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Wednesday 15 August 2018
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Working out holidays

BUSINESSMAN Gerald Aboud’s social media comments relating to the Indian Arrival Day and Corpus Christi holidays have generated controversy. Aboud may have shown insensitivity when he described both occasions as “two stupid holidays” but that does not justify hateful racist responses to his remarks. Nor should it detract from the bigger issue of the need to address our productivity levels and how our calendar of national holidays relates to it.

We, too, are appalled by Aboud’s choice of words. The outrage is understandable given the history and significance of each day. The Indian Arrival Day holiday was one which was granted only after years of hard-fought lobbying by members of the East Indian community who sought to highlight their contributions to our nation. That contribution is more than just various foods and place-names, it is a social one. Divided as we may let ourselves believe us to be, the story of East Indian indentureship is inherently bound to that of African slavery.

And the Corpus Christi holiday represents a long tradition with deep theological roots. It is a celebration of the idea of Christ’s presence on earth – or the transubstantiation. The idea of communal sharing of a moveable feast dramatically supports the idea of our responsibilities to one another. The day is one of only five days in which Roman Catholic bishops are banned from being away from their diocese. It is marked as a public holiday in 22 countries all over the world. Therefore, to dismiss both days carte blanche is not only insensitive but also offensive.

Yet, two wrongs do not make a right. It is equally reprehensible for people to direct comments at Aboud suggesting he should go back where he came from. For all of us, if we consider our histories, have come from somewhere else. Indeed, that is the story of the Americas.

But even a stopped clock is right twice a day. There are, in fact, legitimate grounds to question our relationship to the many holidays on our calendar. According to some analysts, each holiday results in losses of $324 million in economic productivity. Yet, this calculation does not factor in the economic gains the holidays do, in fact, present. Spending on certain items goes up. We feel the issue is not the number of holidays per se. Rather, the issue is the relationship between the citizenry and these holidays.

This week’s conflation of two holidays on Wednesday and Thursday should have been tempered with discipline. Friday should have been regarded as a full work-day. That it was not is the problem. It is our attitude to our privileges that needs to be worked on.


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