Corned Beef and Biscuits No More

When I was in younger I remember being equally fascinated and disturbed by the fact that large sections of the Barbadian population were blindly loyal to one of our two major political parties. It boggled my mind that a person could vote mostly or even solely based on their family’s historical political affiliation and if they fell into the category of “mostly”, very little else influenced their decision. Even the term “Corned Beef and Biscuits” bothered me as it referred to a person putting their “X” down for a candidate because of some specific tangible item that they were given by that person.

However, as I got older and understood the ways of the world, I realised that everyone wasn’t in the same position as I was, that is, reliant on a specific Parliamentary representative to assist with everyday needs and therefore might have an affinity to a particular person. I also know that there are persons among us who prefer to have a regular eye on their constituency representative. I am definitely not this person but I understand that some people are different.

I say this as someone who believes in the democratic process and who has exercised her right to vote every election cycle since being eligible to do so. I also understand that a government is multilayered and its responsibilities and ambitions are vast, particularly in a post-independence society such as ours which is relatively young and quite frankly, trying to navigate its way out of being heavily reliant on tourism and its history of being a raw materials-based source market.

In spite of what I understand, what I don’t get is this; it seems as though today’s politicians, no matter the side on which they fall, cannot seem to unburden themselves of the shackles of days’ past. That is, they do not seem to understand that a large portion of the electorate, particularly those born after 1980, do not care to hear them going on and on 3 years into their tenure that the “previous administration” failed to carry out a task, or that they left something undone. We just want the thing, whatever it is, fixed. We don’t mind if you mention it, but we are and have been tired of the old-timey rhetoric, it grates the nerves.

We also abhor condescension, we really do, which leads me to my other point. Perhaps some guidance on public relations and messaging when speaking or writing on social media would help. It is not necessarily the message, it is how the message is conveyed. Bajans do not like to be talked down to, neither do we like to see someone being “unfaired”. We may not be the loudest when it comes to our love for our country but we LOVE it and want to see it flourish. We are a quietly proud people. We want facts, not dodging, not scapegoating, not gaslighting. There is a real difference between being witty and snarky and we will drag you for filth for the latter. That being said, from the public’s end, I do not agree with personal attacks that have nothing to do with the issue at hand, as that gets us nowhere.

In this day and age we are TIRED of hearing, for example, about reports of the Auditor General which speak about financial mismanagement or raise related concerns but then seem to be shelved. If something is being done or has been done about the findings of the reports, we would love to know. We would like to know that Ministries communicate with each other so that we no longer have to see in the Press or on social media what seems like deflection or passing of the ball when certain topics which are very important pop up.

Finally, I have no issue with press conferences and press releases. I think that they are necessary not only in times of crisis but also as a way to keep citizens informed. I may suffer from press conference exhaustion thanks to this panorama but keep them coming and other communication channels open. What I would like to see is that in addition to those about COVID-19, we address the issues that people want to hear about when they arise. Facebook, Twitter and to a lesser extent, Instagram will keep anyone on top of the issues that Barbadians face, whether it is the cost of living, gun crime, the price of gas at the pump, juvenile justice, the environment, adequate healthcare and so on.

I am just asking though, if those in power, whether now or in the future, could note that there are many many people out there for whom party loyalty simply does not exist. The loyalty is with the country that we hold dear to our hearts. What is needed is a clear and transparent explanation of what is going on, how it can be fixed or the steps being taken to fix it, progress updates and and an update on whether it was fixed, all while leaving the sarcasm, tone-deafness and dismissiveness behind. That is all.

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