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

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.


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. 

Global Financial Crisis Highlights the Threat to Liberal Democracy’s Survival | The Jakarta Globe

A commentary well worth reading in full. I've been thinking along these lines for some time--not with regard to the democracy part so much but certainly with regard to the conflation of liberal democracy with free-market capitalism, and thinking, as these commentators are saying, that it is coming to an end.I am not so sure, though, that the linking of democracy with capitalism isn't too easy still, and that would be my critique of the whole article. I think that democracy can--and probably should--exist beyond/without capitalism (capitalism is proving to be vaguely compatible with communism at this moment, go China, who knew?) and expect it to continue to develop. But one thing's sure--we are living in an age of change.But enough from me. Go read this commentary.

Contemporary liberal democracy developed in Western Europe in tandem with industrialization. Indeed, social democrats and the trade union movement played a crucial role in agitating for universal suffrage, initially only for men, removing the earlier requirement of property ownership.But beyond the issue of voting, the economic and social transformations of the Industrial Revolution underpinned the development of the welfare state, which provided social insurance against the vagaries of capitalism and attempted to mitigate the latter’s inequalities.The welfare state’s emergence was also promoted by the communist revolution in Russia and the Great Depression that engulfed the world in the 1930s. With millions out of work, leftist ideologies gained ground — even in that bastion of individualism, the United States.In most Western states, the way out of the Great Depression involved not only countercyclical spending, but a political accommodation between labor and capital, manifested in the political arena of the two-party system — one party for labor and another for capital.Yet a strange thing happened around three decades ago, with serious challenges emerging to the capital and labor accommodation. The arrival of neoliberalism — the ideology that replaced Keynesianism with the idea that society should be organized along competitive market lines — rose up in the 1970s and early ’80s, ostensibly to counter declining rates of profit in key capitalist countries.via Global Financial Crisis Highlights the Threat to Liberal Democracy’s Survival | The Jakarta Globe.

Reimagining oneself: possible, and profitable

Came across this in my reading and thought not of the change in Durham, SC itself, but in the attitude and the social structure that wrought that change. We are trying something similar here with the various attempts at rejuvenating downtown, but we aren't thinking big enough. To start, we need a municipality to govern the city of Nassau; beyond that, it mightn't hurt to have true local government for the entire island of New Providence as well. It's pretty clear to me that what we do have doesn't work in the slightest right now. But read the excerpt and then read the whole article and think about it.

TEN years ago, Matthew Beason’s duties as a restaurant manager here included driving to the airport to retrieve a weekly shipment of duck confit and pâté from New York.“We couldn’t even buy anything like that around here,” said Mr. Beason, who went on to open Six Plates Wine Bar, now one of many ambitious restaurants around Durham. “Now, virtually every place in town makes its own.”Of the rivalrous cities that make up the so-called Research Triangle — Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Durham — Durham 10 years ago was the unkempt sibling: scruffy and aging.“There was no one on the street at night, just the smell of tobacco drying in the warehouses,” Mr. Beason said.Now, a drive around town might yield the smell of clams from the coastal town of Snead’s Ferry, steaming in white wine, mustard and shallots at Piedmont restaurant; pungent spice and sweet fennel from the “lamby joe” sandwich at Six Plates; and seared mushrooms and fresh asparagus turned in a pan with spring garlic at Watts Grocery.The vast brick buildings still roll through the city center, emblazoned with ads for Lucky Strike and Bull Durham cigarettes. They are being repurposed as art studios, biotechnology laboratories and radio stations.More important for food lovers, hundreds of outlying acres of rich Piedmont soil have “transitioned” from tobacco, and now sprout peas, strawberries, fennel, artichokes and lettuce. Animals also thrive in the gentle climate, giving chefs access to local milk, cheese, eggs, pigs, chickens, quail, lambs and rabbits.

via Durham, a Tobacco Town, Turns to Local Food -

Peter Hallward, "Securing Disaster in Haiti"

Well worth reposting, reading, and savouring in days to come. Sobering commentary indeed.

Nine days after the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on 12 January 2010, it's now clear that the initial phase of the U.S.-led relief operation has conformed to the three fundamental tendencies that have shaped the more general course of the island's recent history. It has adopted military priorities and strategies. It has sidelined Haiti's own leaders and government, and ignored the needs of the majority of its people. And it has proceeded in ways that reinforce the already harrowing gap between rich and poor. All three tendencies aren't just connected, they are mutually reinforcing. These same tendencies will continue to govern the imminent reconstruction effort as well, unless determined political action is taken to counteract them.via Peter Hallward, "Securing Disaster in Haiti".

A ‘recession vacation’ in The Bahamas

Ever wonder what tourists think of The Bahamas? have a look at what one had to say.I like it mostly because of the writing.

I imagine for Bahamians it’s a very different place. In fact, I’d be willing to offer long odds that most locals have never touched a conch fritter. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), the cloistered, painless, waterlogged, rum-addled tourist reality puts the native, presumably “real”, Bahamas largely beyond my comprehension. While I’ve spent what some might consider an eccentric amount of time in the country, I know almost nothing of it outside the half-mile stretch between my father’s timeshare in Cable Beach and the Crystal Palace Casino. Nonetheless, I was curious to see as best I could how the country was faring in this grisly economic climate, so I returned in September for my first “recession vacation”, armed to the teeth with sunscreen and indigestion tablets. / Reportage - A ‘recession vacation’ in The Bahamas

Google May Hand Over Caribbean Journalists' IP Addresses

I have often wondered seriously about the American commitment to freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I have often wondered also about the American belief in the principles on which it is founded; it's one of those things that make me deeply sceptical about any action taken by that giant of a country that seems to find it so very easy to draw a line between the rights that it accords its own citizens and the denial of those rights that appears to be routine in its treatment of non-Americans.Below is a case in point.

Google May Hand Over Caribbean Journalists' IP Addresses (Updated)Google said the following in a letter to the TCI Journal last week, as posted on Wikileaks and sent to us by the Journal:

To comply with the law, unless you provide us with a copy of a motion to quash the subpoena (or other formal objection filed in court) via email at by 5pm Pacific Time on September 16, 2009, Google will assume you do not have an objection to production of the requested information and may provide responsive documents on this date.

Google has not yet responded to our inquiry asking what the company might do once the TCI Journal does send a motion to quash the subpoena, which we presume it will do. Hiring lawyers in California will likely be an onerous task for a volunteer-run website from a tiny Caribbean island. Journal editors tell us that they hope Google will decide to help them fight the case on 1st amendment grounds.Update: A Google spokesperson sent us the following response to our inquiry.

"When Google receives legal process, such as court orders and subpoenas, where possible we promptly provide notice to users to allow them to object to those requests for information. Users may raise any and all objections they feel are relevant, including First Amendment arguments. In addition, we are still evaluating all our legal options regarding this particular request."

Here's my problem. In small nations like ours, fighting for freedom of speech and opinion, fighting against corruption and special interests and the continuation of the rape of our region by those who can gain disproportionate access to leaders is risky at best, virtually impossible at most times. Victimization is the word we use to describe what has happened in The Bahamas; in the USA it was called blacklisting and it was carried out against suspected communists in the 1950s, and it is pretty widely rejected as being anti-democratic (though the communist ideals and the communist party has never recovered in the USA since McCarthy). No matter what the British response was to the exposure of the corruption of the Misick government in TCI (and the suspension of the TCI constitution is questionable at best, but that's another topic), it is nevertheless crucial that such corruption could have been exposed and dealt with in a reasonable amount of time.Because the fact is that in small nations like ours, corruption can be achieved pretty easily, often simply by presenting leaders with tastes of fancy lifestyles. Large corporate interests from outside the country find it embarrassingly easy to get what they want from our governments, as we have poor records of social protest, weak organizations on the ground, and a habit of factional interests that often lead us to suspend our critical judgements in favour of partisan support (simply put, that means that our attachments to one political party or another, which for many of us are complicated by familial, social, historical and sometimes racial ties leads us to support actions we might otherwise criticize if "our" party was in power, or to criticize actions we might otherwise consider a good idea).This makes it very easy for corruption to take hold. (And if you ask me, I'll say, yes, there is probably an element of corruption of some kind or another -- not necessarily economic -- in virtually every foreign investment deal passed in The Bahamas and, by extension, in the Turks and Caicos; it's certainly evident that our governments here in The Bahamas favour activities that benefit our foreign investors (Miss Universe) while rejecting those that favour Bahamians (CARIFESTA)).The twenty-first century answer -- and it's this that I believe to be crucial to the spread of democracy in the world, and not American bootstamping and shock-and-awe tactics, or free markets -- has been that investigative journalists in small countries can expose and criticize corruption thanks to the virtual anonymity of the internet. This is what the TCI Journal achieved. Whether we agree or not with the British reaction to the exposure of corruption in TCI, the fact that the colonial power took such drastic action is testament to the power of the internet press.Google's action threatens the ability -- indeed the possibility -- for true democracy ever to exist in these, our little nations (and by extension those nations that really really need the anonymity of the internet to fight the physical oppression that they face). I have no doubt that it is being pressured by the kinds of external interests that held the Misick government in the palms of their hands, and that the kinds of resources possessed by investors enamoured of their near-absolute possession of a land and its people, virtually limitless in comparison to those of the TCI Journal. But its inability to see its action as being in contravention of its own constitution -- the constitution of the country that it sets itself up as a beacon for democracy -- calls into question, for me, the ultimate value of America's democratic principles.

Ward's take on the local film industry

I'm really taken by Ward Minnis' series of blog posts on the viability of Bahamian art, and I've linked to them on this blog and I'll link to them again. He's developing a number of such posts (more power to him!) and they are very interesting reading. If you're at all interested in entrepreneurship, in the arts, in careers other than the dead old accountant, lawyer or doctor, read them for yourselves.I'm writing to take issue with the premise of his second post, though. I referenced it in my last blog post, and you can see the beginning of the post there. And Ward does this cool thing at the ends of his posts, which is summarize his main points.

(Short aside: Can you come and do that for all of my posts please Ward?)

And so I'm going to give you an idea of what he says in his post by quoting from his summary. Here you go:

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT —>The point® is this:

The main flaw in his argument lies in his basic assumption -- that movies can only be made in a Hollywood fashion for Hollywood-sized budgets, and, once made, they must follow the Hollywood model of distribution in order to make money. Now if his assumption were true, then his argument would hold together. But it's not.Let's first of all consider the film industry as it was in the pre-digital age, before digitization changed the playing field. Even then, the Hollywood model was only one among many. Even then, smaller/non-western countries, like Canada, Australia, Jamaica, Argentina, Mexico, Senegal, Brazil, Cuba and others developed film industries that employed people who worked within them. This does not begin to take into account the industries that existed throughout Europe; France, the UK and Italy had big industries that at various times kept pace with Hollywood, and smaller countries (Sweden & Spain come to mind) had their own smaller ones.As I said, that was the world of film before the digital revolution. Now even then, when smaller industries were able to develop in various parts of the world, some of what Ward argues did hold true. One of the most crucial bits was the cost of making a film. Until 2000, it was pretty well impossible to do the job for under six figures. One of the biggest costs was that of film itself; film, the cameras that ran it, the developing and treating of it, and the people who were all involved in the cinematographic and editing processes, were the most expensive parts of the equation. But with the advent of digital video, and of high quality DV, the film industry has been transformed.Today, films do not need Hollywood to be made, distributed, or picked up. There's such a thing as YouTube after all; there are all sorts of internet-based distribution systems. And the cost of making films has gone down.GloryLet's take one Bahamian film as an example, the only one I know a whole lot about. In 2001, before the launch of the Bahamas International Film Festival took place, Manny Knowles and Philip Burrows made what they believe to be the first Bahamian feature film to be completed and released to commercial houses. Powercut is clearly an independent film in virtually every sense of the word; it doesn't follow the rules of filmmaking, it's claustrophobic and grainy and relies heavily on close-ups, it's not commercially viable in Ward's sense of the word (even though we keep getting inquiries about where it can be purchased today). But it cost us under $60,000 to make, and it broke even in a single premiere showing. The film paid for itself. Granted, it was produced on a profit-sharing model, by which all the actors and techies agreed to share in the profits after the fact, and were not counted as part of the overhead; so far, those profits have not yet been forthcoming. On the other hand, any other revenue that it earns today will count as profit.That was in 2001, when there was no film industry in The Bahamas to speak of, when funding came from two granting agencies and the filmmakers' pockets, and when distribution was limited only to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. Today, things are somewhat different. BIFF allows Bahamian films and filmmakers the ability to connect with professionals throughout the industry, allows Bahamian filmmakers to source funding for their films, and -- yes -- to raise the kind of money that would allow them to make films that can make the rounds of festivals and find distribution outlets.And so I do not agree for one minute that filmmaking is never going to succeed in The Bahamas. The evidence suggests otherwise. I believe, in fact, that it's entirely possible for Bahamians to build a credible indie film industry here, and to find an audience for it, and to make modest amounts of money from it. I'm always a little bemused with the Bahamian myth of the tiny population of 300,000 people. Films today are not limited by borders. I'm pretty sure that, given the response that's reported from Maria to the showings of  Rain around the world, she's already developed a potential viewership that's able to explode that myth.Now perhaps I'm missing the point, and I'm making a faulty assumption of my own. Here's my assumption, for what it's worth: when Ward talks about the "viability" of a film industry his focus is the ability to make a living in The Bahamas off the art of film-making. Maybe I'm wrong, and what he's really talking about is making scads and scads of money off movie-making, building a Hollywood-sized indigenous film industry in The Bahamas. If that is the case, then my argument falls down; Ward is perfectly right to argue that we can't sustain a Bahollywood of our own.Perhaps I'm misreading his idea of "viability" of art by taking it to mean the ability to sustain an industry and to allow some people to do the thing full-time. Perhaps I'm bringing my own understanding of "viability" into the picture -- that making a living off film in The Bahamas is possible today, that people can do it and do nothing else (and indeed people like Kareem Mortimer and Maria Govan and Leslie Vanderpool are doing just that). If I'm wrong -- if Ward's talking about something like Hollywood, something that employs millions of people or affects the livelihood of a whole huge city -- well, then, I don't think he has to argue all that hard. He's absolutely on the money there. But if my assumption is sound, and he's talking about the creation of a film industry that can employ a few people all the time and many people part of the time, then I'd say we've got that going already -- and by all indications, the sector's growing all the time.My five cents. Cheers.

Caribbean Tourism: it's the same everywhere

One of the stories on the news last night (that's right, ZNS news) was a longish feature on the sufferings of Atlantis, Paradise Island, as the result of the recession. I really didn't write down the figures, but they were enough to elicit weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth -- 3% down in occupancy from projections (it's important to get these titles right) overall this year until May and June, when the occupancy was 20-something % down from projections.I wept, I tell you. Wept.What I found fascinating, though, was that the news didn't go beyond Atlantis and find out what the overall tourism economy was like. Atlantis has always had significantly higher occupancy rates than the national average, for a number of reasons that I'd rather not go into here and now (though one of them is that they don't promote the fact that they are in The Bahamas all that much, and that they suck tourists right off the face of the rest of New Providence and swallow all their money so that ordinary Bahamians don't get anything other than crumbs from the master's table -- don't believe me, go watch After the Sunset, the Big Movie our Ministry of Tourism landed half a decade or so ago to much fanfare and celebration, and tell me if you ever hear either the word "Bahamas" or even a recognizable Bahamian accent in the whole thing. I can tell you now you won't -- the place it's set in is called "Paradise" and the main location, despite some forays onto the main island of New Providence -- was Paradise Island, aka the home of Atlantis. But I digress.) Perhaps, on National Pride Day (the Friday before Bahamian Independence), the news would be too grim.So anyway. I thought I'd take the liberty to cheer us up by sharing the misery a little, and by sharing maybe too a laugh or two. This is thanks to Nicholas Laughlin, whose tweet directed me to this post. Let's look beyond our shores and cast our minds upon our sister B'Island (I mean Barbados, in case you didn't know), where tourists and tourism are addressed by one Ingrid Persaud. There's unity, after all, in shared suffering.

Times are hard and money is too tight to mention. If you can still afford a vacation we really want you to come to our small rock. Never mind the scandalous treatment of undocumented workers or the huge hike in water rates because the water company failed to put aside funds for depreciation. None of this will perturb your paradise. You must come here for the exquisite beaches, superb restaurants and friendly people.Well the beaches are fantastic but maybe best to avoid Mullins Beach because the extensive building works in that area have directly caused severe beach erosion. Restaurants are world class but once you are prepared to pay London prices your digestion will be easier. And the friendly people you might meet on the beach are very friendly if you want to buy shells or get your hair braided. The rest of the population will treat you as if you have had a longstanding quarrel or more likely ignore you.But these are minor matters. I really, really want you to choose Barbados rather than Bali for the summer or winter hols. Maybe you have been put off because there are questions you have but were too afraid to ask. I have gathered a number of such questions that the Tourist Board have neglected to address and provided answers to the best of my ability. These are authentic, hearsay inquiries. If you have others please drop me line.

--Notes From A Small Rock: WE PROMISE YOU PARADISE

On the Recession, the Humanities, and the 21st Century

But I'm going to make a prediction now. It's not an awfully fun one, either. The Bahamian economy is very likely to crash, and hard. And soon. Why? Well, it has occurred to me (why I was so silly I don't know) that our extended period of prosperity has lasted pretty well as long as the Cuban Revolution has lasted -- the revolution and the attendant embargo. Quite simply, because Americans couldn't go to Cuba, they came here.That time is conceivably going to end in the foreseeable future. If you were paying attention to Obama's state of the union address, you might be like me, and seeing it coming sooner or later.

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Microwave not recommended to bake a quality bread product

I'm baking a frozen roll of French bread for breakfast.  That's what it said on the package.Know this.  As long as I'm awake, little things run through my head, rather like the ticker tape display you see at stock markets.  Little communications from my subconscious flash across my conscious mind and distract me from what I'm doing.  And unfortunately for me and those around me, those communications have emotional reactions.  Recently, I've been operating in a state of low-grade anger.  It's a bit like a low-grade fever; it makes me irritable some of the time, snappish and sarcastic (which has its humourous moments).  Most of the time, though, it just makes me depressed.  It's like being locked in a tiny room with no windows and a nagging relative.The thing that makes me angriest these days is the fundamental disrespect that we offer ourselves as Bahamians, our country, and (yes) our culture.  The three are inseparable, and the disrespect is pervasive.  I'm not talking about crime or politics here, although both are symptoms.  I'm talking about the conviction that far too many of our leaders seem to have that we are really second-rate people. Our country can't compete.  We are incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial.  We can't develop ourselves, so we have to find foreigners to invest their money in our economy to develop us for us. Etc. (Shut up, Nico).The disrespect comes out when we see what we invest in ourselves, in our society, in the formation, cementing, and celebration of our identity as a sovereign nation.  I keep raising the point that we are the third richest independent country in the western hemisphere.  So forget the fact that Bermuda and Cayman are richer than we are; they're still colonies/dependencies of Britain.  The Bahamas is richer than every other country in the Americas than the USA and Canada.And what do we have to show for it?  What monuments, institutions, works of art, buildings, public spaces, have we provided for ourselves (and only ourselves) over the course of thirty-five years?  What we did have we have also destroyed -- Jumbey Village comes to mind, along with Goombay Summer, the National Dance School home (the institution still exists, limping along in near-oblivion, but its building was demolished for no reason anyone can give me, whose land still stands empty next to Oakes Field Primary School, and its rent now costs the government a goodly and unnecessary packet), the Dundas Repertory Season, the Government High School.Great nations invest in symbols.  They understand the need to spend hard money on creating objects and institutions that mean -- or can mean -- something to the people who belong to the nation, and they create a sense of belonging.  Washington D. C. is an example of the kind of grandness that preceded the greatness of a nation; the American founding fathers imagined a great nation, built the symbols, and let the country catch up to their vision.  In Britain, squares and statues and public places and institutions and buildings are created for every great moment in their history, and you can see those great moments literally laid out on the ground.  In the capitals of our Caribbean neighbours, public and private funds are invested in monuments -- statues, institutions, promenades, parks -- so that even the most humble of their nationals, and the most arrogant of their visitors, can get some idea of who they are.But here in The Bahamas of the twenty-first century, we put up our parks and our monuments and our et ceterae only when we beg the help of our foreign investors.  Meanwhile, we take the taxpayers' money and pour it into failed institutions or foreign pockets and cry poor-mouth when asked to help artists explore our identity though self-expression.  The people who get our money do not know or care who we are, except that we are whores who will let them wipe their feet on us when they are finished with us.  And without them our governments (no matter what initials they wear), who are stewards of the third richest independent government in the New World, choose again and again not invest a penny in the development of the Bahamian person, the Bahamian soul.So how did I get here from what's written on a packet of frozen French bread?Simply this.  The French, who have invested millions in their people and their symbols (some of which, like the Eiffel Tower, could be regarded as a horrendous waste of time, aesthetics and money) and who hold in their greatest art museum not only the great art of the French but the great art of the world (the Mona Lisa, after all, rests in the Louvre) have an unassailable sense of themselves.  People who know claim that the French are arrogant.  But after all, they have things to be arrogant about; their governments' investment in culture has made even the most ordinary and semi-educated Frenchman proud to be French. And that pride leads to quality -- a quality that is recognized world-wide, and that turns, in the end, into money again.Hence the message on the bread package.  Microwave not recommended.In this microwave land our politicians and administrators have created for us -- that we have allowed to be created for ourselves -- it's the kind of thing that nags me, and threatens to drive me mad.


The Bahamas' budget debate is taking place now.  As a civil servant, I am not free to comment as I would like.  So I'll just ask questions instead.I am listening to the debate, and the rhetoric is impressive.  But what is the reality?  Is this budget really preparing us for the 21st century?  Do we even understand what the 21st century will require of us?Here's the link to our budget.You can download bits and pieces or the whole thing in .pdf format.  I encourage you to do so.Here are some links to important global developments that will impact our economy in short order.World Trade Organization (WTO)UNESCO Cultural Industries Overview

CARICOM Cultural Industries (pdf)

Hell thaws again

Hat tip to Rick Lowe, for linking to this blog.Since our brief moment of harmony, though, I think we're going to part ways again. Here's why hell couldn't have stayed frozen for long.I'm a great big fan of The Wire -- the TV show about the Baltimore streets that's set up to be the classic story of cops and robbers, but which is a whole lot more.You watch The Wire, you get an appreciation of how our government works, and doesn't. I've long thought that our country runs rather like the municipal government of a major American city. So fine, the Mayor has more direct and absolute power perhaps than the Prime Minister does -- he doesn't appear to have a cabinet that he has to work with or around (or which he has to put to work for him); but the very same deals and development schemes and favours and lobbying take place. Well, maybe not the lobbying; we're not so good at that round here. But pretty well most of the rest. Not sure whether the violence that occurs on the streets of Baltimore is matched by our crime, but for that we can only be thankful (and hey, I might be wrong -- we don't have any TV show to reveal to us our underside).The show is created by David Simon and Edward Burns. David Simon was known to me because I was a fan of Homicide before I was a fan of The Wire. He's got grittier. In fact, he claims to have become a cynic. And he's got a view of the world, and of the USA, that rings true -- for the most part -- for me. (The remainder of this address can be seen on YouTube).Enough woffle from me. Watch the clip(s), and see what you think.[youtube]What struck me most about Simon's take on the world -- the postindustrial world -- is his claim that human beings are being valued less and less. I don't know whether I agree with that position in its entirety, but I certainly see where he's coming from -- and I'm not sure he's wrong (though I would like him to be).What also struck me, and what I can accept more readily (though not wholeheartedly), is his claim that whenever the USA has had to choose between human beings and profit, it has chosen profit. Anyway.***I posted the above last night, through the thickness of imminent sleep, and didn't take the time to explain why I think Rick and I would fall on different sides of this issue. I've been hard pressed to articulate just what my overall objection to unrestrained capitalism has been for much of my life. Simply stating I have socialist leanings isn't enough. Simon's claim that capitalism makes people worth less than things rings true to me. I'd like to be shown I'm wrong, but I don't know that I am.It's not coincidental that the rise of capitalism parallelled the development of the slave trade, or that the abolition of the slave trade in Britain occurred at roughly the same time as the rise of factory work. Profit over people from the beginning; why spend time on housing, feeding and preserving the lives of forced labourers when it can be cheaper to pay small wages to factory workers who then have to go fend for themselves?I'd love to be wrong about this. It would make living in this society -- a society that can only survive on entrepreneurship and the selling of things and ideas -- a whole lot easier, but the brand of capitalism I see practised again and again, both here at home and abroad, does not make me hopeful.