On Elections

Before I start, let me say three things.First, I am a civil servant, for better or for worse, for my sins. As a civil servant, I am obliged to serve the government of the day, no matter whose initials they wear.Second, as a writer, I prefer not to politicize (in terms of superficial party politics) the issues I choose to discuss. If our political parties can be said to have ideologies, I imagine that my opinions might align with one or the other. However, as none of them appear to have any true ideological bent these days, I imagine I'm pretty safe.Third, I happen to believe that the value of party politics for the nation has eroded. I don't believe that blanket support of any group of people is going to benefit The Bahamas in general as we move forward (perhaps I ought to say if we move forward). Moreover, as the political parties who are contesting these elections have eschewed every discussion of relevant issues in favour of ad hominem attacks, I really don't see much point to them at all.That said, let me add that I chose, in December, to quit writing Essays on Life until after the elections. The main reason for that choice was that no matter what I chose to write about, I thought it would acquire a political spin. Anything remotely critical of government policies or actions might be construed as supporting the opposition (whether the opposition had chosen to be critical in that direction or not) and anything remotely critical of opposition positions could be construed as supporting the governing party.Turns out I needn't have worried; none of the political parties are talking about specific issues. Had I written articles, apparently, I would have been perfectly safe.So what I want to say, on the virtual eve of election, is this. This has been the most insipid and empty campaign period I can remember in a generation -- or more, because in every other election year there has been some discussion of issues that mean something. I'm not talking about vague psuedo-issues like "trust" (come on, really, how often does one meet a politician one can trust anyway?) or "corruption" (the flip side of "trust", and, well, come on). I'm talking about real issues, like governance -- are we being well served by the form of government we have, where the first man past the post wins the whole pot, and where fifty-three or four or five per cent of the voters can bring about a landslide victory? Has the two-party political system outlived its usefulness in the country? Is it doing something meaningful for our development, or is it simply prolonging long-standing divisions in our nations, divisions that took place along racial lines mostly? Is the choice that our last two governments have made, pretty uncritically, to provide material development by foreign investment something that is either sustainable on a long-term basis, or even desirable in the short run?Or smaller, but equally pressing issues, like the question of traffic congestion on New PRovidence, or the need for local government in Nassau, or the need to enforce laws about campaign spending and advertisement, or the question of breaking the back of patronage?Or major philosophical issues, like what it means to be a prosperous nation populated primarily by people of largely African descent, and what our responsibility is as a nation to those around us and to our citizenry?Or what national identity is all about, and how to make Bahamians proud to be who we are?Because it seems to me that all we are achieving through politics and the politicians who play them is stripping away all that remains that is good and honourable about the Bahamian people and pandering to the basest of impulses -- greed. We hear bleating about the buying of votes; but the fact that candidates and their generals have to resort to hopeful bribery suggests that all that elections do for us as a people and as a nation is turn us into money-grubbing beggars in a land of plenty. That is corruption of a kind that cannot be forgiven, and that it is the norm suggests that it has nothing to do with the initials one wears or the colours one waves, but with the practice of politics itself.And we should be ashamed -- ashamed on behalf of all those upstanding Bahamians generations ago who sacrificed their paychecks and their jobs to ensure that we could vote, that we could represent ourselves, that we would no longer have to be obliged to Bay Street for whatever crumbs were thrown our way. We should be ashamed for replicating, and expanding, the corruption that has governed us as long as we have had representation, and for doing so while at the same time we are imagining ourselves to be free. No matter who we think we support, or what party we will elect on May 2, we should be ashamed for allowing our so-called leaders to engage in such a widespread denigration of who we are, and for insulting us and the democratic process by reducing the gift of universal suffrage to a competition between who can throw the most mud the fastest, who can lie the best, and whose bankroll is biggest.