A-M u s i n g s: Indian Giver

I have left Saint Lucia, for the moment anyhow, so I may be a little late or out of date with my musings. Once you escape into the free world, the worries, cares and concerns of our little island seem to far away. Perhaps that’s the reason why ministers of government travel so much: They are travelling to leave their cares behind them, just like the old World War I song of 1915 said:

Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag, And smile, smile, smile, While you’ve a lucifer to light your fag, Smile, boys, that’s the style. What’s the use of worrying? It never was worth while, so Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag, And smile, smile, smile.

A Lucifer, by the way, for those who are not old enough to know, was a slang word for a match, and a fag had nothing to do with the politically incorrect derogatory name for a homosexual; a fag was a cigarette.

But I had not intended to write about fags, gays, soldiers, matches and ministers at all today. You see, another expression popped into my mind, quite unannounced, as I was flying over the Atlantic for my first engagement. Recent events in Saint Lucia had given me cause to recall the phrase ‘Indian Giver’.

For those of you who do not know, an Indian giver is an American expression used to describe a person who gives a gift and later wants it back, or something equivalent in return. It is based on the experiences of early European settlers and pioneers when trading with Native Americans. It was the culture of the Indians that when a gift was given, something of equal value was given by the receiver of the gift in return. The custom of Native American gift giving was misinterpreted by early European settlers as shady business dealings.

Trading with Native Americans had a very unusual aspect—any trade, once consummated, was considered a fair trade. If on one day, they traded beads for a dog from a tribe, then days later, the trade could be reversed; upon surrendering the beads, the tribe expected the dog back. The original idea of “giving” in this fashion connotes trade, and not presents or gifts.

The phrase originated in a cultural misunderstanding that arose when Europeans thought they were receiving gifts from Native Americans, while the Native Americans believed they were engaged in bartering; this resulted in the Native Americans finding European behaviour ungenerous and insulting.

It was a bit like that the other year when the Unions were demanding higher increases in salaries than the Government was willing to pay. The Zero Option was the PM’s final offer, which turned out to be not so final after all, for once the Union’s members had accepted the Zero Option, the Government felt compelled to offer them a 4% increase.

You see where the concept of Indian Giving comes into play? And then this year the waters got even muddier when the Government suggested a 5% decrease in pay. It really did sound as if the giver was requesting the return of the gift—with interest; 5% in return for 4%.

Then of course, you got all the pundits explaining that a 5% decrease in salary would lead to a catastrophic reduction in spending power that would ruin the fragile economy of the country. It just wasn’t on!

Now excuse me for asking, but I have a simple mind, and I like to break things down into simple questions.

If a 5% decrease in the salaries of our public servants would lead to a dramatic and catastrophic reduction in their spending power that would ruin the fragile economy of our country this year, how come the 4% increase of last year would not, could not and did not result in a dramatic augmentation of our public servants’ spending power that would rescue our failing economy?

I hate these night flights; they really set your mind going!

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