Freedom of Thought in our Republic and Beyond
On November 16th 2020 the statue of Lord Nelson which had stood in the middle of Bridgetown Barbados since 1813 and was older than the statue of Nelson in Trafalgar Square in London, was ceremoniously removed and stored at a disused government building at the Garrison St. Michael.
Nelson stood in Heroes’ Square for 208 years and was one of the last vestiges of Barbados’s colonial past.
On 29th November this year, Barbados will cease all connection with the British monarchy when the Queen is replaced as our Head of State with Barbadian Dame Sandra Mason as our new President. As we transition to a Republic after one second past midnight on the 30th of November, we recall Independence Day was held 55 years ago in 1966.
It appears that freedom of political thought and mindset has finally matured in Barbados, although we have already assured the United Kingdom that Barbados will remain favorably disposed to membership of the Commonwealth as per all ex-colonial states have done, with the Head of the Commonwealth still, you’ve guessed it, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
So, is it possible that you can take Nelson from Hero’s Square, turn into a Republic overnight, but remain part of the British Commonwealth and genuflect to the old colonial power? Of course, it is. And can political and liberal attitudes and a way of looking at ourselves change overnight? Or will our view of the world remain much the same? That’s the issue.
To promote new thinking about our society’s myriad challenges, this year is the most opportune year, therefore Humanists Barbados welcomes the International Day for Tolerance and thereby freedom of thought in our Republic and hopes to widen public discussion on topics that are so obvious but are neither commonly nor openly discussed.
For example, we look forward to representing a part of our community that does not practice or believe in any religion at all, from atheists to humanists. We want to illuminate a group that does not attend church or follow church teachings or institutionalized religion but is conflicted when for example the commonly accepted practice in Barbados before commencing any meeting is to invite divine guidance, never mentioning which god or gods are prayed to, never asking for permission or tolerance from those who don’t see the need for any kind of prayer. (Interestingly, per the 2010 Barbados Population and Housing Census volume 1, which indicated about 45,500 persons in Barbados stating they didn’t follow any religious group, second only to the total number of declared Anglicans, who numbered about 54,000).
The LGBTQIA community is also seldom to the subject of public discourse. When last did you hear a discussion of their belief system and culture in a nondiscriminatory fashion? Indeed, in some Caribbean territories, the level of public antipathy towards LGBTQIA persons borders on personal assault.
We invite you to describe the ways that Barbados can grow away from conservatism and narrow-minded thinking that’s a vestige of slavery and colonialism so that we can really embrace independence of being, away from monarchs, Massa's and gods, to freedom of thought and deed in the world’s newest Republic. Shouldn’t we be looking at the world differently during this pandemic and climate emergency, during a time when the latest superpower with its worldwide belt and road project will surely affect us? And shouldn’t free-thinking looking outwards be mirrored by ourselves looking inwards? Isn’t this the real independence of being and thinking that we should strive towards?
Humanists Barbados is a community of free-thinking citizens who actively create and share meaningful lives outside the traditions of religion. We are dedicated to education in science, history, and human rights and the promotion of humanism for a more fair and equal society.
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