How The Tribune is helping me get into trouble

What's not made clear, of course,  is that the "revamping" of Urban Renewal that I'm talking about was the cutting short of the programme in 2007, not the instituting of Urban Renewal 2.0 in 2012. I was disappointed to see that the revolutionary core of 1.0 was not replicated in the programme when it was reintroduced, but the real damage was done in 2007, if you ask me.

“Urban Renewal 1.0 was designed to give the law-abiding citizens real opportunities to gain access to social services and community policing worked on the premise that if you can gain the trust of the law-abiding citizens in a troubled area it becomes far easier to solve, deal with and ultimately prevent crime.“And the programme was accompanied by some real efforts by psychological professionals to help to heal people who had suffered long-term abuse, brutalisation and so on.“This core is what I considered revolutionary at the time, and which was removed when Urban Renewal was reformed because it was considered a waste of time and money, and a waste of policemen’s training too, as apparently police are supposed to fight crime, not prevent it.”“By focusing so much on the criminals, we lose sight of the law-abiding citizens in the same communities, and it is a long time since we have really sought to serve them or meet their real needs.”Dr Bethel added that the policing of inner city communities that arose after Urban Renewal 1.0 ended helped inspire distrust in inner city communities for authorities.“Imagine if you were,” she said, “a 12 year old living in inner city Nassau in 2002 and in 2003 all of a sudden police are put into your community and they’re not violent or menacing, they are friendly, father figures who are teaching you music. They are walking around, learning your names and so on and for five years you get to know them.“Then, when you are 17, they are taken away, and the only replacement are police with guns. How are you ever going to trust your country again? That’s what I think part of the root of this particular kind of violence is.”via Urban Renewal revamp 'an error' | The Tribune.

thebahamasweekly.com - Bahamas 2013: A Year in Review with Nicolette Bethel

The highlight, for me--the part I spent the most time on:

5) 2013 may have been one of the worst years ever for crime in The Bahamas. What are your thoughts and suggestions?I’m not sure I buy the popular semi-hysteria about crime. As a social scientist I tend to stand back and look at local situations as objectively as possible. Here are the facts that strike me about The Bahamas in 2013.1) We have a population problem. It’s not a problem of overpopulation; far from it. It’s a problem of population distribution. Almost a quarter of a million people live in eighty square miles of land. The population density that results—3,125 people per square mile—places intolerable pressure on all of us. But it’s unnecessary pressure, because the whole territory of The Bahamas totals approximately 5400 square miles, and our whole population totals 354,000; the population density of our whole nation is a mere 66 people per square mile. To me, it’s a no-brainer; we HAVE to create and encourage the development of centres of population around our archipelago and establish means of encouraging Nassauvians to move there. End of story. But:2) We have an economic problem. For the last twenty years if not more, our governments have placed more emphasis on the attraction of foreign direct investment in various forms than on any single local developmental initiative. The result is that we all today confuse the construction of huge resorts with actual development, and we castigate our leaders for spending pretty well any money on Bahamians at all, put by the fact that such spending is an investment in the Bahamian nation. The landscape that has been produced is a landscape in which the fabulously wealthy of the world live behind illegally high walls in gated communities five driving minutes away from areas of high population density and virtually no amenities. We have allowed our educational services to stagnate, so that we are still providing the majority of our citizens with the kind of education that was appropriate for the first ten years of our independence, but with a deterioration in its quality.We quibble about whether we can “afford” a university but have no problems in assigning more money from our national budget to “assist” the latest multimillion dollar resort complex in its development than we assign to the College of The Bahamas. In other words, our country, which is still the wealthiest in CARICOM, has real economic problems when it comes to how it spends its money, and on what. Rather than investing in the means to develop the whole of this large, land-rich, stunningly beautiful, strategically significant nation, we waste far too much on projects that harm the general population without generating any return.In this scenario, crime is inevitable, and the violent crime that we have come to fear this year is depressingly predictable. I have been convinced for most of my adult life, from the moment I set foot in a classroom to teach the younger brothers of young men who had struck it rich working for major and minor drug lords, that some of the best minds in The Bahamas go into crime. The young men who are killing themselves and others in the process are part of our national resource, and we have worked hard to discard them like paper. They are turning their minds to making space for themselves because no one has made any room for them. We want them to work as construction workers at the bottom of a hierarchy that still places whiteness and riches at its top, and we expect them to be grateful. At the same time, we live in a society with open borders and a general resistance to spending the kind of money and time needed to police those borders adequately, and we also live on the edge of the most schizophrenic society that ever lived—a society that says that all men are equal of one side of its mouth, and out of the other side says that all people are equally good targets for bullets. The absurd American Arm the Good Guy scenario does not work, because which individual really believes he’s the bad guy? And so:violent crime, criminals with automatic weapons, and sensational headlines that sell newspapers but really do very little to present the problem sensibly.To sum up: I don’t buy the “worst year” idea in terms of crime. I’m not sure that 2013 was the worst year; I tend to divide what I read in Bahamian discourse on these sorts of things by four and digest the result. We have the crime that we should expect for the population size and density that we have on New Providence. It is not at all surprising. It’s frightening, yes, but that’s because our city is too small to absorb it. The solutions are there. It’s a mathematical problem whose solution can be simple. We need to act to make it happen.via thebahamasweekly.com - Bahamas 2013: A Year in Review with Nicolette Bethel.

Firearms group formed | The Tribune

“There is a great need to protect our rights to bear arms and in doing that gun owners should be able to have somewhere – a shooting range or facility to learn the proper handling of a firearm. There is also a desire to be able to work with the government in that regard where people can go and use their guns without interfering with the safety of other people,” Mr Albury said.via Firearms group formed | The Tribune.

Bahamians have no rights to bear arms. This is not the United States of America. The most we have is the right to apply for a license for a shotgun to go hunting creatures with. The absurdity of this statement is that it assumes that what is being talked about is even vaguely legal; it is not.Excuse me. I plead the Fifth.

Forty years and maybe more, or falling off the balance beam

Birthdays
are meaningless
except to measure the process
of maturing.

Pat Rahming, "Still and Maybe More -- A Trilogy"

Need I say it? I am overcommitted, and I am feeling compromised, and am consequently conflicted and a little angry at both myself and the system which governs us. I feel like I'm swimming underwater and there's a pressure building up inside (or is it outside?) my head that is uncomfortable, to say the least.

This post is one small step towards equalizing the pressure.

Compromise

The feeling of compromise comes from the fact that as long ago as August 2012 I was asked to serve as co-chair of the fortieth anniversary of independence committee. Back then, in the golden haze that surrounded the change of government, there was a sense of excitement regarding this anniversary. It's not always an excitement that stretches across both sides of the political divide; often I get the sense that supporters of the PLP tend to make a whole lot more of being independent than supporters of the FNM, but maybe that's an assumption. Certainly there was a measure of scepticism about a big-time forty anniversary celebration. It's a scepticism that I understand. After all, it's not the fortieth anniversary that usually gets the attention, but the half-century, and rightly so.

I even share some of the reservations about a fortieth anniversary celebration that I have heard expressed. No need to go all out on this one; fifty is coming up. Now this is something that I happen to believe, to an extent. Fifty is coming up, and fifty should get most of the attention; true. But when I hear the easy and (forgive me) lazy comments that we don't have the money to waste on celebrating the fortieth anniversary of our independence something happens along my spine and up the back of my neck. I suppose if I were a cat or a dog that's where the fur would be standing up on end. I have very little patience in this uncontested oh-so-Bahamian habit of suggesting that spending money on national events is somehow a waste of time; and the more reading I do about our history the more my hair stands on end.

Money more sacred than people

We come from a tradition where it has been an unquestioned truism that money is somehow more sacred than people. It's more sacred than ideals, and it's more sacred than collective identities. It is an attitude that pervaded our governance all throughout the twentieth century. Back in the 1920s, the debates surrounding the establishment of a public high school that would make it possible for Bahamians who were not white to have even a hope of a high school education were fuelled by this question of affordability; opponents of the establishment of a government high school (who were, unsurprisingly, pretty exclusively wealthy and white) argued that it would be more cost-effective to establish a reformatory school for children (a sort of work-house perhaps?) because there was nothing in the colony for educated black people to do. (Apparently the idea of creating space for educated black people to exist was not something that was affordable either). Back in the 1940s, the argument for not paying the Bahamian workers on the Windsor Field project American wages was that the colony could not afford the consequent raise in wages that those workers would expect from all of their employers.  Back in the early 1960s, the debates attending on independence which inevitably accompanied the changes that were being made in suffrage were countered by the idea that the colony could not afford the cost of creating its own diplomatic service or its own military—things that, strangely, less than ten years later were suddenly affordable. In the 1980s, for some reason our nation was unable to afford the cost of maintenance of public buildings, or of supplying them; those of us who came of age in that era will well remember the persistent shortage of basic amenities in public offices and buildings, from chalk to toilet paper in our schools, from drugs in our hospitals (this during a time when banks were turning away deposits of cash owing to the success of a very different drug trade) to books in our libraries, from docks on our family islands to places of public renewal (think Jumbey Village) in our urban communities.  And in the 2000s, we were unable to afford an investment in CARIFESTA which might have energized our cultural economy and rejuvenated our tourism product and given us the potential to take advantage of the most vibrant parts of the global economy, culture and tourism, today (though we were more than able to borrow ourselves into an economic depression to deepen our harbour and build roads in New Providence alone—things that make you go "hm").

Bahamian money: more important than Bahamian people.

Forty years of independence

So I am not likely to jump on the naysayer bandwagon and argue that we can't afford to celebrate our nationhood by commemorating forty years of independence. On the other hand, though, I am equally unlikely to ratify half-baked and wasteful decisions. I hope that I've made it clear that I don't believe in principle that celebrating our independence is either half-baked or wasteful; but there is such a thing as context, and context changes many things.

My personal challenge is simple. Each week I am called to attend a meeting of  the (recently formed) fortieth anniversary committee. Despite having been asked to serve as its chair in the middle of last year, the committee was appointed in January 2013. We are expected to sit around a table once a week to discuss activities for the year. At the same time, though, as I write, a document is circulating around my place of employment (the College of The Bahamas, for  those who may not know) which calls for fairly drastic budget cuts. These are cuts being imposed upon that institution by the government of the Bahamas, in the form of a (perhaps unprecedented?) reduction of the government's subvention: a 10% reduction in 2013-2014, rising to 25% reduction in 2014-2015—the same government who has asked me to co-chair a committee that plans activities in honour of our fortieth anniversary of independence. They are cuts that will not simply require the trimming of some fat at what is already a fairly lean institution, but will certainly require the letting of some blood as well—and, if rumours about 2015 and beyond are to be believed, the chopping off of a limb or two. At the same time, 2015 is the year by which my institution is to be a university. Add to the mix the fundamental conservatism by which the institution has come to be governed internally—according to philosophies that privilege central control over shared governance—and also add the ways in which protests have generally been made within that institution—by personal attack, divisiveness and a pitting of one constituency (faculty, for example) against another, and you will understand that the balancing act with which I am currently faced appears impossible.

Falling off the balance beam

On the one hand, I understand the desire to recognize our fortieth anniversary of  independence in some tangible and uplifting manner. Among other things, in this country where our history is as well-known as the speaking of Latin, it has a practical significance that in some ways trumps the symbolic significance that our fiftieth anniversary in 2023 will have; it is the last major anniversary of independence when the people who will shape the Bahamas of the future can converse and work together with the people who laid the foundations of the Bahamian nation (and here I'm not just talking about the political leaders). That we celebrate it appropriately, to my mind, is imperative.

But on the other hand, when we are being asked to "celebrate" in a climate where one of the most solid achievements of our forty years of independence, the College/University of The Bahamas, is being asked to cut services which are already woefully under-funded and under-supported by successive governments, the question of what is appropriate looms large. And the irony of my personal situation is not lost on me. I know one thing for sure: that if the College is forced to cut 25% of its budget in an attempt to meet the shortfall it will face from the 25+% cut in government subvention, the independence that I am called to celebrate will lose much of its meaning not only for me, but also for the generation of Bahamians to come, whether they know it yet or not. 

6 Ways To Raise A Rebel Or Future Woman Leader - Forbes

Lisa-Marie is a friend, a former expat in the Bahamas, who was one of our most dedicated volunteers at Shakespeare in Paradise, the woman who got our Facebook page to log more than 1000 likes, an entrepreneur and a woman with boundless energy to give. She's been published on Forbes.com. Not too shabby. And the article is worth reading, so go read it.

Once upon a time you went to school, did exactly what your teachers told you, memorized a lot of information, learned how to equate algebraically (which you never did again). You conformed. You dressed like everyone else, got good grades, studied for your SAT so that you could get a good score, so that you could get in to a good University, so that you could get a good job, so that you could dress like everyone else, so that you could conform, so that you could end up being exactly who were told you were supposed to be. So that you could work for someone else who won’t give a damn about you, so you could do exactly as you were told, so you could earn good money… so you could get laid off. So you could rail against authority, question the status quo, reject conformity and search for your own unique identity.

6 Ways To Raise A Rebel Or Future Woman Leader -Lisa-Marie Cabrelli @ Forbes.

Afua Hirsch: Our parents left Africa – now we are coming home | World news | The Observer

Something else worth reading. Read the whole thing.

I remember the usual things that people comment on when visiting equatorial African nations for the first time – the assault of hot air when stepping off the plane, which I confused with engine heat, the smell of spice and smoked fish on the air, and – most significantly for me – the fact that everyone was black. It sounds obvious but I had never really seen officials in uniform – immigration authorities, police, customs officers – with black skin. I dont think I had realised that there was a world in which black people could be in charge.via Afua Hirsch: Our parents left Africa – now we are coming home | World news | The Observer.

The Bahamas Corruption Narrative: Get Yours and Say Amen

There's a narrative about The Bahamas that helps shape the ways in which we talk about politics, the nation, ourselves. It's a narrative that proposes, uncritically, that the Progressive Liberal Party is a consortium of liars, crooks, and outlaws, and the Free National Movement is a party of honest men and women whose only desire is to make the Bahamas a better, more civilized place. It expands this idea by suggesting that PLP supporters are lazy, uncouth, corrupt, stupid, and violent, while the FNM and its supporters are diligent, civilized, honest, intelligent, and peace-loving.Now I admit it: I have voted in my life for the PLP. So have many of the people around me, people whose good sense, personal integrity and patriotism I respect. (Many others whose good sense, personal integrity and patriotism I also respect have voted FNM, BDP, CDR, DNA, BDM, VNSP, and probably Labour, NDP, and maybe even the Workers' Party too, but that's another story.) For this reason, as well as for the reasons which have led me to cast my vote in that direction, the idea that I have supported a party of demons and criminals, as well as the idea that in doing so I have condoned or supported corruption, does not sit well with me. But that is where the Bahamas corruption narrative, at least in its current incarnation, tends.It's a narrative that appears in the mainstream print media, both at home and abroad, and it certainly surfaces in politically charged speeches of all kinds. It ran rampant in pockets on Facebook, especially immediately after the results of the general election last week, so much so that some dismayed individuals chattered about packing up their belongings and emigrating from The Bahamas in the wake of the PLP victory at the polls. So pervasive is the narrative that many young Bahamians, born and raised in the 1990s, accept it as truth, and tend to apply without question the concepts of the Progressive Liberal Party as gangster men with their arms up to their armpits stuck in the national "cookie jars", and the Free National Movement as white-hatted sheriffs, valiantly smashing those cookie jars to set the cookies free. It's a lovely, simple idea, and one that seems to be reiterated, consciously and unconsciously, in general conversations, so much so that discussions become depressingly, boringly predictable.The only problem is, it's not strictly true.Let me be quite clear here. I am not claiming for one minute that there is no corruption in Bahamian politics. I am not claiming that the Progressive Liberal Party is a pristine organization; the history of the party is chequered, to say the least, and definitively tarnished when one goes back a generation. The 1980s were not bright and shining times for any of us in The Bahamas, and the Progressive Liberal Party was implicated in much wrongdoing. The 1980s were, for those of us who lived through them and remember them, vexing, turbulent times. But they were not all bad. Criminality and addiction pervaded the society from top to bottom, and there was talk about our losing an entire generation to drugs; but at the same time, we had stories of remarkable personal triumphs (ask Carlos Reid and Pastor Dave Burrows), we saw a burgeoning movement of self-help and self-reliance (ask Myles Munroe and Neil Ellis), and we saw leaders taking historic stands of conscience that cost them more than many of today's holders of political office would be willing to lose (ask Arthur Hanna, Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie).No; I'm not claiming that there is no reason for a corruption narrative to exist. What I am suggesting is that it is not unique to any one political party or the other, as so much of today's discourse appears to suggest. It seems to be a truism that the PLP is corrupt, the FNM incorruptible; but the truth is politics is a dirty business on the whole, and no group is exempt. Even in the 1980s, the moral ground on which the Free National Movement stood with regard to drugs began to erode when the public realized that the shining stars in that party themselves had links with drug kingpins, with Free National Movement lawyer-politicians acting for Luis "Kojak" Garcia and Carlos "Joe" Lehder; as the former Leader of the Opposition, Kendal G. L. Isaacs, Q.C., acknowledged, in our system of law, individuals are considered innocent until proven guilty, and all people are entitled to representation.What bothers me perhaps the most is that this discussion appears to unfold without critical examination. Take, for example, this comment from one of the denizens of Facebook, regarding the change of government:

So the PLP is already off and running with their same corrupt business as usual. ... Same corruption. Same mess. Same PLP. And it hasn't been a week yet. (taken from a thread in "Bahamas Election 2011/2012" in May 2012)

An overzealous supporter, you say? Someone with limited knowledge, someone who is easily led? Perhaps, but take these examples, from the editorial pages of the Tribune, which appear to chart the course:
She made a little speech about supporting the PLP and what “Papa” better not come promising around her, then in a typical PLP gesture, she held out her hand: “Gimme sumt’ing,” she begged. (April 24, 2012, my emphasis)

and

Yesterday we drove around various constituencies, including Grants Town. The stories we heard of vote buying in various places were mind-boggling. Some were told by the very persons who had been solicited, one of whom had succumbed.We heard the stories of men who were offered bribes of $5,000, $10,000, as high as $15,000, to take off their red shirts, reject their FNM candidate and convince other FNM supporters to do the same. (May 8, 2012)

I really don't need to state the obvious: that vote-buying is neither a new habit, nor one owned, invented, developed, or perfected by the PLP; it has been blatantly a part of Bahamian politics since men could vote. I don't need to say, further, that if one listened, one might hear similar stories regarding the taking off of yellow shirts to put on the red. This issue is not a party issue, but a cultural one, and something that needs to be addressed in a manner that involves a little less paternalism, a little more respect.Rather, I'd like to focus on what disturbs me more: that the corruption narrative appears to be validated by the fact that the American media follow the same general line as is taken above. I have long been troubled by the lack of balance, or perhaps of critical distance, exhibited by our print media, which, despite tremendous improvement over the past decade or so, is still inclined to eschew political analysis in favour of reportage and innuendo; but what prompted me to write this post was the story in the Miami Herald which appeared on May 4th—an article that made reference, of all things, to the Anna Nicole "scandal" of 2006-7, while overlooking issues of greater concern, such as (say) the awarding to the Aga Khan the right to own/occupy/develop islands within the bounds of the Exuma Land and Sea National Park, for what Bahamian benefit I have never been able to discern. I have never terribly impressed by sex scandals, or things that purport to be. I happen to believe that it's perfectly possible for a man (or woman) to make valid, even inspired, political decisions while at the same time being incapable of controlling his (or her) libido; Martin Luther King and William Jefferson Clinton come to mind. Call me crazy, but I am far more concerned about the selling of Bahamian tax dollars (say, the several million in advertising that we continue to provide Atlantis, some 18 years after its initial investment), Bahamian land to foreigners (Cable Beach from Goodman's Bay to Sandals, an indigestible chunk of Exuma to Four Seasons/Sandals, or individual islands and cays to cruise ships), or untapped fossil fuel resources to little-known private companies.This is why the current Bahamas corruption narrative unsettles me. It's not that we shouldn't be talking about corruption; of course we should. What is missing from the discussion, however, is balance. It is easy to assign blame to only one group of people, to assume that when a particular party takes power, the moral fibre of the society is under threat—but it is not accurate. It is a matter of record that politicians on all sides of the political divide have been implicated in questionable activities, if not outright examples of corruption; but it is also a matter of record that the people that many consider impeccably honest of the House of Assembly come from every party too.When we pull up Anna Nicole Smith, but ignore Mona Vie, the Aga Khan, or cease our interrogation of the 4,000+ Chinese work permits, we undermine our commitment to the Bahamas corruption narrative. When we revisit the 1980s, but skim over the scandals, such as the Clifton Cay deal, that plagued the Free National Movement at the end of the 1990s, we do the same. In both cases, we may be following our moral compass; but we're overlooking the fact that it needs calibration.My own position is that there is probably very little difference among politicians. People are people; many succumb to temptation, while a few are able to resist. What I would like to see is a willingness on the part of all Bahamians to call out corruption whenever or wherever we see it, especially if it comes from within our particular political enclave. It is not all right to endorse corrupt activities in the name of one's own party while at the same time condemning them when they are conducted by another, as happens here:

ATTENTION ALL FNMs, the PLP is now giving out PLENTY MONEY!!!!!! THE OIL MONEY IS HERE. TAKE THE MONEY, SAY THANKS YOU AND VOTE FNM. Heavy money in Freeport, Bain Town, Centreville, Bamboo Town, Mount Moriah, Fort Charlotte, Montague, St. Annes, West Grand Bahama, Coopers Town, North Andros, Central & South Eleuthera, North Eleuthera Fox Hill etc. There is plenty OIL MONEY. GET YOURS AND SAY AMEN. (taken from a thread in "Politics in Review" in May 2012)

So let me end by taking a leaf from my own book. It's this very question, the question of "oil money" that concerns me right now when it comes to the continuation of the Bahamas corruption narrative. Bahamian oil is an issue that, as Larry Smith has so succinctly observed, "is the biggest single issue facing the country today"—and something about which we know far too little; shareholders in London appear to know more. It is also something that, now the government has changed, is no longer a neutral issue for the Progressive Liberal Party. When last challenged on their relationship with the main company that has been granted oil exploration licences, the new Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister stated that they had no conflict of interest, as they were not in government, and had no ability to influence national policy on the question of oil. The situation is fundamentally different today.I call upon the government to move swiftly to the referendum promised regarding oil drilling from the platform of the Progressive Liberal Party rallies. But before that, I call upon the government to engage in open and public dialogue about the oil question. Let us see and know what the Bahamas Petroleum Company plans to do with the oil that apparently lies beneath our seabed, and how drilling for it might benefit us. Explain to us what good things, beyond the $$$ we naively associate with oil money, drilling will bring to our nation, in this century that is already looking beyond fossil fuels to sources of alternative energy. Show us how ordinary Bahamians will benefit from oil exploration, and why we should trust any investment in a resource that has brought poverty and turmoil, not prosperity, to too many of the regions that looked upon it as a remedy for all their ills—Nigeria comes all too swiftly to mind. This is an issue as big as any we have faced thus far in our history, and it is an issue on which the new government of The Bahamas, a government in which I have chosen to believe, will stand or fall.

Blog - The Nassau Liberal

Blog - The Nassau Liberal.Just for those who think that we "aren't ready" for a university, READ THIS BLOG and tell me if you still think so.With one exception, the contributors to this group blog are students at the still-College of   The Bahamas. They are Bahamians born and raised and yet their thought is revolutionary, especially for this ultra-conservative, Papa-lead-me, Saviour-please, Help-and-hope land in which we live. They are young, articulate, erudite, and critical. Amen.My own socioeconomicpolitical leanings aside (I have managed to temper but not cast aside my socialist preferences), I will be following this blog, these thinkers, these Bahamians. I trust that their voices will be heard more widely. They discuss issues and principles, not who said what and who did what. They put most of the people who stand for office, who have the temerity to ask for our votes, to shame.Go spend some time there. Read, and tell me if these students (products of our much-maligned "college"), don't deserve to be graduates of our national university.And no, I'm not crusading at all.

Bahama Republic

Election fever has brought some interesting things back to my attention, such as this blog, Bahama Republic.It's not that I didn't know it existed. It's right there in my blogroll, among the various links that are expired, obsolete, or moved. That means I knew about it three, four or five years ago (don't know how long ago I constructed the blogroll—the older I get, the more time compresses into one big blur). Still. As is the case with many of those links, I haven't revisited it in some time.But links to its posts are resurfacing on Facebook via the Demand Debates campaign, and because there's more discussion regarding life and work at the College of The Bahamas.Go check it out. It's good reading. I tend to fall into its camp with regard to the ways in which we view ourselves, our fundamental conservatism and fear of confrontation, our need of "brain-un-washing". I particularly agree with the idea that 2012 and possibly years to come "may see the continuation of the unfinished revolution of the 1960/70s." I'm not sure I share all of its cynicism, and while I am as unimpressed with the "achievements" of the past five years as the author is, I have not been convinced that a return to a PLP administration will be the magic bullet that solves all our problems.My only criticism? There's nothing on the site to indicate who's behind it. Now while I can't blame a person (who for all I know may well be a civil servant, and therefore prohibited from exercising the constitutionally guaranteed right of free-ish speech, or a sitting MP, or even—weird thought—a down-low member of the FNM cabinet) for wishing to keep a low profile, the lack of identifiable authorship does give me pause. Anonymity is sometimes necessary, but in this cyberage it is also an easy way to make statements for which one does not have to take responsibility. We live in a country where responsibility is too easily shifted from the person to the generic; it seems to me that one way to counter that failing is for each citizen to step up and take personal responsibility for what they feel, think and say.That said, what do I know? I don't know the author's situation, and for all I know his/her livelihood may depend on keeping the powerful happy. In that case, the blog itself is an exercise in responsibility.In any event, go read Bahama Republic. It's heartening to see the continued level of discussion, and well worth it.

Elections—and beyond

So, in the parlance of the day: Papa done ring da bell.Whatever that means.Don't get me wrong. I can talk the talk like any other Bahamian in 2012. Papa = the current prime minister, Hubert Ingraham. "The Bell" = the announcement of a date for the next general election. I know how to translate the statement.I just don't know what it means.Here's why. Some time ago, I wrote up my own manifesto (since the political parties vying for leadership of the country hadn't seen fit to share any of their promises or policies for the next five years) as a voter, a participant in a process that is commonly called "democratic". Since that time, others have joined me in making similar statements, and a few voices have called for our leaders and other politicians to have the balls to step out from behind their carefully crafted propaganda and open themselves up to discussions of issues with reasonable citizens.But, disappointingly, and with one important exception (Branville McCartney of the DNA) they haven't.And this, to my mind, does not bode well for our future. This is, after all, not like any other election year. For one thing, there are three major parties contesting the general election, a broad slate of independents, and a few fringe parties as well; for another, the two oldest parties are in fact comprised of the political parties that have made some impact over the past twenty years—the BDM in the case of the FNM, the NDP in the case of the PLP, and the CDR split between the two. Even the DNA has absorbed at least one extant party into its ranks: Rodney Moncur's Worker's Party. For another thing, for any dispassionate person, it is very unclear who is likely to win the next election. Popular support for both parties seems to have declined since 2007 and 2002. Back then, both the FNM and the PLP had trouble finding public spaces that were large enough to hold the assemblies of their supporters, and ended up taking turns on Clifford Park itself, which was packed with bodies sporting the shirts of the party colours: red for the FNM, yellow for the PLP. This season, however, the largest gatherings in Nassau have taken place on beaches—which, thanks to the generosity of both parties in giving away Bahamian beachfront property to foreign investors, are relatively small spaces in our city-island. This past Easter Monday, the FNM repaired to the Montagu foreshore, (for which it seems to have no trouble taking credit, but which was actually renovated by a private concern acting, at least officially, in a non-partisan manner) and the PLP occupied the Western Esplanade. Photographs have been circulating around cyberspace in an effort to compare the two gatherings and suggest that one was bigger than the other. There is a sort of frenzy on Facebook and other places Bahamians gather, where people engage in heated and emotionally charged exchanges of—what else?—propaganda, hurling the same invective our MPs have been hurling at one another across the floor of the house of assembly. But there is also a very large silence as well, and it is this silence that makes the outcome of the election so difficult to determine.I'd like to consider that silence at some other time, because I find it very interesting. It's a silence that sits in judgement, that does not buy into the insult-trading or hop the partisan bandwagon. It's the kind of silence that affected the outcome of the Elizabeth by-election, where a seat was won because the majority of registered voters did not turn out to vote. I know that Larry Smith has argued that low voter turn-out is not uncommon for by-elections, and I agree to a point, but I also sense (as does he) that there is more at work here than that; it seems to me that there is a growing group of Bahamians who watch the antics of all the political parties with a mixture of disgust and despair, because all politicians alike are missing the point. Which is that no matter who wins on May 7th, 2012, we will all have to live in this country together on May 8th.So my question is this. Given the passion and energy being expended in tearing down the other parties, or the other leaders—in dismissing reasonable questions and observations as "FNM" or "PLP" or even "DNA"—each of these being intended as insult, what happens the day after elections, when one party has won and the other(s) has/ve not? How do we work on building a nation of Bahamians? I have heard absolutely nothing from any party about what the future holds. The PLP has crafted some very general principles for the next few years, but these, when decoded, seem to amount to a reinstatement of what was in the works between 2002 and 2007 when they were in power. The FNM has focussed very much on vague generalities like "proven leadership" and "deliverance", and what has been done, largely in material, infrastructural terms, in the very recent past (one or two years at most). The DNA speaks in broad terms, pushing the buttons that they feel gain them support, but not showing any real coherent ideology about which their philosophy has been crafted (well, OK, to say that the PLP and the FNM have any coherent ideology would be being too kind, but at least their track records suggest that one group makes noises that are vaguely populist while the other tends to appease the local business community).Election seasons last for no more than six months at best. The remaining four and a half years require some measure of governance. And what frightens me the most in this election is how much it seems to be a game to those who are playing it. It's entertainment, a sport, which involves the kind of trash-talking that one expects to hear at a football game (American or soccer, makes no difference) or before a boxing match, but which has very little place in the governing of the country. One could argue (and I certainly would) that for four of the past five years, there was no governance at all, but just more of this sparring in the house of assembly, just more trading of insults back and forth across the floor, while the world got on with changing its foundations all around us and the ground on which our society and economy rest crumbles away. I am not impressed by the roads and the harbour or the extension of the hospital, as every one of these, no matter the expenditure, represents to my mind a kind of patch on a society whose foundations are in danger of falling apart. Nor am I impressed with the way in which the opposition opposed these things, because, well, whining and insult do not an opposition make. And I'm also not impressed with the kinds of "solutions" proposed by either of the opposing parties, because no one is explaining how they are going to implement those solutions. I would venture to suggest that it is time that the era of development-by-foreign-investment come to a close in The Bahamas. But I see no evidence that the parties who have governed for the last twenty years in that climate have come up with any ideas about how to manage this country all by themselves.So as we stare down the home stretch, as we slide into these last three weeks before Bahamians go to the polls and cast our votes, I would like at least one day to be dedicated to having the people who are contesting the elections to tell us what their vision is for this nation. Where do we go from here? How do we find our place in the twenty-first century? Why should I cast a vote for men who were educated before Bahamian Independence, and whose philosophies are, must be, out of place in this digital, global age? Why should I cast one for a man who has ridden the wave of dissatisfaction with our leaders to prominence as a real third-party contender, but who has not yet crafted a vision of his own as to how the country might be different?Do I have hope for the Bahamian future, no matter who wins the next election? I can't honestly say that I do. I have seen no vision from any of our prospective leaders, but see divisiveness and excess among their followers. So I'm preparing for five more years of struggle, no matter who wins or doesn't win this election; for five more years of escalating violence in our society; for five more years of a contracting economy, traffic problems, and decreasing revenues. I'm preparing for five more years of governmental desperation, of prostitution of the country to the biggest donor (China seems to be the crowd favourite right now), of undereducation and of brain drain, no matter who wins. Because the governing of a country—and of a postcolonial, neocolonized country on the edge of America at the turn of the digital age—is a delicate, precious business; and, because governing in such a climate requires more than snap decisions made by a despot, the demurring of a wannabe democrat, or the pontification of a malcontent, I have seen no indication that any of our prospective leaders are capable of governing at all.May 7th can't come soon enough. But, people, think what May 8th will bring. 

Answering the challenge: a consideration of patriotism, democracy, and voting - part I

Of all the responses to the Voter's Manifesto I received, it was the one that challenged it that I appreciated the most. Not that I didn't welcome the people who commented and wrote in support of the Manifesto, or that I am not happy to know that the original seemed to have struck a chord with several other voters; but at the heart of democracy is, and must be, the ability to disagree. A space for dissent, for disagreement, for debate, must be built into any democratic system; democracy cannot hope to be achieved when no debate takes place.And it's not enough for room to be left for debate; that's only the first step in the democratic process. Unless debate happens—and debate that is rational, not polemic, slander or other forms of empty political rhetoric—unless, in other words, the group of people for whom democracy was provided do not exercise their freedom to speak, the process cannot survive. Silence paves the way for tyranny, and so also do name-calling and mud-slinging. There is very little that's democratic about a host of people, all clad in rainbow-coloured clothing, gathering insults into a pile to throw at one another. In that scenario, Ian Strachan's comment that no matter who wins the general election, the losers will be the Bahamian people is spot-on. What's missing from our political discussion is any reference to real, debatable issues, and any honest debate about them; and if we hope to maintain our hold on democracy, already tenuous in several respects, blind agreement can be as unproductive as senseless personal attack.So to the critique of the Manifesto, which was described by its critic as "ill-conceived, emotive, and racist". The main area of contention was the "I do not believe" section, which rejected the ideas

In response, the critic observed that

  1. the Bahamas already has a fully democratic process for electing its leadership 
  2. it is arrogant to suggest that a population of under 400,000 people has every single skill, knowledge and experience to address the issues faced by the country

and concluded that these statements "seemed designed to elicit anti-foreigner responses". The response challenged me "to defend your words and demonstrate the error of my interpretation".Here is my defence. To the first, the claim that the electoral process in The Bahamas is "fully democratic". This I challenge on many levels while at the same acknowledging the core of truth in the statement. On the one hand, we have a right to be proud of our electoral record. Great changes have taken place in The Bahamas via the ballot box, without bloodshed, and with a relatively low incidence of coercion, fraud, or corruption, the common understanding of all of the above notwithstanding. One could of course argue that there is a long-standing practice of wooing voters with cash incentives or of rewarding them for their support with gifts of food, or, apocryphally, large appliances; I could counter that with the challenge that the twenty-first century has seen an overall reduction in the value of these incentives, given the fact that neither of the two latest elections resulted in any major hiring of supporters to work in the absolute security of the Government Job. But I digress. We have a strong democratic tradition when it comes to voting for people to sit in Parliament. But we have a very poor democratic tradition when it comes to raising, debating or considering issues that have relevance for our nation; what passes for "political" discussion in our country is really personal attack and gossip dressed up in cotton tees.There are several areas in which we fail miserably in the development of the democratic tradition. The first is in the fact that, unlike other democracies, Bahamians have only one tier of representation. In our elections, two-thirds of the population may vote only for the national government. The city of Nassau has no local government, and there is no talk of any serious nature of creating one any time soon. Although we talk about urban renewal and the regeneration of downtown Nassau, the agency that we imagine will be given the responsibility for this is a corporate entity appointed by the government and accountable to no ordinary citizen. Family island communities have a measure of local governance, but urban Bahamians are governed by corporations—the Port Authority in Freeport, and whatever the title of the proposed agency will be for Nassau.The second is in the method by which our representatives are chosen. It's not good enough to invoke the Westminster model of parliamentary governance here; I am arguing that no matter where it came from, it does not meet our needs. In Nassau (where, I repeat, our Members of Parliament are the only voices we have at the governmental level), our much-touted ability to vote is seriously compromised by the fact that voters have the very last say in choosing the candidates. There are no primaries, no public weeding out of candidates, no debates, no means by which the average person can vet the candidates before they are presented to us. The selection is in the hands of the political parties alone. This dilutes the democratic process. I'm going to quote Pat Rahming here, because his poem "Power", now four decades old, continues to resonate:

cuz vot’n ain’ much powerif somebody else guh choosethe choice

The third is that the representatives are not answerable to the people from the time they are elected to the time they begin to campaign for votes three, four or five years later. Voters, having gone to the polls, made the best choice they could from among a group of (generally) unsuitables, are obliged to sit back and live with what they have done for five years. We cannot recall our representatives. Our representatives have no obligation to report to us what they have done with our trust. All we can do is watch them make fools of themselves and a mockery of our state on the Parliamentary Channel, and at best talk behind their backs—or on the air, sometimes—while smiling and kowtowing to their faces. Our so-called full democratic process has succeeded in making passive hypocrites of too many of us.The fourth is that in order to create democracy, more than a vote is needed. A voice is also not enough. We got our vote in the 1960s when women were allowed to cast ballots, and we got our voice in two parts: in the 1960s when we elected the first majority government of The Bahamas, so that the faces that ruled us looked like ours, and in the 1990s second when the Free National Movement made it possible for different perspectives to be heard on the airwaves by breaking the broadcasting monopoly that had hitherto been held, by law, by the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas. Neither fact seems to have prevented us from enacting the same dumbshow of electing and revering individuals who by their greed, lack of exposure, lack of knowledge, lack of morals, or lack of sense of self have proceeded to disenfranchise the average citizen even more. We need more than a voice; we need to be given the kind of education that breeds a sense of pride, a sense of honour and a sense of integrity so that we, the citizens, can exercise that voice in such a way that democracy is strengthened. That is clearly lacking. The very real oppression of the 1970s and 1980s—by which dissent by ordinary people was silenced in numerous ways, not least among them the very real activity of victimization, when opponents could be, and were, stripped of their livelihoods, their positions, and their reputations—has given way to an oppression of the mind. We have the channels and the means to speak, but what we have to say is ignorant of Bahamian history, lacking in substance, and small-minded.And so. We live in a nation that is nominally very democratic, but that is actually little better than any tyranny—and perhaps worse, because we are comfortable with our situations and so prefer not to rock any boats. We live and die by our passivity, and when things don't go well for us, we complain, we moan, or we lash out with knives and guns. Our democracy is a veneer, and a thin one at that.End of this part of my response; more to come

A Reader Responds to the Voter's Manifesto

Got the following response to my Voter's Manifesto. It was sent privately, for reasons the writer makes clear, but as that individual has encouraged me to post the response and to respond in my turn, I'm honouring the request.

Happy New YearI wish to challenge your Voter’s Manifesto as ill-conceived, emotive and racist. You will notice that I am doing this in a private message rather than a post.I would rather post and challenge publicly, however, unfortunately, foreigners do not have freedom of speech in the Bahamas without fear of consequences, and so I am forced to challenge you in private.I request that you honour my request for anonymity, but I encourage you to post (anonymously) and respond to my challenges in public.I have no argument with your ‘I believe’ section.I suggest that you are being intentionally emotive and encouraging misunderstanding in your ‘I do not believe’ section.‘I do not believe that Bahamians need help, time, or training to deepen and strengthen the democratic project’ I am not sure what you mean by ‘project’ but the Bahamas already has a fully democratic process for electing its leadership so this statement seems gratuitous and a little divisive to me.‘I do not believe that Bahamians need help, time or training to address those problems that our country is struggling with now’ Wow this is an arrogant statement, to suggest that a population of under 400, 000 people has every single skill, knowledge and experience to address the issues faced by the country. In this context I am reading ‘help’ as ‘help from non-Bahamians’ as I don’t see what else it can mean.Let me take an example that is close to your heart ……. COBCOB has been struggling for over 10 years now to transition from a community college to university status.• I question what percentage of Bahamian lecturers at COB became qualified for their job in the Bahamas? I believe over 98% of Bahamian COB lecturers gained their education abroad.• There are a number of foreign lecturers at COB. According to work permit requirements, COB was unable to fill those posts with Bahamians or work permits would not have been granted.Did you mean that you want to get rid of all the foreigners from COB and stop Bahamians going abroad for their education?Let me take another example………. The economy.The two largest industries in the Bahamas are tourism and off-shore banking. Both of these industries rely on foreign investment and international interactions.You might not like Sol Kerzner building Disney Land on Hogg Island, but it is one of the largest employers in the Bahamas, and there were no Bahamians in a position to build at the same level, as proven by Baha Mar, which tried for a number of years to elicit Bahamian investment and failed, and also could not generate the skill set required for high rise construction within the Bahamas.The off-shore banking industry functions through cooperation between the government of the Bahamas and international banks, who generate significant income for the Bahamas.These two industries between them generate the majority of the wealth of the Bahamas and the majority of opportunities for Bahamians. Take away the foreigners and the money of the foreigners and both will collapse, along with the economy of the Bahamas.You may not like the Bahamas’ dependence on foreign industry, but the Bahamas cannot do without it until it generates a broader economic base.Your statements seem designed to elicit anti-foreigner responses.What does it say about a country who shows such little respect for the foreigners legitimately living there?“If you want my vote don’t come waving flags or t-shirts or offering promises of more jobs laying cement, gathering laundry or taking orders for rich white people from abroad.”Are you saying it would be ok if they were rich black people from abroad?I do not think you intended to be so disrespectful to those white foreigners living in the Bahamas, but it is significant that, whilst addressing your agenda of quality of jobs provided by the government, you are comfortable using derogative phrases like this.This document does not match your usual quality of work in my opinion. I think it is significant that you published it on MLK day in the USA and its style is derivative of the ‘I have a dream’ speech.I invite you to defend your words and demonstrate the error of my interpretation.I moved to the Bahamas because it is a country that still values family, community and humanity. As you correctly state, it is a country full of people with talent and creativity. I love the Bahamas and the people of the Bahamas and I believe I make a positive contribution to this country, so I find it hurtful to hear ‘getting rid of the foreigners’ as an election platform.

 

A Voter's Manifesto

With elections around the corner and three political parties, none of which appear to have formulated, much less articulated, any new or credible plan for Bahamian development or growth in twenty-first century (and no, planning to beg more rich people for more money to buy up more of our precious archipelago does not count), I think it's time for the average Bahamian, the voter, to exercise her democratic right and put down in pixels what will or will not get her vote.I am a Bahamian who has never been represented by any party that has held power in The Bahamas to date. I am a woman, middle class, neither black nor white, a cultural worker and intellectual, a citizen and a voter, an ordinary Bahamian who does not campaign, carry a voters' card, attend rallies, or otherwise show her face during the silly season that surrounds politics.I pay my taxes in every way they are presented to me. I have never sat in a politician's office to beg for anything when doing so was not part of my job as a civil servant. I have been eligible to vote in the past 6 general elections but in that time I have only once been visited by a prospective MP, who believed that he was making a social call on old friends, my parents. I have never,  in my civilian position, called any sitting politician for a job, for a handout, for a favour, for any sort of help. I do not work in the tourism industry, real estate, the construction industry, or any other other area that figures in political discussions of "jobs" and "economics" or anything else.I am one of thousands of productive, independent, patriotic Bahamians who make this country run on a daily basis. I took the opportunities offered to my by the first independent government of The Bahamas and went off and earned a college degree. I came home because I wanted to serve and build my country. To date, my country has not put in place anything to serve and build me; to every politician who has served in parliament in the time I have been voting, people like me have been invisible. In our democracy, we do not count.And so: a voter's manifesto.

I believe:
  • that Bahamians are as intelligent, as resourceful, as industrious, as talented and as deserving as any other group of people on the planet;
  • that Bahamian innovation, creativity and adaptability carved this nation out of these scattered rocks in the sea, and that that innovation, creativity and adaptability will make flourish in the twenty-first century;
  • that Bahamians are full human beings, with needs that go beyond the merely material;
  • that The Bahamas is as important as any other nation in the world, and should be treated as such;
  • that our human capital -- the ingenuity, intelligence, talent and independent spirit of the Bahamian people -- is the most important resource that our nation has.
I do not believe:
  • that Bahamians need help, time, or training to deepen and strengthen the democratic project;
  • that Bahamians need help, time, or training to address those problems that our country is struggling with now;
  • that Bahamians need help, time, or training to make our country better.
And so:
  • I, the voter, do not care what colour T-shirt you offer me or what three letters you cast before my face.
  • I believe in democracy.
  • I do not care nearly as much about the history of your particular party (or of your opponents) as you think I do.
  • I do not care about how good (or bad) you look in a suit, how well you speak off the cuff, or whether your leader is God incarnate or the Devil himself.
  • I care about this country we all share.
  • I care what you and your party are planning The Bahamas will look like tomorrow.
  • I want to know the details.
  • I believe that it is the right of a people to elect a government who will represent them and not the foreign interests who come offering the latest wads of cash or promises grander than the grandest Prime Minister's.
  • I believe that is the obligation of a government to seek out and hear the needs of the people whom it represents.  All the people, not just the vocal few at the bottom who have depended thus far on their crippledness to coerce their representatives into enact ill-thought and hurried acts of bribery-in-return-for-votes, or the fatcats at the top who enact coercive acts of bribery of their own.
  • I believe in governments who represent and serve the people who vote for them, not the people who pay them, or bully them, or frighten them.
  • I believe in equality. That is not to say that I believe that all people are universally idiots, or that we must make all decisions according to the lowest possible common denominator. Rather, it is to say that I believe that all citizens—and, indeed, in a truly civilized nation, all people within our borders—should be equal under our laws and treated as such. No better, and no worse.
  • I believe that our ideals should be more important than individual exceptions.
  • I believe that a nation should be founded on ideals. Tell me yours.

If you want my vote:

  • Don't come waving flags or t-shirts or offering promises of more jobs laying cement, gathering laundry or taking orders for rich white people from abroad.
  • Don't come not debating policy.
  • Don't come bad-talking the other politicians around you.
  • Don't come not knowing basic things about this country, about governance, about policy, or the world of the twenty-first century.
  • Don't come expecting my political philosophy to do the trick and make me vote for you party because it happens to be the next best thing to the ideals I hold.
  • Don't come expecting your track record to move me.
  • Don't come expecting my colour, my family name, my friends, my profession, or any other attribute to influence the way I vote.
  • Don't come trusting in your personal political arrogance and my continued political passive stupidity.
  • Come talking to me about the Bahamas you will create the day after Election Day, and come telling me in detail how we are going to create it together.

It had better be a different Bahamas from the one I live in today.•••More links:A Reader Responds to the Voter's ManifestoAnswering the challenge: a consideration of patriotism, democracy and voting - Part IOn the mis-education of the Bahamian citizen

Joey Gaskins on Elections

There's a strong new voice out there in opinion-land. It's the voice of Joey Gaskins, a Bahamian currently studying sociology at LSE. He's already made interventions in all sorts of arenas, to some personal cost; but he's still writing. Hats off to him. My plan is to go and dig up the various positions he's taken, and to link explicitly to the group blog to which he contributes. But in the meantime, here's his latest opinion, as published in yesterday's Tribune:

A nationally televised, internet streamed, radio broadcast of our two seasoned political leaders and the firebrand new contender debating policy, defining differences in ideology and comparing visions of the Bahamian future is beneficial for all, especially the Bahamian people.I know I'm not alone when I say that I'm interested in hearing what our hopeful leaders have to offer, outside of the theatrics of adversarial parliamentary posturing and away from the throngs of adoring fans. Despite the fact that some political leaders believe they must no longer compete for their inevitable ascendancy, that they are tried and tested, these are new and unusual times.The politicians and the politics of the 1990s -- even of 2007 -- are obsolete. And as far as the politics of the Bahamas is concerned, both of our long-standing parties have seemed comfortable with the formula bequeathed to us by our colonial forefathers, a pepper-pot of traditionalism in some areas and a discourse of modernisation in others -- a dish which has resulted in the gradual disintegration of the Bahamian middle class over the last decade in the face of a global economy in transition, concentrating wealth more and more in fewer peoples' hands.This is also not the most opportune time for a greenhorn politician to stake a leadership claim with a less than impressive political resume. The simple answer would be to say the Bahamas needs a new politician or a new political party, when in actuality what I think we need is a new politics. I am left unconvinced that, in what has become a politics plagued by ego, we should suffer yet another political contender asserting his dominion over our government with an air of entitlement.via The Tribune.

I agree. But I would go further. I am not interested in what only the leaders have to say; our politics and our administration has been too top-down, too hands-off for most of us. I want to hear what the leaders have to say, but unfortunately I don't have much faith in any of the current contenders (though I do have my own personal fondnesses). I would like to hear also from the people standing for election in my own constituency. In this country devoid of any sort of meaningful local government I want to know how the one person whose job it is to represent me and my neighbourhood and that convenient fiction called the constituency plans to do it. I want to know which legislation they plan to address in the next five years' time, how they hope to review it, how it is going to help me. I want to know what my prospective MP thinks about the Bahamas in the 21st century and how he or she intends to serve my interests. So debates for leaders, by all means; but I want to hear from our representatives even more; for I have absolutely no intention of casting a vote for any political party in 2012. Rather, I want to place men and women of honour and integrity in the House of Assembly, where they have a job and a responsibility to do that should transcend their loyalty to their party or their Prime Minister or Leader of the Opposition. I want to have more men and women of courage in the House of Assembly who will be prepared to defy the party whip and stand up and speak for their constituents. We have no local councils to appeal to, and so our national MPs must do it for us. I want to see debates at that level too.Write on, Joey! And for those who haven't yet read his work and the work of his contemporaries, I suggest you look for him. His is a voice we would do well to heed, now and in the future.Happy new year.

On Postcolonial Wretchedness

A week ago, as those of you who follow my Twittter feed may remember, the College of The Bahamas hosted a one-day symposium in honour of Frantz Fanon, the Martinican psychiatrist whose field of study was the psyche of the colonized. Now Fanon's books were on my parents' bookshelves long before I realized their significance; I particularly remember a tattered (and ttherefore well-read) copy of Black Skin, White Masks hanging around. But I didn't read Fanon until my university days. But when I got hold of The Wretched of the Earth I didn't put it down. Its words, then 25 years after they were written, rang so true I couldn't. How much more true they seem now for me, sitting in my so-called independent postcolonial country, feeling called upon to justify the value, nearly forty years after we got the political trappings of statehood, of a single university.The justification, if, absurdly, one must make it, is something for another day. Today I am thinking about the value of democracy, of statehood, of the wretchedness of postcolonialism. I'm thinking, too, as much as Fanon's words and ideas have stayed with me, having seeped into my subconscious and shaped my worldview from my twenties until now, that it's a good time to go back and reread them. To do so will solve all mysteries. They will go some way to explain why our society has become so violent so quickly; they will help us to understand the fundamental absurdities of our public institutions -- why, for instance, the taxpayers almost never get back from their government what they put in, why the humanity and the spirit of the Bahamian citizen is never nurtured by public institutions, why to find the funding (which has been given, often by private Bahamian donors, for this very purpose) to conduct research through the College of The Bahamas into areas which could help us at least understand what is happening in our society is so extraordinarily difficult. Why it took so long, for instance, for the funding to be released for the Fanon Symposium itself, even after it had been approved and some of those funds had been independently solicited. Why institutions that have been established ostensibly to serve the Bahamian public are allowed to operate in disrepair, even though the Bahamian public pays to use them -- the joke of the so-called National Centre for the Performing Arts comes to mind, whose roof has been leaking since Frances and Jeanne but for which no line item to effect repairs explicitly on it. Why we waste 2 million dollars a year putting on Junkanoo parades but invest nothing whatsoever in the preservation of costumes, the official transfer of skills from elders to youth, the teaching of Junkanoo history, or anything else that can take root and grow. Why we think that a white skin and a northern accent are qualifications in themselves, but dredge up spurious personal experiences to block the advancement of a Bahamian whose qualifications, experience and understanding of our nation are superior. These are pathologies, and Fanon, the Martinican psychiatrist, has named them and prescribed their treatment. We would do well to (re)read his works, fifty years on.

Daylight Robbery, Meet Nighttime Robbery | The Nation

Oh, go read this. Thanks to Dion Hanna and Facebook.

Argentina’s mass looting was called El Saqueo—the sacking. That was politically significant because it was the very same word used to describe what that country’s elites had done by selling off the country’s national assets in flagrantly corrupt privatization deals, hiding their money offshore, then passing on the bill to the people with a brutal austerity package. Argentines understood that the saqueo of the shopping centers would not have happened without the bigger saqueo of the country, and that the real gangsters were the ones in charge.But England is not Latin America, and its riots are not political, or so we keep hearing. They are just about lawless kids taking advantage of a situation to take what isn’t theirs. And British society, Cameron tells us, abhors that kind of behavior.This is said in all seriousness. As if the massive bank bailouts never happened, followed by the defiant record bonuses. Followed by the emergency G-8 and G-20 meetings, when the leaders decided, collectively, not to do anything to punish the bankers for any of this, nor to do anything serious to prevent a similar crisis from happening again. Instead they would all go home to their respective countries and force sacrifices on the most vulnerable. They would do this by firing public sector workers, scapegoating teachers, closing libraries, upping tuitions, rolling back union contracts, creating rush privatizations of public assets and decreasing pensions—mix the cocktail for where you live. And who is on television lecturing about the need to give up these “entitlements”? The bankers and hedge-fund managers, of course.This is the global Saqueo, a time of great taking. Fueled by a pathological sense of entitlement, this looting has all been done with the lights left on, as if there was nothing at all to hide. There are some nagging fears, however. In early July, the Wall Street Journal, citing a new poll, reported that 94 percent of millionaires were afraid of "violence in the streets.” This, it turns out, was a reasonable fear.Of course London’s riots weren’t a political protest. But the people committing nighttime robbery sure as hell know that their elites have been committing daytime robbery. Saqueos are contagious.

via Naomi Klein - Daylight Robbery, Meet Nighttime Robbery | The Nation.

Evangelicals Looking Beyond a Literal Interpretation of Genesis?

According to the Bible (Genesis 2:7), this is how humanity began: "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." God then called the man Adam, and later created Eve from Adam's rib.Polls by Gallup and the Pew Research Center find that four out of 10 Americans believe this account. It's a central tenet for much of conservative Christianity, from evangelicals to confessional churches such as the Christian Reformed Church.But now some conservative scholars are saying publicly that they can no longer believe the Genesis account.via Evangelicals Question The Existence Of Adam And Eve : NPR.

First of all: wow.Second of all: welcome to the Christianity of the post-industrial world, guys.Third of all: time to start teaching literature so that the reading of sacred texts can be approached in such a way that meaning can be gained without having to believe that every word written is literally and completely true on the human, physical plane. Time to start understanding some symbolism.The article is interesting but doesn't go nearly far enough. First, it assumes that evangelical Christian theology is the core of Christian thinking. Second, it takes the position taken by many evangelicals that the literal story of a man, a woman and a snake in a garden whose existence has a geographical place and a historical time is crucial to Christian belief, but is it? And third, it misses a point that has rarely been discussed in all the heat generated by "creationism", the only Christian philosophy that really requires the existence of a literal Adam and Eve for its existence—that the moving away by certain evangelical intellectuals from their indefensible scientific position that rests on the creation of the earth and of humanity in seven 24-hour days also implicitly allows for the rise of a neo-Darwinism among those same intellectuals. The danger inherent in the American evangelical movement's acceptance of the symbology of Genesis (rather than its literal truth) lies in the fundamentally political (and economic) expression that American evangelical Christianity has always had. I have never been convinced of the theological soundness of that strain of Christianity, as its manifestations have been peculiarly political. This change can also express itself politically; and I would not be surprised if it took an even more fascist turn than it currently has.Just sayin'.

Larry Smith on The Alternate Reality of Bahamian Squatter Settlements

This is an issue that needs research, reflection, and discussion, not knee-jerking. Larry Smith starts the ball rolling at Bahama Pundit.

... the deeper we delve into the so-called 'Haitian problem', the more we come face to face with ourselves. The squatter settlements that give rise to so much public angst are a clear example of the alternate reality that many Bahamians live in, and we are not the only ones grappling with these issues....The reality is that squatters include indigenous Bahamians, Haitian-Bahamians, immigrants with work permits and illegal immigrants. But these one-dimensional labels merely mask the complexity of the problem, as the following three examples illustrate.A 2003 news report on squatters focused on a young man who, although born here, was not a Bahamian because his parents are Haitians. He had never been to Haiti, and though he had applied three times for Bahamian citizenship and spent about $4,500 on paperwork and lawyers, he had nothing to show for his efforts.A friend of mine knows of a "true-blood Bahamian" who works as a messenger and had a daughter with a Haitian woman. "The daughter was educated here and is hardworking, but has no status. She is confined to the fringes of society because her father can't be bothered to help her get regularized."Then there is the Haitian who has worked here for years and become a permanent resident. "He has several children," my friend told me. "One son is here on a work permit, a second son went to R M Bailey and appears to be a Bahamian, and a third son just arrived from Haiti and can't speak English. The second son is intelligent and well-educated, but has no status and is very angry about it."These examples put a human face on the problem, and we can multiply them many times throughout our society. The root question is, how do we deal with them? One answer is to deport immigrant children who are born and raised here. Another is to regularize them to become productive members of our society.The other key point to bear in mind is that squatting is often the only option for low-income people with no collateral or savings who subsist on temporary jobs. They can't afford the cost of land or housing, so they are forced to rely on irregular arrangements facilitated by Bahamians.Squatter settlements are the inevitable result.via The Alternate Reality of Bahamian Squatter Settlements - Bahama Pundit.