A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF METHODOLOGIES IN THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS AND WORLD PEACE: MRS. RAM, FATHER BROWN AND BOUTROS BOUTROS-GHALI

You might think that since we live on this coral stone paradise that we are not interested in world politics. Not so. World peace starts at home and this exceptional island leads by example having recently changed governments in an orderly fashion and with great dignity. There is the obvious leadership of politicians, the church and other pillars of society’s hierarchy. But for true guidance my man in the street looks to other sources - as I found out when I tuned in last Saturday morning to Bim talk radio.

What with the killings in Kenya, the bloody attempted coup in Chad and 50 recorded murders in Trinidad for a year that has barely begun, you would think people do not need to be persuaded of the need for peace. But they do, and well-known businesswoman and local celebrity, Mrs. Ram, has some wisdom to impart - along with bargain prices for objects you will need by the time she is finished. On live radio from 9am to 10am, Mrs. Ram brings us her thoughts directly from the shop floor of her emporiums, Furniture Limited and the Handy Man’s Hardware. In a stream of consciousness worthy of a Marquez novel, we are told that you can buy a 17 foot ladder for $495, a 32 foot for $1000, a 36 foot for $1200 and a 40 foot for $1400. Why do you need a 17-foot ladder you ask? Mrs. Ram’s sales assistant explains that standing on a chair is not always good enough, and, if you fall, as you get older, your bones don’t mend so easily. So before you say you don’t have $495 for a ladder think of the savings in time, money and stress. And while you are up that ladder why not change your curtains? Bajans used to have to go to Trinidad to get cheap curtains. Now Trini prices are def-in-ite-ly right here on Cumberland Street. Deliveries happen Monday to Friday in every parish.

On live radio we are informed that Debra, a sales person, is looking good today in a green T-Shirt with the slogan, “Girls Just Want to Have Funds”. Joanne, the radio announcer, says she normally cuts her hair very, very short in January but this new year she is keeping it long. And for you non-believers it is not “store bought hair”. We are reliably informed that you are as young as you feel; pomegranate is the colour for 2K8 and that Berger Paints have brought out a new, super fast drying paint, called 20/20 - named after the super short 20/20 cricket games. Yes, it is more expensive but then you always pay more for real quality. Oh, and Joy in sales hates talking into the microphone. But just wait for Peter or John to appear and you can’t shut her up. Joanne would also like her husband to note that either Mrs. Ram’s eight or ten piece comforter set would be acceptable for her up coming birthday or at a push, Valentine’s Day.

Then, just when I thought it could not get better, the woman herself joined the fray. Mrs. Ram said straight off that T-Shirts like Debra’s were too sexy and it is time for young people, and indeed the whole of Barbados, to get back to family and God. You can do this on a family day out at her hotel, Casa Grande, on 17 February from 3- 8pm, admission $25 - which she has to charge just to pay for the maintenance. The change in government was welcome but business people are being frustrated. At every meeting Mrs. Ram has been told that civil servants cannot deal with her concerns as “dey waiting fuh policy”. Meanwhile she can offer some nice 6 by 8, 13 by 13, 16 by 16, and 20 by 20 tiles, in hundreds of styles, and at prices to suit every pocket. If you don’t have the cash there is easy credit. Just bring your job letter, Identification Card and a small down payment. Mrs. Ram urges Bajans to “get off their backside and get some work done”. You can also hire Casa Grande to take your vows again “to make sure yuh married”. If you missed any of the bargains mentioned earlier, like punch bowls for $39.95 (you know you want one), or hand blenders for $38.95, then the programme is repeated on Fridays at 11am. Tune in.

Having spent a whole year on the rock before discovering Mrs. Ram’s broadcast I began to wonder what other sources of wisdom blog readers have been deprived of. Well, there’s church - the epicentre of Bajan society. Not for the first time it is my friend Linda who comes to the rescue. She is a regular of Father Brown’s congregation. This week she reported on his special sermon for kids on the theme of responsibility and happiness.

Accepting that you determine your happiness (or lack thereof) is an excellent topic. Indeed, it is arguable that Mrs. Ram’s message to get off your backside and do some work is simply a practical route to owning one’s happiness. But how exactly do you convey such a complex idea to the under10’s? Adults routinely blame others for their unhappiness so why should children be more mature? And allocating blame in a post-Freud world is easy. It must be your mother’s fault. Had my mom breast-fed me for a year, would I still be a grumpy loner who would rather be force fed Mitt Romney speeches on a loop for 24 hours than spend 30 minutes at a coffee morning social? Sadly, I think I would. By the way, First Born, and Second Born (by three minutes), in case you ever read this blog, until you have premature twin babies of your own, and a six-inch cut across your stomach, don’t judge formula milk too harshly.

Christ Church parish has Father Brown to prevent our children from making such cheap excuses when they cannot or will not take responsibility for their lives. This week he started by asking them to put up their hands if they were happy. No hands. Then he tried asking them to share what made them happy. Silence. Animals and children – tricky creatures… But our Father Brown had not yet played his ace. Would the kids join him in singing the ever popular “If You’re Happy And You Know It”. It goes something like this:

If you’re happy and you know it
Clap your hands
(followed by hand clapping)

If you’re happy and you know it
Clap your hands
(followed by hand clapping)

If you’re happy and you know it
And you really want to show it
If you’re happy and you know it
Clap your hands
(followed by hand clapping)

Other verses usually follow with e.g. stamping your feet and clicking your fingers. Father Brown had them clap hands. Success! The church is filled with the sound of music and little hands clapping. Verse two commanded that if they were happy, and they knew it, they should “flap [their] wings”. Most made a decent stab at imitating a bird in flight and again music filled the church. But he had saved the best for last.

If you’re happy and you know it
Wag your tail


The bewildered kids were stumped. So the good pastor attempted to demonstrate by doing a little bottom wriggling in the aisle for them. The children refused to follow his lead. Frustrated, padre called for volunteers from the congregation to show them how to “wag their tails”. Not a tail moved. “Come come, there must be somebody who can wag their tail fuh de children dem.” he implored. Eventually from the back of the church a middle aged, white, Bajan lady put her hand up and gingerly walked up the aisle to the assembled cherubs. She then proceeded to vigorously wriggle her hips as if trying to shake off a Post-It stuck to her rear. This did the trick and the voices of the little angels reached up to the heavens:

If you’re happy and you know it
Wag your tail
(followed by tail wagging)

If you’re happy and you know it
Wag your tail
(followed by tail wagging)

If you’re happy and you know it
And you really want to show it
If you’re happy and you know it
Wag your tail
(followed by tail wagging)

Well screw the god delusion arguments. Look for me in frock and matching hat in the front pew next Sunday morning.

So when you're blue remember Mrs. Ram and Father Brown. Happiness is never far out of reach if you just take responsibility and try a little harder. Embrace your inner Jack Russell or Irish Setter.

As for world peace, I say we follow the succinct advice of former Secretary-General of the UN, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, as offered on Da Ali G Show:

Hello, I’m Boutros Boutros-Ghali,
Put down your guns,
And follow Bob Marley.


Respec. Here’s hoping your cup runneth over.

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