Thursday, 14 June 2012

The United States, Britain and the world’s indebtedness to the nation of Barbados

By Stanley Collymore

Football or soccer to the uninitiated may be the mass spectator sport in England; cricket though is undoubtedly the quintessential sport that lies deep within the psyche of the English nation and which, to put it mildly, represents most of what’s good and decent with the English people. What other sport is there that exquisitely sums up a sense of fair play, ethical standards: an umpire for instance unsure of the actual result casually turning to a wicketkeeper and asking him if the ball carried in a catch to him and the wicketkeeper in response unhesitatingly giving an honest reply to that query, a batsman willingly walking away from the crease without waiting to be given out by the umpire because he knows that he’s out and it would be very unsportsmanlike of him to dishonestly stand his ground in such circumstances and hope that the decision from the umpire goes in his favour; or the out fielder and member of the opposing team in a robustly contested cricket match voluntarily providing the requisite confirmation to an umpire who was blindsided by what had happened, when selfishly he could so easily have refused to do so, that the ball did go to the boundary for the maximum number of runs.

Then there’s the quite significant issue of the sport of cricket having entered the highest echelons of the lexicon of the English language. “It’s not cricket, old boy,” literally sums it up, making it abundantly clear to the infringer that the behaviour being indulged in isn’t at all what’s expected or desired of him or her. So cricket is much more than a sport, it’s a way of life that embodies a lot more than simply performing on a field of play. For starters there’s the self-discipline, mental agility and long-term planning that it induces and instinctively reinforces; the sense of respect for one’s opponent and their ability in a clean but enthusiastic contest and the manful recognition if one’s team is beaten that the other team achieved its success because it was the better one. What other sport is there where avid supporters of opposing teams can happily sit down together in the same stadium and not only enjoy the beauty of the game together but also appreciate and applaud the skilful wizardry with the bat or ball of opposing team members as well as that of your own team players? The simple answer is cricket.

And it’s my honest opinion that these characteristics which are quite unique to cricket have been instrumental in helping England to create and control the most extensive and long-standing empire globally in the entire history of mankind and whose influence, although indirectly nowadays, continues to be experienced around the world even though that empire has long been dissolved. So should any country hoping to be or self-deceptively allotting to itself the mantle of world leadership be taken at all seriously if it doesn’t play cricket or worst still haven’t the foggiest notion of what the sport is all about?

Take the United States for instance where cricket isn’t played and the niceties of the sport would be extremely difficult to understand by a public schooled in the gladiatorial mindset of combat even as it applies to all sports and anything which doesn’t result in a speedy and possibly a brutal resolution swiftly as is generally the case with a profoundly uninteresting and evidently unimaginative child who needs constant attention or else rapidly sinks into the stupor of intuitive boredom for him or her the correlation isn’t lost in relation to the vast majority of the US public which legendary has a very short attention span and deals with most things, often to its detriment, accordingly.

Even the professed and much trumpeted US love for sport is somewhat skewed. To begin with the US doesn’t have any sport that it can honestly call its own. American football is a bastardized version of rugby: a sport whose origins began at the famous English Rugby School (in English parlance that’s a posh fee paying, educational establishment) located in the English Midlands. Basketball another bastardized version of an English sport is derived from netball, a largely girls game in England, even to this day. Baseball too is a bastardized crib of yet another English game called rounders that is similarly a kid’s game and mainly played by girls. That the United States grandiosely talks about a world series in this sport when the participants are entirely US teams doesn’t alter facts on the ground; it also brings a wry smile to the faces of those who say, this could only happen in the USA. But we also have a saying along the lines that imitation is the most compelling form of flattery.

Thus far I’ve used the terminology English notwithstanding the fact that the country is legally designated the United Kingdom; that said most of the games: tennis, bowls, rowing and many others far too numerous to mention here all have their origins in England; and anyway they all predate the union with Scotland that only occurred some 300 years ago. That said I wonder if Tiger Woods knows how indebted he is to Scotland for giving the world the game of golf.

Which takes us on to Barbados a country deeply steeped in cricket and where the sport is not so much a game but a way of life. First settled in 1627 by the British even though they first touched down there in 1625 the island has the second oldest continuous parliament in the world after the House of Commons and right though its existence was England’s most prosperous colony not only in the entire Americas but the world, remitting in today’s terms billions of pounds Sterling annually to the English exchequer at a time when what would later become the United States of America was little more that a collection of nondescript, backwater settlements on the North American mainland. But the role that Barbados played in transforming this US development was seismic.

In 1649 a number of Barbadians calling themselves the Society of Gentlemen set off from the island sailed to the North American mainland and founded the colony of Carolina. Two hundred of these migrants founded Charles Towne, named after Charles II of England, and today is known as Charleston, which is situated in South Carolina. The earliest governors of the Carolinas were also Barbadians as were some Massachusetts ones. The leader of the Barbados colonists was a wealthy and powerful Barbadian planter by the name of Sir John Yeamans; But that wasn’t all Barbados did for what you now know as the United States of America.

In 1751 as a 19 year old George Washington went to Barbados with his brother Lawrence whose purpose for going there was to recuperate from tuberculosis. Lawrence was cured of his tuberculosis on the island and additionally his sibling George who’d himself contracted smallpox also recovered from his illness because of the quite excellent medical care that he had received while in Barbados and that fortunately for him and the future United States as history would later show fortunately enabled him to build up an immunity to the virus; the complete significance of which following the successful treatment and cure of his smallpox in Barbados was only properly comprehended and fully appreciated many years later when George Washington’s army was entirely decimated by smallpox during the American War of Independence but Washington’s immunity warded of the disease; he survived the war and went on to assume a monumental place in the history of the United States as its first president. But what if? Supposed he hadn’t previously and fortunately been in Barbados?

Prior to his visit to Barbados George Washington had never left mainland America and he never did subsequently; so Barbados has the unique distinction of being the only country on earth apart from his homeland that he ever went to. Arriving on the island as a young man with very limited experience of the world it was a different and more cultured George Washington who finally left it. For George there was a host of new and completely thought provoking experiences to get his head round. There was the scale and scope of Bridgetown, Barbados’ capital and the biggest city he’d ever seen; and an elevated level of social skills and hospitality previously unfamiliar to him. There were too the many other cultural events that he was exposed to; his first ever play for instance, and the hive of very intensive and prosperous commercial activity in Bridgetown the North Atlantic’s most important port and trading centre in what was then the world’s most successful agro-based economy.

There was to be found too in Barbados a new breed of modern scientists and intellectuals: to this day the island has one of the highest literacy rates anywhere in the world which proudly stands at 100%, far higher than the United States and even Britain, but crucially for George Washington was that while he was in Barbados he met up with several Scotsmen who’d physically rebelled against the British monarchy and weren’t bashful in the least at sharing their ardour, patriotism and the valuable lessons they had learnt during those epic struggles with the English with him; consequently, the level of experiences which George Washington was subjected to and was also able to inculcate while in Barbados were huge to say the least. Even the house where he stayed was next door to the Garrison Savannah headquarters and also the base of the West India regiment that played a significant role in England’s colonial conquests; doubtlessly a great preparation for his own military future.

But there’s more to come. From its inception Barbados has been and still is a very strong English monarchic country and throughout its existence has been and is still very much so a stable democracy. Requesting as it was always previously entitled to do but chose to do so when it eventually did to become an independent sovereign state in 1966 stability and the rule of law exercised through the island’s long-standing parliament have always been assets that Barbadians are tremendously and justifiably proud of, and even as a colony Barbados essentially governed itself. However from the Barbadian perspective a dangerous fly in the ointment came about when Oliver Cromwell seized power in England. Monarchists to the core Barbadians refused to acknowledge this usurpation of the crown and execution of their monarch. Not by nature someone to take such a slight gracefully Oliver Cromwell made it perfectly clear to the Barbadians that if they didn’t renounce their stubborn hostility to him and recognize him as Lord Protector of England he’d abolish their prized parliament. To Barbadians this was like a red rag to a bull.

Already remitting in today’s equivalent trillions of pounds Sterling to England’s Exchequer Barbadians in their studied reply to Oliver Cromwell ultimatum didn’t mince their words. “No taxation,” they said, without representation.” The very first time ever that this phrase was used, and they meant every word. Angered even further by this defiance Cromwell sent the might of the Royal Navy to teach the Barbadians a lesson but it was he who got a nasty shock and the lesson of his life, for the Barbadians not only repelled but also defeated the Royal Navy’s attack; the first and only British colony ever to have done so. Humiliated by this Oliver Cromwell was forced to sign The Treaty of Oistins at the Mermaid Tavern in the seaside town of Oistins on Barbados’ south coast in 1652. All this occurred 124 years prior to the creation of the United States of America.

In fact when the US insurgents, militants or revolutionaries, take your pick, opted to rebel and seek their independence from Britain it was Barbados that their leaders instinctively turned to for assistance and guidance. And it’s no coincidence that the slogan “NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION” known universally to every United States citizen and resident and many people around the world as well and associated exclusively but oh so ignorantly with the United States was used; but how many of you know when it originated, where and why? Or the role that Barbados actively played in helping the US to achieve its independence?

Eventually this assistance and US colonial perseverance paid off and the United States was born, but the Barbadian connection didn’t finish there. The United States Declaration of Independence is a direct crib of the Treaty of Oistins signed in Barbados 124 years before the US was created between Oliver Cromwell and the people of Barbados, that guaranteed them all the constitutional rights and privileges they’d previously enjoyed and that included as well a pledge of non-interference in their parliamentary affairs, in other words literally authorizing Barbadians to carry on doing their own thing, and as such almost two thirds of this 1652 document can be found in the US Declaration of Independence. Just as importantly one of the signatories on the US Declaration of Independence was a Barbadian; so was the printer of the original document. So the hand of Barbados and Barbadians alike is writ indelibly and clearly all over US history; but it’s a history that few US citizens and residents know anything about.

Before the US finally achieved its independence cognisant that the Royal Navy was still a force to be reckoned with its revolutionary leaders very much aware of the existing power of the Royal Navy had created a navy of their own but this fledgling navy, a ramshackle outfit at best, wasn’t any match for the Royal Navy. In their hearts the revolutionaries knew this but weren’t prepared to give up that easily. Instead they turned to Africa for help and in doing so recruited a number of Moors that were legendary for their seamanship and almost immediately there was a massive turn around in the fortunes and destiny of this fledgling navy the majority of whose commanders were African Moors. However, as soon as victory was secured and the prevalent danger from the Royal Navy permanently eradicated, these Moors: all black and free combatants in the service of US revolutionaries were arrested, arbitrarily deprived of their liberty and sold into slavery. Some thanks you might say. For all that however Morocco, home of many of these Moors, was the first country in the world to recognize the independence of the United States.

Little England as it's fondly called because of its quintessential Englishness and strong royalist sentiments and the basis for the quarrel between Oliver Cromwell and itself leading it to coin the phrase "No Taxation Without Representation" which the US revolutionaries borrowed, used in their war of independence against England and after their success took the Treaty of Oistins and incorporated it as their Constitution says it all really. Doubtlessly a tribute to the  role Barbados played in helping Washington and his revolutionaries in defeating England, not from any hatred of England but from a belief on the part of most Barbadians that those living in the American colonies should also have the right to decide their own future and fate; a cardinal principal of freedom and self-determination that runs freely and passionately through the veins of every Barbadian man and woman.

It’s been mentioned earlier that one of the principal Founding Fathers of the US and whose signature is on its declaration of independence was a Barbadian, prominent enough in his own right to be tipped as President of the fledgling United States of America. This however infuriated George Washington who so much wanted that job for himself that he organized a political conspiracy against his perceived rival and had the famous or infamous, take your pick, codicil to the US Constitution inserted that stated that no one except someone born in the United States of America could become its President. For George quite understandable you might say but risibly needlessly so since this targeted Barbadian who was enormously rich wasn't in the least interested in having the job and moreover with his huge plantations and other business interests in Barbados was quite contented to stay Barbadian and British; sensibly adopting the stance and making it clear to George Washington that while he didn’t mind helping him and his guys to win their independence he nevertheless was quite happy as he was; and that was undeniably a Barbadian.

The Constitution of the United States of America was printed by a Barbadian publisher; the first Jews to settle in the United States were wealthy Barbadians who'd made their money in Barbados from the lucrative sugar industry and the oldest synagogue anywhere in the so-called New World and a UN world heritage site is in Bridgetown, Barbados' capital. Not at all bad for a small Caribbean island; but how many Brits or other foreign visitors to Lord Nelson's Statue and Trafalgar Square in London have any idea that these world landmarks are in actuality replicas of those located in Barbados? The first ever Lord Nelson Statue and Trafalgar Square, the second is in Bermuda that followed Barbados' lead and London's is the third of these erected some 50 years after the one in Barbados, were commissioned and paid for by Barbadians from all walks of life shortly after the Battle of Trafalgar and were erected on land bought by these people in Bridgetown opposite the House of Assembly, the Barbados parliament buildings where they're still located with one slight adjustment; after Barbados asked for and got its independence from Britain the post independent government and parliament decided to rename Trafalgar Square Independence Square.

Nevertheless, the locations of the statue and square are both symbolic and important to all Barbadians since their parliament, the second oldest and continuous one after the House of Commons in any part of the British Empire now the Commonwealth, was created in 1639, just 12 years after the colony was established. And let's not forget that Barbados was for a considerable time a principal and strategic location in the Americas, for it was there that the British West India Regiment that played such crucial roles in England's and later the United Kingdom's colonial conquests was based at the Garrison Savannah that is now the home of the Barbados Defence Force; and its capital Bridgetown was a major port and an important economic and cultural centre prior to and for much longer than any of the now familiar US cities that are immediately recognizable were ever dreamt of let alone founded.

Barbados’ National Archives, located in Black Rock a quiet and rather picturesque suburb of Bridgetown, is a customary stopping off point for many academics, writers, journalists and ordinary citizens from North America, elsewhere around the region and as far away as Europe that regularly descend on the island to research not only their countries' past history and their integral links with Barbados but also their own family histories and links to the island.

Proudly Barbados boasts a truly excellent educational system that, as it happens, goes back to the founding of this ex British Colony in 1627 with the majority of the island's grammar schools set up in the 17th Century and are therefore much older than many countries like Canada or the United States of America; the latter founded in 1776. The educational system initially introduced and used by the islanders was understandably British but Barbados has innovatively and independently vastly improved on this and obviously has evolved its own. The Barbados Scholarship that allowed academically bright students to study at prestigious universities worldwide, in the past this was chiefly Britain but no longer so because of the deplorable and evident dumbing down of the educational system there, goes back too to the founding of the colony with education always a priority, still is to this day and with literacy rates at 100% stably remaining so.

As a result Barbados stands proudly alongside a small elite band of countries as having a 100% literacy rate, a state of affairs that is verified by UNICEF that in its annual report on the State of the World's Children in 2004 stated that at the turn of the 21st Century the adult female and male literacy rates in Barbados were 100%. It went on further to state that very countries in the world, and that includes Britain and United States, have managed to attain Barbados' educational profile; and the only countries that match it are the states of Ukraine, Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Belarus, Estonia and Lithuania that owed their rankings to Soviet influences.

Most Barbadian students, of both sexes, go into tertiary and higher graduate education and the island of Barbados has a an overabundance of university graduates of both sexes many of these with postgraduate qualifications that are in great demand at home and abroad, and it's quite commonplace to witness recruiting teams from the so-called developed countries, particularly the United States, descending on the island to poach its graduates. Education across Barbados is universal and free from kindergarten to university postgraduate level; health care likewise so and widespread throughout the island’s National Health Service to all Barbadian citizens and residents from the point of entry right through to death. Women have always played a major and constructive role in Barbadian society and significantly so as one would expect in education and this too is massively reflected in Barbados' political, economic and civic life.

Predictably then many of Barbados' senior diplomats and prominent politicians are women and Barbados was the first country to appoint a female ambassador to the United Nations that later served in the UNSC. She's the late Dame Anita Barrow who afterwards became the Governor General of Barbados and was the sister of another renowned Barbadian figure Errol Barrow: a distinguished academic who studied at the prestigious LSE in London; was a wartime RAF fighter pilot seconded as personal pilot to Winston Churchill; became an outstanding barrister having been called to the bar in England; founded the influential Barbados Democratic Labour Party or DLP as it’s locally and fondly known and eventually became the Prime Minister and father of Barbados' independence from Britain, and among his many achievements for Barbadians introduced free and universal secondary education that previously had to be paid for, as well as free universal health care for all Bajan citizens and residents.

Among a litany of other prominent successes Barbados is well renowned for its plethora of world famous cricketers, among them the celebrated 3Ws of Clyde Walcott, the great-uncle of Theo Walcott England and Arsenal football player; Everton Weekes and Frank Worrell all of them knights of the realm, as is the legendary Sir Garfield Sobers; knighted by Queen Elizabeth of England herself who is still constitutionally their monarch also, with Bajans overwhelmingly, even though they got their independence in 1966, opting for her to stay in the role that each of her royal predecessors had occupied in an unbroken sequence since the founding under Charles 1 in 1627 of this characteristically most English of colonies which never changed hands or its British identity until the acquisition of its independence. Then there's Shirley Chisholm – born in the US to Barbadian parents but raised and educated in Barbados – who became the first female to be elected to the US Congress and also the very first woman to run for the presidency of her birth country the United States of America; and so the list goes on.

But in concluding this piece on Barbados, there are still a few things which you ought to know about this remarkable country. It's not only the first country to have produced sugar from sugar cane; invented rum and molasses; and created the grapefruit, per populace the island has more centenarians than any other country in the world, and only Cuba, another Caribbean state with which it has always had close family and inter-island links, rivals it in this regard. Yes there’s no doubt Barbados is a popular destination for upmarket tourists and its tourism goes back centuries to the day when rich Britons sailed out to what they affectionately dubbed Little England to avail themselves of the island's legendary, excellent climate. Nothing has changed since then except that they fly there now; people like film director Michael Winner; pops stars Cliff Richard, Mick Jagger, Eddie Grant who actually lives there permanently, Cilla Black and other international celebrities like Tiger Woods, not forgetting infamous politicians like the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who either have luxurious homes on the island or use those of friends that have. Among other notable Bajan exports is Sir Richard Stoute one of Britain's principal horse trainers whose expertise is readily made use of by no less a personage than the Queen herself; and staying in England with its passion for football the English premier league would be much the poorer without the invaluable contribution, past and present, made by the biological sons of Barbados.

The Treaty of Oistins; Barbados' links with the American colonies; Barbados links with the United States; The West India Regiment; Barbados' Jews; The earliest Jewish settlement in Barbados; George Washington in Barbados; Rabbi Marc Lee Raphael on Jews in the Slave Trade; The Barbadian Society of Gentlemen Adventurers (those who founded the colony of Carolina in 1649); Irish and Scottish links with Barbados; Cardington College (the first and oldest tertiary educational establishment in the New World, set up in Barbados; still there and now an integral part of the University of the West Indies); Slavery and Economy in Barbados; and finally, British History: Empire and Sea Power.

These constitute just a tiny fraction of what's out there if you use your imagination and initiative to research what I have given you and look for the rest which would further enlighten you. So good luck! And don't ever fall into the age-old trap that because it's not taught in British, American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand or even European schools that it doesn't exit – very much like the forbearers of these same people arrogantly claiming to have discovered the so-called New World when there were literally millions of people already living there, had done so for millennia, and were fully au fait with these places; and therefore on that rather warped basis the only history there is, or is worth knowing about is a white one.

During Barack Obama’s campaign to be president of the United States and even subsequent to his election there has been a lot of hot air, mostly from the far right, about his legitimacy to be president. This all revolves around a codicil in the US constitution which says that to be the president of the US one had to be born on US territory. But I wonder how many US citizens are actually familiar with how this came about? I referred earlier to the role that Barbadians played in the creation of the United States even citing the indisputable fact that on the US Declaration of Independence one of the signatories is a Barbadian. However it’s quite evident that while George Washington was quite happy to have Barbadian assistance having set his eye on the big prize he wasn’t prepared to forego this, and since he saw this Bajan as a rival the natural thing from George’s point of view was to effectively stymie any aspirations he felt that this Barbadian might have in that direction. So like all unscrupulous ambitious men who insecurely felt threatened even when there was no threat there he did what he thought he should and I’m sure a lot more mildly than what today’s crop of US politicians vying for the White House would do in his circumstances.

The irony is that while this prosperous and powerful Barbadian was more than contented to assist the American colonies in gaining their independence from Britain he had no desire to become a United States citizen let alone its president; his roots were Barbadian and he was naturally and understandably proud of them; nor had he any wish to relinquish what he had for what he sceptically thought wouldn’t actually survive for very long; so what he did was strictly on altruistic grounds. As it happened George Washington got his wish and the rest is as we say history.

All of the information outlined above and much more relative to the United States can be freely obtained from the contemporaneous recorded archives kept at Black Rock, one of the suburbs of Bridgetown. So why not take a trip to the island where at present in excess of 25% of all visitors are from the United States and where I can assure you you’re likely to find a lot more than you possibly bargained for, not least the ancestry-tracing facilities for many Americans which are particularly noteworthy.

Knowing Americans as I do I’m quite positive that many of you won’t be able to get your heads around much and even none of this, but that doesn’t alter the reality that it’s all true. And which brings me to the principal question that prompted all of this and what I actually want to ask you: is there anything that’s real about the United States or is it all borrowed then recycled with most of you deluding yourselves that you first thought of it and even invented it? Well now you know. What’s your take? It’s an open invitation that’s similarly extended to many Britons a growing number of whom unfortunately know precious little about the history of what they call their country, and even though Barbados is a regular and a extremely popular destination for British tourists how many among you and even more so those who’ve never been there know that it was Barbadian money that paid for the English Industrial Revolution and significantly paved the way for England, there was no UK then, to become the great industrial power it that it was?

The black Roman Terentius Afer (190-159 BC) who prominently distinguished himself in the field of literature and as a playwright and whose scholarly compositions Julius Caesar, Horace and Cicero used as models and as well became the standard work for all the schools at the time was obviously a man well ahead of his time, when he shrewdly authored these words: "Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto." (Translated it reads, I am a man and nothing human is alien to me).

These words are as germane now in the context of contemporary world events as when they were first penned and ought to be compulsory familiarization for every military adventurist from Europe, North America, the rest of the so-called west (essentially those that belong to the white Caucasian controlling countries), and their bevy of ingratiating, venal and utterly self-serving tin pot dictators globally, as well as the United Nations Security Council that brazenly and habitually turns a Nelsonian eye to what these people do and even sanctions their illegal activities; but I doubt, given who sit on it in a permanent capacity and without root and branch reform of the entire stinking edifice of the United Nations itself, whether the UNSC will ever be a meaningful force for promoting or overseeing good governance in the world or be willing to exercise itself with morally testing notions like these. Not while the Zionists, neo-cons, military industrial complex and the banking mafia hold sway.

And if there’s one country in this pathetically sick and deplorable world we live in and that we can beneficially learn from and which indisputably has got its priorities right that nation is Barbados; and I take my hat off to the government and people there!

No comments:

Post a Comment