisation to work on a project or to give of one’s own time or money, should understand that no gesture is too small.

However, help must not come in a patronising fashion.  “He who feels it, knows it” could not be a truer statement.  In relation to rising bus fares, many of us who drive have asked why couldn’t those who use public transportation understand the reason for the increase or why couldn’t they purchase the soon to be available bus tickets and utilise the proposed transfer system when it comes on stream?

While the government’s plans for the bus system, including the acquisition of new buses, is indeed commendable in light of the current challenging economic situation, unfortunately the increase has come at a time when weekly wages remain the same and food prices continue to rise.  Don’t we drivers complain when the petrol prices are increased?   Isn’t it a running joke among persons who drive that gas tanks are no longer filled every week except for persons fortunate enough to have this cost is subsidised by their employer?

While some of us may have a more technical understanding of economics and the state of affairs that the current government is trying to fix, many persons are more concerned with feeding a family on a limited budget or sending children to school or other activities to keep them out of trouble.  Their issues are those which need attention in the short-term and the reality is that their concerns need to be taken into consideration.

Whatever we choose to do to help with the creation of a better Barbados, let us not create a situation where those who are not as well off are pushed farther into the abyss, only to one day retaliate in a way that we least expect and in a way that we will all regret.  In situations like that, there is no director to shout “Cut!” so the lights can be turned on and everyone can go home.

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