The sand is white; my friends are not.
“I just don’t get it, man,” he says. “Why can’t we as humans learn from tens of thousands of years of history?”
Caribbean palms run interference to rays of sunlight trickling below onto a small table of t-shirts. Dregs, each punctuated with dime-size white clamshells at the end of each tip, gently swing across his shoulders. Sitting on a weathered wooden bench, I listen.
“I mean,” he says, it’s like humanity is destined to act no better than crabs in a barrel for all eternity.”
I smile as I’ve heard of the odd behavior before, but not associated with the evolution of mankind.
My new friend, born on this tiny island of sand and rock, travels the world as a musician when not at home.
He’s not angry, but intense passion emits from his words.
“You ever watch crabs in a barrel when you reach down with a string or stick? One crab grabs on and begins to lift itself up; instantly all the others begin climbing up his back – their collective weight pulling all of them all back down into the barrel.”
“Sometimes I feel as if mankind is no better,” he says.
With the surf offering a soft rhythm, he recants lines from a reggae song he’d created about his frustrations – the wars, the greed of people, and our increasingly self-imposed isolation through social media.”
“We just can’t seem to learn from our past.”
Another man joins us on the bench. Our conversation drifts to his home.
“Israel,” he offers. His face is warm, is smile more so. His laugh rolls like faraway thunder.
“See,” says the t-shirt musician-cum-artist, “another example of how mankind can’t learn the lessons of the past. For tens of thousands of years people have been fighting over a small piece of the globe – and to what end?”
The newest visitor shrugs his shoulders, revealing stories of how mankind repeatedly tries to wipe each other out in his part of the world. In the end only to witness history repeat.
“Just like crabs in a barrel,” says the islander.
White clouds begin to dot the horizon; shadows begin to appear across the sand. Conversations drift in and out from examples of modern-day crabs – from ISIS to people using social media to hurt and bully others.
“We say things to others from behind the keyboard we’d never say to someone’s face,” is added.
His words are interesting – his analogy of mankind’s failings akin to the survivalist behavior of crabs trying to escape from a barrel. From the sandbank, he is correct – mankind’s collective selfishness is one its most betraying tendencies. Imagine, as my new friend says, we put as much effort into helping elevate each other as we do in pulling others down into the barrel? How far could we go?
My feet carry me back to the water. My vision of mankind, however, forever linked to the selfish actions of crabs in a barrel.