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Musings: In this jurisdiction, solely

7/15/2012

By Jeff Cumberbatch

A few years ago, one of the more creative local calypsonians used the Bajanism “Only ‘bout hay” as the title of one of his compositions. This ditty recounted the occurrence of sundry peculiarisms, which could have happened nowhere else; hence, only here. Or ‘bout hay, if you prefer. Since then, the phrase has wormed its way into populist expression, and has become an idiom of comment, usually disapproving, on any event or activity that the speaker imagines unlikely to be seen elsewhere. Our quaint traditionalism and penchant for taking ourselves far too seriously most times lend easily to the use of this comment in many contexts.

The usual reader of this column, all three or four of them, will readily recognise that today’s title expresses the identical sentiment, just rendered in “proper” English, to satisfy another local quirk.

Religious unreasoning

It would be difficult for me to contemplate somewhere else in the free world that a programme would cause discontent and, ultimately, its temporary removal from the airwaves, simply because some of the views that were expressed therein which did not accord with popularly accepted dogma. When that programme purports to be one that embraces argument, given the word “reasoning” in its title, the scenario becomes even more bizarre; and when, further, it is considered that there is a modern convention of some pastors styling themselves “doctor” – a title that ordinarily bespeaks an original contribution to the learning on a particular subject matter, one is driven to conclude that what was intended by the programme’s creators was not religious reasoning at all, but religious reinforcement of what is already believed by a majority of the citizenry.

The reluctance to foster freedom of expression in this context might be acceptable in a state that technically still criminalises blasphemy, even though such a charge at the present day seems unlikely. But I recall, with some amusement still, a television programme I watched one night when I lived in the United Kingdom. In this programme the focus of discussion was the bishop of one of the major cathedral cities in England … York or Bath, I can’t be sure now. Sometime earlier, that cleric had publicly declared his scepticism concerning the Immaculate Conception or the Resurrection or both. The nub of the participants’ query was not, as may be imagined, the mechanics of this individual’s accession to such a prestigious office in light of his dubious and near-heretic Christian philosophy. Rather, it was as to the identity of the candidate over whom he had been given precedence since, as was revealed, two names had to be presented to Her Majesty for her to make the choice. And if the incumbent could have been chosen, what, precisely, were the views of the other? And who might he be?

The local programme, I must confess, is not one, in spite of the allure of its title, that succeeded in grabbing my interest sufficiently for me to watch an episode, therefore I am not in a position to discuss the various views expressed which caused so much consternation. Nor can I fathom why other participants of a different persuasion did not expose these “heresies” as invalid.

However, as one who has devoted his life so far to the pursuit of knowledge, I do feel a sense of loss, even if vicariously, that others are not to be permitted exposure to alternative views, no matter how outrageous, and driven to discredit them by reference to an authoritative source. Only ‘bout hay!

Same-sex marriage of straw men

I have been travelling frequently over the past two months and must plead guilty to not keeping up, as a Sunday columnist should, with local commentary. I can reason, however, that someone, during that period, put up a closely reasoned and cogently argued case for the legalisation of same sex marriage in Barbados. I am of this persuasion because, on at least two occasions in recent memory, honourable and learned ministers of government have sought to make it clear that this does not form part of the legislative agenda of the current administration.

Of course, as duly elected parliamentarians and, under our constitutional dispensation, as members of Cabinet, these two gentlemen wield significant authority as to what shall or shall not become law. But, among the many elements which might comprise the latter category, why is an institution that runs counter to current law and that would be anathema to a vast majority of the electorate in a jurisdiction not celebrated for its readiness to enact legislation protective of human rights, the subject of official public comment on not one, but two occasions in such a relatively short span of time?

Unless there has indeed been an incidence of the previously mentioned argument for statutory validity of same sex marriage, one might reasonably suspect the presence of some mysterious straw man; erected merely to be immediately knocked down. But why?

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