Henry S. Fraser: Barbados independence, let’s celebrate 48 meaningfully

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Barbados parliament buildings.

Henry S. Fraser

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Tuesday December 2, 2014 Independence: self-government, self-rule, home rule, separation, self-determination, sovereignty, autonomy, freedom, liberty; free from outside control; not subject to another’s authority: (Oxford Dictionary); freedom from dependence; exemption from reliance on, or control by others; self-subsistence or maintenance; direction of one’s own affairs without interference.

The state of having sufficient means for a comfortable livelihood. (Your Dictionary – “The dictionary you can understand”).

Independent: Not depending on something else for strength or effectiveness, free to act as one pleases, not dependent on another for financial support (Shorter Oxford Dictionary – two volume).

Not controlled by another – able to stand on its own (Encarta – World English Dictionary). Not dependent or subordinate, not subject to bias, free, self-directing (Webster’s).

Independence for many simply means free to act as one wishes. Political independence has a specific meaning today – freedom from colonial rule. But there are many shades of meaning, as the sample above, from my dictionary collection, indicates. (I’ve had a fascination with dictionaries since I was a boy, and I have at least ten in my library!)

For many Bajans it simply means a series of social and cultural events such as NIFCA, the Independent Festival of Creative Arts, and a glut of conkies – our traditional, iconic delicacy of corn flour, pumpkin, grated coconut, spices, et cetera, steamed in banana leaves. But it should mean a great deal more. And that’s why I’ve provided so many definitions. Webster’s actually lists 9 separate definitions. I’ve highlighted the one which says “Not dependent or subordinate”, because that seems to be prominent in the minds of many. In other words, we’re no longer under colonial rule, so we can do as we please. But the corollary of that according to Webster’s is “not subject to bias, self-directing” – a very pointed statement that: “unbiased, self-directing”. This aspect of independence is emphasised in many of the definitions, e.g. “exemption from reliance on others; self-subsistence or maintenance”. How many of us can say that? And: “having sufficient means for a comfortable livelihood”. Can we say that as a nation?

The bottom line: with independence comes responsibility, in managing our own affairs without interference or subject to another’s authority, so that we can stand on our own, not subordinate, but comfortably and self-directing. My columnist colleague Sherwyn Walters’ brilliant column on Tuesday put it eloquently:

“Far more than our heralding of our unshackling (from colonialism) and our varied self-expressions, we must make sure that we have a lot to celebrate concerning our governing of governance (things like freedom of expression, freedom of information, frameworks for significant citizen participation in and influence on decision-making, and means for ensuring transparency, accountability and integrity in public office.

And more: concerning the pervasive certain, impartial and timely delivery of justice, social order and discipline; extensive family solidity; our respect for others (their rights, their persons, their property, their peace, their legitimate choices); non-discrimination; our productivity; shared community values.
And these too; our communal social concern (for example, in taking care of the unfortunates); effective management of human resources; resourcefulness; problem solving; charitableness; fellow feeling; responsible citizenship.”

Splendidly said, Sherwyn. To paraphrase the Bible: We must have faith, hope and charity – and responsibility.

There are two other themes worthy of note in reflecting on independence. Recognition of our patriots – those who’ve lived their love for country and were shining lights – and responsibility for ourselves and our own health and self-determination, in this era of politically fashioned dependency.

First, recent examples of shining lights lost. Glowing tributes were paid in the Senate on Wednesday to former senators Keith Laurie and Tennyson Beckles. Keith was described by Senator Maxine McClean and others as a passionate man of enormous energy and many enthusiasms… with a special interest and knowledge of rum and ruminants (the black belly sheep); by Sir Trevor Carmichael as a Renaissance man; and by Senator Wilfred Abrahams as inspiratiwhat he leaves behind.” And Keith’s faith and spirituality has been eloquently expressed in the poem in his brother Peter’s eulogy:onal. As Senator Abrahams said, “A man is judged by what he does, is distinguished by what he’s achieved, and immortalised by

Though my soul may set in darkness,
It will rise again in light.
I have loved the stars too fondly
To be fearful of the night.

Senators were equally appreciative of the life of Tennyson Beckles, whose determination to achieve the highest levels of education and qualification, by emigrating to Britain as a young man, was followed by his return home to contribute to the development of post independent Barbados. And Senator Adams “hit the nail on the head”, not only with his most apposite poem and recollections of their early friendship, but with his roll call of other distinguished products of St. Alban’s Boys School – including Sir Lloyd Sandiford, Rudolph Goodridge and many others. During the debate calls were made again for Clennell Wickham and “TT” Lewis to be made National Heroes.

My final theme on independence, non-reliance and responsibility relates to health care and the individual’s responsibility. And no one in Barbados today, unless in a coma or demented, can be ignorant of the consequences of severe obesity – high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease et cetera. This is a matter of responsibility, to protect both oneself and one’s children and family from the consequent burdens.

A more urgent matter is that of protecting our selves from mosquitoes; to heed the public health messages – to get rid of water in garbage, saucers, pails and pools; to pour kerosene oil on long lasting pools of water. And to use personal spray repellents.

Finally, treating the pains of chikungunya.

Paracetamol (Panadol is a trade name) ONLY works when taken on an empty stomach, between meals. If taken with or after meals it’s almost all broken down by the liver and DOESN’T WORK. And the unfortunate warnings to avoid aspirin because of risk of bleeding is irrelevant. NO ONE should ever be taking aspirin for pain relief nowadays, because in pain relieving doses it can cause bleeding on its own! But other anti-inflammatory pain killers such as ibuprofen, naproxen et cetera, WITH meals, are quite safe. They can be taken as well as paracetamol (or Panadol) as the combination gives far better results, because they act in different ways to relieve pain.

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henry-fraser-150Professor Fraser is past Dean of Medical Sciences, UWI and Professor Emeritus of Medicine. Website:  profhenryfraser.com