Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom – 1 Kings 10:8
In the introduction to the book “A Fragile Social Fabric?” the Canadian authors prepare their readers by stating the following: “While conventional assessments of the national quality of life focus on the economic and material dimensions of our society, this book expands that evaluation to include the social covenant of rights and obligations. The authors examine two sides of the social covenant: what Canadians expect from their society and what is expected from them. I daresay the same is true of the Caribbean. We certainly have a clear vision of what we expect from our politicians who have a mandate to shape society, but it is not clear that our school children and the West Indies cricket team understand what is expected of them.
What can we say about the Social Fabric in the Caribbean? Is it strong, is it weak or is it threadbare? As the book implies the pervasive market culture is eroding the civic culture underlying the social covenants in contemporary Western societies. The Caribbean has not escaped, the social fabric shows signs of weakness and, in some instances it may even be described as threadbare. To relate to a medical analogy, some have benefited from preventive care, others may still be saved by primary care and prescriptive medicine, but far too many require surgical care. There are, of course, those who have succumbed to the undertakers’ care. May they rest in peace!
What countervailing forces can be introduced to repair the decaying social fabric in the Caribbean? As is good medical practice, one triages the patents to determine priority of treatment based on the severity of the condition so as to treat as many as possible when resources are insufficient for all to be treated immediately. One then executes treatment and monitors its impact on the condition.
There are many patients in the Caribbean who have been impacted by a decaying social fabric condition. Let us focus on school children and the West Indies cricket team.
I had occasion to meet Ms. Ida-May Denny, Deputy Chief Education Officer, at a function recently and we both agreed that, in Barbados, the level of comprehension in both reading and mathematics is on the decline. I advised that I knew of an interactive software product which addressed phonics and phonemic awareness, vocabulary, reading comprehension, fluency and English as a second language. Also, I informed her that there was an equally proficient companion product which addressed the maths comprehension challenge.
I pointed out that these products enjoyed rave international reviews and that they were most appropriate to reverse the comprehension slide in Barbados. She invited me to meet to discuss the matter. Our paths next crossed in the baggage hall at Miami International airport, going in different directions, and we confirmed an appointment.
When I turned up for the appointment, her office was showered with flowers and gifts and I, of course, enquired as to the occasion. She advised that at our serendipitous airport meeting, she was on the way to Boston to defend her Ph.D. thesis and proudly announced that she had now joined that academic grouping to which “you already belong”. Congratulations Ida-May and may your Ph.D. research topic on Leadership contribute significantly to arresting the decay in the social fabric in Barbados and beyond. We then concluded the purpose of our meeting which could lead to a professional partnership geared to effect treatment for the decaying local comprehension condition and hence strengthen the school children’s contribution towards mitigating the rate of threadbare patches in the social fabric.
The decaying Caribbean social fabric is also evident in the performance of the West Indies cricket team. The talent is there, the cricketing style which is the embodiment of the West Indies cricket brand is patent, but is now only scrappily revealed. The brain is however seldom engaged before the strokes are put in action. Yes, I am referring to the machinery in our batting engine which is now an amazing phenomenon in the sense that it was able to reach a new low when cricket fans were convinced that we had already experienced the depths of despair.
One of my readers empathised with the disappointment expressed in my last column when the West Indies team, once again, spectacularly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in the fourth ODI against Australia in St. Kitts. She commented: “After the test matches I stopped looking at the cricket. I am not sure that I can return to my avid interest, though as a Caribbean citizen I have and take great pride in the success of all our peoples. What is clear to me as a psychologist with over 20 years’ experience in rehabilitation, this team has a serious mental health problem. I would love to have this team to work with. My knowledge of emotional intelligence tells me that it will be of immense use to these and other young men who are aspiring to the team, for without some intervention of this nature this and other teams are doomed”.
Here is a servant that has heard His wisdom; are our cricket leaders hard of hearing?