Arresting a degenerating culture
By Basil Springer

Here is a definition of culture by Author Robert Dugan: "The ways of thinking, living and behaving that define a people and underlie its achievements. It is a nation's collective mind, its sense of right and wrong, the way it perceives reality, and its definition of self. Culture is the morals and habits a mother strives to instill in her children. It is the obligations we acknowledge toward our neighbors, our community, and our government... It is the standards we set and enforce for ourselves and for others: our definitions of duty, honor and character. It is our collective conscience" (Winning the New Civil War, 1991, p. 169)

The success of a nation, which may in other words be expressed as its sustainable development, depends on six major components: (1) its spiritual awareness; (2) the preservation of its physical environment; (3) the conservation of its energy which includes the use of renewable energy e.g. sun, wind etc and the efficient use of all energy; (4) the effectiveness of converting money, materials, labour and knowledge into economic growth; (5) the empowerment of its people and (6) its culture.

The above text by Robert Dugan gives a fairly comprehensive definition of what our culture should be. It recognizes that culture begins with the morals and habits a mother tries to instill in her children, hence strengthening the family unit. It recognizes the obligation we acknowledge towards our neighbours, thus building community spirit and it recognizes the role that public and private sector leadership play in the development of our country and the need for each and every individual to give their support.

My assessment is that in Barbados, the Caribbean and many parts of the world there is an admission of a declining and degenerating culture. We must arrest this decline in culture, lest we wake up one day to find that we are supported by a very fragile foundation and everything collapses before us. The ideal strategy would have been to have paid attention to the culture that our mothers strove to instill in their children, but alas we are too late and hence we find ourselves in the position we are today. What can we do?

Even though we might think that everything is lost we should probably go back to those first principles which relate to morals, habits, duties, honour and character. We would then rely on our mass communicators whether they are politicians, the media or religious leaders to give us a wake up call.

On May 28th my mother reached her 90th birthday. It was celebrated the next evening at a wonderful gathering of family and friends. Initially my mother wondered why her children would want to go the extent of an elaborate function to celebrate her birthday, but it was such a gracious and memorable occasion that it is impossible to conceive how we would have allowed this occasion to pass without an indelible record. There were three generations of relatives and friends there and from all reports everyone had a very enjoyable evening. The speeches took the form of appreciations from a sibling, child and grandchild to which there was a cool, calm, collected and very gracious response from the matriarch of the family.

Her younger brother recounted the earlier years when Rita Springer from a rather tender age, as the eldest of her siblings, was given major responsibilities by her parents to look after them. He recounted her kindness, her responsibility, her caring nature and her selfless pursuits, all of which complemented the moulding which the children received from their parents.

I was responsible for expressing appreciation from my generation and there were many things to recall. I focused on her culinary pursuits which ranged from training at the Housecraft Centre through portraying Mrs Kookit on the television for Super Centre Ltd. to her ŒCaribbean Cookbook‚ which was published 36 years ago but which many a person uses as their culinary guide today. Of course there are the rock buns, a sample of which was given to the guests, which my mother has been making for over 55 years and which are still to be found today in her kitchen if you have the clues for the treasure hunt.

My older son was entrusted with the responsibility of speaking for his generation and he was very humorous in recounting the many experiences with his grandmother in their childhood and concluded that she had the uncanny skill of relating to her grandchildren as grandmother, mother and sister all in one. The representatives of all three generations recognized the contributions which Rita or more affectionately „Rites‰ had made to her immediate and extended families.

In her closing remarks she attributed any benefits, which she might have passed on, to her spiritual upbringing and the discipline which was instilled in her life by her parents at an early age. This discipline I can assure you is still very much with her today. It is this type of example which we would want to have extended across families, communities, the nation, and the world in an attempt to arrest the degenerating culture.

(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. (CBET) -