There's a video I shared on Facebook. Its purpose: to explain to the world the real purpose behind the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) movement in France. The speaker in the video calls it "the revolution".
We live in a revolutionary age. It's not something we can escape. Marshall McLuhan, writing long ago, observed that when the medium of communication changes, the entire world—social, cultural, political—shifts. In his book The Gutenburg Galaxy he offers evidence for his position, exploring in particular how the shift from script-culture (when books were handwritten) to print-culture (when writing could be mass-produced) bore fruit in the various revolutions of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He also demonstrated how the shift to broadcast media from print media (he lumped film in with print, but radio and television with broadcast media) had a similar revolutionary impact.
So it should be unsurprising that actual political revolutions are now happening—on both the right and the left. It should be unsurprising, indeed expected, that these revolutions are protests, one way or another, about the representative government associated with today's democracies—protests about the way in which the people we elect to represent us do NOT represent the people who elected them.
I've argued elsewhere and I want to argue again that it's time for us to rethink democracy. Not to get rid of it, but to re-tool it. Questions will arise. Print and broadcast culture flattened the world, created a shared culture that could be experienced by many people at once. The digital world ruled by clustering algorithms has retribalized society. There is absolutely no need—indeed, there is little space at all—for people with different views of the world to interact at all, much less discuss/debate their differences. But democracy is founded upon dialogue and debate. How do we keep our democracies alive when the world is being fragmented by algorithm into groups of people who consume the same things and think alike?
From the podcast 99% Invisible (NOT WRITTEN BY ME)On the border of Virginia and North Carolina stretches a great, dismal swamp. The Great Dismal Swamp, actually — that’s the name British colonists gave it centuries ago. The swamp covers about 190 square miles today, but at its peak, before parts of it were drained and developed, it was around ten times bigger, spanning roughly 2,000 square miles of Virginia and North Carolina.And it’s understandable why people called the swamp “dismal.” Temperatures can reach over 100 degrees. It’s humid and soggy, filled with thorns and thickets, teeming with all sorts of dangerous and unpleasant wildlife. The panthers that used to live there are now gone, but even today there are black bears, poisonous snakes, and swarms of yellow flies and mosquitoes.But hundreds of years ago, before the Civil War, the dangers of the swamp and its seeming impenetrability actually attracted people to it. The land was so untamed that horses and boats couldn’t enter, and the colonists who were filing into the region detested it. William Byrd II, a Virginia planter, called it “a miserable morass where nothing can inhabit.” But people did inhabit the swamp, including thousands of enslaved Africans and African Americans who escaped their captors and formed communities in the swamp. This “dismal” landscape was the site of one of the most remarkable and least told stories of resistance to slavery in American history.via The Great Dismal Swamp - 99% Invisible
I accept that the twenty-first century is a century of revolution. That our print-based, elites-centred models of representative democracy have run their historical course. That the model of society which gives a small group the exclusive right to rule over a large one, with minimal checks and balances which can be activated by the large group, needs to be re-examined and remodelled. That the tools we now have at our disposal—tools for public education and public participation—have opened the door for more participatory forms of governance, and that we must move with the world in that direction.And so this election, I do not consent to participate in this old, flawed model. I know it's a crazy idea. I know it's illogical. But I don't believe it's wrong.Read More
People ask me the same questions again and again.
- Why go out of your way to spoil the ballot—why not stay home/go to the beach?
- What is spoiling the ballot going to achieve?
- Why aren't you looking at the candidates on offer and considering voting for a person rather than a party?
- If you're so dissatisfied, why don't you run/find an independent to run in your constituency?
These are not questions that are easy to answer. I've been thinking about this election for a loooonnnng time and have a whole lot to say.Several times I've started to explain them on camera. Here's one, recorded back in November 2016, right after President Trump's election. Perhaps it'll begin to give an answer.[wpvideo MQ11ozrc]
Educated FoolishnessLast Thursday, the Out Da Box movement introduced itself to The Bahamas. Ian Strachan, Alicia Wallace and I began the discussion about spoiling the ballot as an option in the upcoming general election on Guardian Talk Radio, and (to my considerable surprise, but not to the others') the discussion took off. What madness were we suggesting? Spoil the ballot? Why on God's green earth, at this critical juncture in history, would anyone ever think of doing something so stupid?And the discussion continued far beyond the morning show. It was taken up again at noon by the Revolution, and then at 5 on Freedom March, and it seemed to continue again into Friday, with more radio discussion on the weekend as well. Almost all of the discussion disagreed vehemently with the position that we've taken: that if, like us, you don't feel you have anyone to vote for, register anyway and spoil your ballot.The "stupidity" of the idea centred around two main points:
- the concept that anyone in their right mind would, or should, go to the polls and stand in line in the hot sun, wasting their time and energy and patience, to go into the voting booth just to choose no candidate at all; and
- the idea that doing this would change anything about the outcome. If 90% of the electorate spoiled their ballot, the next government would be elected by the 10% who did not, and the politicians would not care one whit about the rest.
The general refrain: this will achieve nothing, so why even suggest it?Method in the MadnessWhat much of the discussion seems to have missed about the movement is that its focus is not on effecting quick, immediate change in political rulership. Rather, it is on building citizen power.For too long, we have accepted the idea that "democracy" consists of going to the polls every five years--or, more recently, whenever a referendum is called--to cast a vote on a pre-selected slate of candidates or a pre-determined set of options. The result has been that we've developed the habit of treating election seasons rather like football playoffs--people have their teams, they wear their paraphernalia, they trash talk about the other guys. Like football playoffs too, we have evolved a binary way of looking at political options: it's an either/or scenario. And it's a spectator sport for the most part. We may study the plays and talk about them, but we do not contribute to them. The game is plotted out in the locker room, behind closed doors, between coaches and players. As with football, we seem to accept that this is the way things are done. All we do is cheer them on when we see how well they work, or groan when they don't.But democracy is not like football. Government FOR the people BY the people means, very simply, that the citizens of any democracy are in fact its governors. At the moment, we operate in a representative democracy, which means that at specific moments in time, citizens vote for the people they will send to represent them in the legislature. That's why the gallery is in the House of Assembly. These representatives are ideally supposed to be the voice of the citizens--the governors--when the time comes to make laws, and also one of the checks to the power of the executive, many of whose decisions should be reported to or ratified by the House of Assembly.The result of treating elections like football playoffs, though, means that we tend to assume that what happens in the House of Assembly is the politicians' business. We often miss the point that the politicians work for us. For a long time, we have given them too little oversight, too little direction, and they have developed a culture of entitlement, a culture of disrespect for the citizenry that is only now beginning to be checked with the advent of social media.The Out Da Box movement seeks, quite simply, to change the thinking of the citizenry. To shift the discussion away from trash talk to what it means to operate in a democracy. To recognize that a citizen's vote is the one bit of direct power that citizen has, albeit very small.We believe that there is power in withholding that vote, because democracy depends on the consent of the ruled. We recognize that withholding our consent will not change the immediate outcome of the election. We know that it may be ignored or discounted by the people who do get elected. We know that the government that is formed after the 2017 election will probably forget that they do not have the mandate to make decisions on behalf of the citizenry that they have come to expect.But showing up to withdraw our consent is the beginning of a new way of being governed. It will take more than engaging in the spectator sport that our democracy has become, but it will be worth it in the end. By showing up to spoil our ballots, to withdraw our consent to be governed, we, the citizens, will be pledging with that one small act that we will show up again and again, collectively. We will do the work it takes, as the true government of our democracy, to contribute to our legislative activity. And we will learn and exercise skills that our representatives seem to lack or to have forgotten: reasoning skills, the skills of dialogue, respect for dissent and dissenters, and the skill of constructive negotiation.Out Da Box believes that the very first step to that collective action can be spoiling the ballot--withdrawing our consent to be inadequately ruled--together. Stupid is as Stupid DoesSo back to the educated foolishness, the stupidity of the act of spoiling the ballot.
- Why register, go to the polls, stand in the hot sun and waste time, energy and patience, just to spoil the ballot? Because WE are the government. The people we elect work for US. The fact that they hold their allegiance to their parties--their teams--above their responsibility to be the voice of the citizenry is unacceptable to us.
- What will spoiling the ballot achieve? It is an act that citizens can take together to lay the foundation for a more participatory democracy that we have today.The fact that we take the time to withdraw our consent is a demonstration that we are going to show up for other, more visible exercises that reinforce the citizens' power.
So the foolishness of this movement boils down to one primary idea. Citizens acting together to withdraw their consent to be ruled will lay the foundation for a better, more participatory, future.
I am not American. However, I recognize the United States of America for providing a model for democracy around the world. No, its democracy is not perfect, but it is earnest. In principle, it seeks on numerous levels to work against tyranny, to empower its citizenry. The execution of these has been far from perfect, but the ideals have been sound.There is a status post on Facebook that individuals are copying and pasting. It essentially outlines every step that the new president of the United States of America has taken since his inauguration. I do not know the sources personally, so I am taking other people's word that these things actually happened.The thing that is worrying about the list is that the majority of these cases consist of actions that are fundamentally anti-democratic, that explicitly reduce the ability of Americans to self-expression, that muzzle the right to free speech, that increase the possibility of a tyrant beginning a process of domination in a nation widely regarded as the birthplace of democracy. Further, is it my imagination, or does the turn to violence, or the condoning of state-accepted violence, have a definite fascist cast.I want my friends and family who support Donald Trump to tell me why this is not the case, please.The list is as follows: (I've changed the stars to numbers so that we can see the length of the list).
- On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the DOJ’s Violence Against Women programs.
- On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.
- On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities.
- On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
- On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Minority Business Development Agency.
- On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Economic Development Administration.
- On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the International Trade Administration.
- On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
- On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
- On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Legal Services Corporation.
- On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ.
- On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the DOJ.
- On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
- On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Electricity Deliverability and Energy Reliability.On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
- On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Fossil Energy.
- On January 20th, 2017, DT ordered all regulatory powers of all federal agencies frozen.
- On January 20th, 2017, DT ordered the National Parks Service to stop using social media after RTing factual, side by side photos of the crowds for the 2009 and 2017 inaugurations.
- On January 20th, 2017, roughly 230 protestors were arrested in DC and face unprecedented felony riot charges. Among them were legal observers, journalists, and medics.
- On January 20th, 2017, a member of the International Workers of the World was shot in the stomach at an anti-fascist protest in Seattle. He remains in critical condition.
- On January 21st, 2017, DT brought a group of 40 cheerleaders to a meeting with the CIA to cheer for him during a speech that consisted almost entirely of framing himself as the victim of dishonest press.
- On January 21st, 2017, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer held a press conference largely to attack the press for accurately reporting the size of attendance at the inaugural festivities, saying that the inauguration had the largest audience of any in history, “period.”
- On January 22nd, 2017, White House advisor Kellyann Conway defended Spicer’s lies as “alternative facts” on national television news.
- On January 22nd, 2017, DT appeared to blow a kiss to director James Comey during a meeting with the FBI, and then opened his arms in a gesture of strange, paternal affection, before hugging him with a pat on the back.
- On January 23rd, 2017, DT reinstated the global gag order, which defunds international organizations that even mention abortion as a medical option.
- On January 23rd, 2017, Spicer said that the US will not tolerate China’s expansion onto islands in the South China Sea, essentially threatening war with China.
- On January 23rd, 2017, DT repeated the lie that 3-5 million people voted “illegally” thus costing him the popular vote.
- On January 23rd, 2017, it was announced that the man who shot the anti-fascist protester in Seattle was released without charges, despite turning himself in.
- On January 24th, 2017, DT tweeted a picture from his personal Twitter account of a photo he says depicts the crowd at his inauguration and will hang in the White House press room. The photo is of the 2009 inauguration of 44th President Barack Obama, and is curiously dated January 21st, 2017, the day AFTER the inauguration and the day of the Women’s March, the largest inauguration related protest in history.
- On January 24th, 2017, the EPA was ordered to stop communicating with the public through social media or the press and to freeze all grants and contracts.
- On January 24th, 2017, the USDA was ordered to stop communicating with the public through social media or the press and to stop publishing any papers or research. All communication with the press would also have to be authorized and vetted by the White House.
- On January 24th, 2017, HR7, a bill that would prohibit federal funding not only to abortion service providers, but to any insurance coverage, including Medicaid, that provides abortion coverage, went to the floor of the House for a vote.
- On January 24th, 2017, DT ordered the resumption of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, while the North Dakota state congress considers a bill that would legalize hitting and killing protestors with cars if they are on roadways.
- On January 24th, 2017, it was discovered that police officers had used confiscated cell phones to search the emails and messages of the 230 demonstrators now facing felony riot charges for protesting on January 20th, including lawyers and journalists whose email accounts contain privileged information of clients and sources.From News and Guts*credit for compilation: Karen Cornett-Dwyer
- On January 24th, 2017 DT threatened martial law by 'sending in the feds' to Chicago.
No, it's not your typical discussion of numbers, etc. I'm sharing this link (I've pored over many!) because it uses the techniques we use as anthropologists to understand the perspectives of people considered to be "other". It looks at how engagement itself can become a road to empowerment. The end of the article, which quotes part of an interview with Kathy Cramer, a University of Wisconsin researcher, is the best part. It recalls the impact of the Sustainable Exuma research in Exuma, which relied on getting to know the various players as human beings as well.I'm going to buy her book, The Politics of Resentment
Thank God I was as naive as I was when I started. If I knew then what I know now about the level of resentment people have toward urban, professional elite women, would I walk into a gas station at 5:30 in the morning and say, “Hi! I’m Kathy from the University of Madison”?
I’d be scared to death after this presidential campaign! But thankfully I wasn’t aware of these views. So what happened to me is that, within three minutes, people knew I was a professor at UW-Madison, and they gave me an earful about the many ways in which that riled them up — and then we kept talking.And then I would go back for a second visit, a third visit, a fourth, fifth and sixth. And we liked each other. Even at the end of my first visit, they would say, “You know, you’re the first professor from Madison I’ve ever met, and you’re actually kind of normal.” And we’d laugh. We got to know each other as human beings.Source: A new theory for why Trump voters are so angry — that actually makes sense - The Washington Post
It's impossible to let this day pass without writing something about this title. I let Brexit go by because, well, I was stunned; I said my piece on the Bahamian gender referendum because I was disappointed. But not to say something about this election, which was historic, yes, and not the way I had wanted, would be a travesty.So let me say this: yes, I am disappointed. Profoundly so. But can I in all honesty be anything else? I am not an American. I could not vote. I had to leave it up to the American people to do their democratic duty, and they did it. As with Brexit, as with the Bahamian gender referendum, people participated in the democratic process the one way they were able. They had one vote, and they used it. And into that vote they channelled everything that they felt about themselves, their times, their nation.I'm entitled to think that, as with us on our referendum, as with the British on Brexit, the American electorate as a collective got it wrong. The world is heading in one direction and the voters in each of these three nations have chosen not to look that way. Rather, they all turned to look behind them at the world we are all leaving behind, while time inexorably moves us somewhere entirely different. The journey forward for all of us will be taken blindly: we're looking back. We're passing through twenty-first century reality and its challenges remain unseen.I don't think that this is accidental at all. I also don't think that it could have been avoided. Because what is happening across the world is that people are voting against their status quo. They are entirely aware, on a molecular level, that things have changed, that the ground has shifted beneath their feet, that the world they find themselves in is not the world for which they are prepared. But because their leaders have been unable or unwilling to articulate these changes, or perhaps even to acknowledge them, they are voting for a return to the past, or for a maintenance of an obsolete system. In Britain, the voters sought to withdraw from the collective of Europe in search of lost (possibly imperial?) times; here in The Bahamas, the voters chose to maintain legal inequalities between men and women in an effort to negate or neutralize women's real power in our nation; and now, in the USA, voters are electing to "make America great again"—this greatness being exemplified in the shaking of a big stick, the glorification of white skins, and the subordination of the female.But in not one case were the voters given a constructive choice. I'm pretty sure that those people who, like me, wanted different outcomes will rise up indignantly at this idea. What's not constructive about Hillary Clinton/the European Union/equal rights for women under the Bahamian constitution? But in imagining these things to be positive because we believe they are, considering them unquestionably as being absolute goods, we miss the point. For democracy is not about absolute and opposite goods. It is about dialogue and discussion—about true debate. If democracy is government by the people for the people, then all the people need to be involved in it somehow.What was critical and revealing about these three contests in 2016 was that there was very little debate involved. There was plenty of talk, and a lot of argument. There was plenty of threat and plenty of ridicule and lots of tearing down but very little building up. Democracy was not at work throughout the process. These elections were crafted the way reality shows are crafted: emphasizing the extreme differences in the matters (many of them, like the bogeyman immigrant and the spectre of gay monogamy, semi-fictional inventions) for the entertainment of the public rather than engaging in the full implications of the choices to be made. The media in each case focussed more on the sensational surfaces of the contests than on the long-term implications of their outcomes.In every case, the contest went thus:
- an issue—two referenda and one presidential election—was fought on a national scale;
- the stakes in each were historically critical;
- the issues were presented in a binary fashion as though the contest was a clash between absolute good and absolute evil, without any attempt to find common ground between the two options;
- the stakes were not discussed in any historical or global context, and the implications of potential outcomes were not presented in any thoughtful or measured fashion.
Now the critical thing about the democracy we currently inhabit is this. Ultimately, the only power an individual has comes down to his or her ability to cast a vote. We have constructed systems in which the individual voice is reduced to a single moment in time, a moment when a choice is made, and that choice, in every case above, was a choice between two irreconcilable opposites.Voters vote they only way that they can. They make a choice. But they do not make free choices. They choose the thing that seems most right to them, most right for them, but they have no control over the ultimate outcome.The collective result, in every case I have mentioned, has been a step away from equality, from kindness, from civility, from generosity. In every case I have mentioned, the result has been a shrinking of self, a turning away from greatness.It's been protectionist. It's been risk-averse. It's been desperate.It has not been great.Let me make my position perfectly clear here. I am not seeking to belittle what has happened. I'm seeking to understand it on my terms, to recognize that in every case that has dismayed me, people have used their democratic right in good faith. And they have had the absolute right to do so. That they chose differently than I would is immaterial. That they chose differently from what will help them survive in the twenty-first century, though, is critical. And it raises the question. Why did so many people make choices that will not help them in the world we are entering? What went wrong?My conclusion: it's not their choices that were wrong. It's the system that made sure these were the only choices that were available. It is a system that divides those who disagree by a chasm that seems only crossable by violence and destruction. It's a system that suggests that "democracy" has nothing to do with self-governance for the common good, but rather consists of a battle between two demonized adversaries, in which the winner takes all and the loser is crushed.So am I happy that Trump won this election? In no way. I have absolutely no confidence that the persona that he performed on the campaign trail has any resemblance to the man he actually is, and I think that we are all, Americans and the world alike, about to be royally screwed, God's will notwithstanding. But do I think that the "American public" were wrong for voting for him? Not at all. Each individual voted the only way they could: for themselves, for what they believed was the greatest good (for them). The outcome was beyond their control.Brexit, the Bahamian referendum, the American election: it's not the voters who are at fault in any of these events. It's the way we perform "democracy" that is the problem.
Last week, following the exchanges that were taking place on travel advisories to the USA, I felt I should weigh in. I didn't. The issues at hand seemed too big, too heavy to lift. And the discussion felt too old, the way in which it was moving too predictable. It's as though all our arguments have worn two or three deep and well-trodden channels in the landscape of possibility, and whenever we approach an issue, whatever that issue, they fall into those grooves.But those grooves don't lead us anywhere new.Here are some of the things I was thinking I wanted to write last week.
- I admit it: I was proud that our Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a travel advisory for the USA. I do not regard it as frivolous, although I fully recognize that there was in all likelihood a sense of smug comebackery in its origin. It is dead serious, and here's why: black Bahamian men who rarely if ever get stopped by police here in The Bahamas and who have never been personally menaced by the "criminal" element here at home have been, and are still, routinely stopped in the USA for that violation commonly known as DWB (Driving While Black). For the most part, these men are professional, middle-aged, and "respectable" (whatever that means), and several of them have told me that they do not intend to travel to the USA anytime soon.
- I also admit it: I caution my students and young Black Bahamian male friends and acquaintances, who are not professional, middle-aged, or conforming to the "respectable" check box, to exercise caution when:
- Going out on the streets of Nassau at whatever time of the day
- Driving anywhere there might be police stops or roadblocks, as young black men in Nassau are NOT immune to police brutality
- Being in any place where an altercation is likely to break out in Nassau, as the potential for being harmed or even killed as so-called "collateral damage" to the high interpersonal violence that plagues our society.
As Christian Campbell has astutely observed: one does not cancel out the other. We can chew gum and walk at the same time. Both can be, and are, deadly true. We have a problem here in The Bahamas. But that does not mean that the USA does not have an equal problem. That does not mean that the travel advisory is petty or irrelevant (even though pettiness can certainly be identified in its issue). And that does not mean that living in the Bahamas is at all safe. The issues at hand are different and the same, all at once.Different, because the places are different.The same, because the origins are linked.It is no accident, I believe, that the USA has by far the highest incarceration rate in the world, or that African Americans constitute the largest percentage of those incarcerated (or that, in terms of overall populations, more African-Americans per capita are incarcerated than any other ethnic group in the USA). Nor is it an accident that the Caribbean the highest murder rates in the world (or that Latin America is not that far behind).What we who live in this region of the world persistently and critically overlook is the fact that our region was built on the twin evils of genocide and slavery. Forget the fact that it is arguable (though probably not supportable) that the people engaged in those two evils were unaware of the magnitude of the wrong they were doing. Their intentions do not matter. What matters is what they left behind: a system throughout the Americas that was designed to subordinate and dehumanize large numbers of people, while at the same time it protected and enriched other groups.It is no accident that the American debate on the right to carry firearms is highly charged and usually linked to the question of individual and personal safety—guns are considered instruments of protection for Americans—but protection against what? Against whom? I would argue that the settlers throughout the Americas have always seen themselves as being under siege (and, let's face it, when you steal people's land and enslave people's children, maybe you are indeed under siege). And so they created settlements, towns, cities that were legal fortresses against the dangers they perceived. The second amendment, while originally written to defend the right of the settlers to self-governance, very quickly became the right of the invaders to defend themselves against the displaced, and then the right of the oppressors to defend themselves against the oppressed. When you look closely, the right to bear arms can be decoded as the right of white Americans to bear arms. It's the settler mentality, and it is part of the legacy of the frontier, the legacy of native "pacification", of African forced labour. The very foundations on which the so-called "New" world rest have already decided which lives matter, how much, and for how long.Which leads me to this. You cannot build a society on egregious violence and expect to live in peace. You can cocoon yourself. You can, if you are a member of the groups which were traditionally protected by the webs of laws and prisons from the dangers that your founding economic and social systems created, imagine that life is fine and smooth and comfortable. But it is not. Your personal safety, and mine, in fact depends on a social structure that is inherently violent, inherently inhumane, inherently built on the idea that all lives do not matter.So until we face these facts and recognize that we must systematically dismantle all of the pillars on which our post-genocide, post-slavery American societies were raised, we cannot hope for peace in this world. And as Erin Greene has suggested: one way we can begin that dismantling is by instituting reparations for those wrongs.But that is another argument for another time.---Featured image on this page Remixed by Chris Ritter using Paper by Fifty-Three.
Bahamian pastors, I have a question for you. What did you preach about yesterday? It's the first Sunday since the referendum, so I imagine that many congregations were engaged in praise and thanksgiving for the Bahamas' rejection of changes to the status quo that might allow for gay marriage. But it was also the morning of a massacre. Did you preach about that?If you did, was Christ your example? Did you, in your rejoicing, spare a thought for the families of the 50+ dead in Orlando? A prayer? Did you lead your congregations in prayers for the wounded in Pulse nightclub, or did you (God forbid) offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the shooter?These things matter. I'm asking because we are responsible for the stands we take. We're responsible for both the positive outcomes and the negative ones. We can never know how our words will be taken when we utter them, and when they leave us, but that does not make us any less responsible for them. Words are not children; they do not have consciences of their own. But they do have consequences.A choice was made by a significant proportion of the Bahamian Christian community during the lead-up to the Bahamas referendum. It was a choice I did not understand, and a choice that I would not have made myself. As a result, significant portions of the discussion that surrounded the referendum focussed on a "gay agenda" that had to be defeated at whatever cost—even the cost of not affording equal rights under the constitution to Bahamian women. When challenged, many of the people advancing that position insisted that their stand was not against individuals. Christians love homosexuals, they said; it is the homosexual lifestyle they do not love. For the sake of argument, I will accept that position, though I did not see a whole lot of love being shared. I didn't see too many pastors sitting and engaging with Bahamian gay rights activists, or embracing members of the Bahamian transgender community. I heard a lot of aggression and a lot of judgement, though. Plenty wrath. Not so much gentleness.Well, on Saturday night, a real blow was struck against the "gay agenda", and it was struck with bullets and with blood. More than fifty homosexuals were removed from this world by a man who was taking his own personal stand against their "agenda". Now I am in no way linking that shooting directly to any Bahamian Christian. I am well aware that the shooter was an Afghani-American. But his intent seemed all too familiar here in The Bahamas. And some of the responses appearing in Bahamian social media—which rejoiced in his actions, which threatened the same here—sickened me.Hence my question. Pastors, what did you preach about yesterday? Did you remind your congregations that, no matter what your stand in principle about same-sex marriage and homosexual lifestyles, the slaughter of actual human beings was wrong? Did you remind them of Jesus' words about judging others, about turning cheeks, about loving neighbours as yourself? Did you condemn in advance the outpouring of hate that was certainly about to come from people who used your stance against the proposed amendment to justify their personal homophobia? Did you, in short, accept responsibility for your position on the referendum, recognize the links between yesterday morning's shooting and that position, and work to explain the difference between a principle and an action? That your call to righteousness is not a call to murder? That the freedom of speech, of expression, or of opinion, are not the same as the freedom of action? That the shooting of people in a nightclub catering to LGBTI people is certainly not what God is calling His people to do? And beyond that, what have you written about it? Where are the words that you will use to help heal this hate? I am not condemning the position you took on the referendum, though I disagree with it, and was saddened by it. We live in a democratic society, and democracy guarantees you the right to hold and defend your personal convictions. But that right comes with responsibility. You are responsible for the words you used in this fight. I am holding you responsible for the words you will use from now on to spread the love of Christ, as well as judgement. You are our pastors. You can lead us astray, or in the paths of righteousness. I'm waiting.PS: Check this out.
The real victims of [the] unequal entitlement to Bahamian citizenship ... are ... children, regardless of their sex. The key provision in the Constitution, where the debate is framed around gender, but could also be framed around children’s rights ... -- Stephen Aranha“I want a Bahamas that ensures that no one can be discriminated against on the basis of sex, and all men and all women enjoy the same rights and privileges. I’m not willing to create that Bahamas on the backs of a small group of Bahamians, invisibilizing intersex Bahamians - a group of people we should be protecting in this exercise.” -- Erin Greene
Tomorrow, Bahamians will go to the polls and vote in a constitutional referendum whose expressed purpose is to address the question of gender inequality in our constitution. Four bills have been prepared, which seek to address that inequality. Much has been said about these bills, particularly what people claim will be the result of any amendments; religious and political leaders have had a lot to say, and individual citizens have also shared their opinions freely on social media sites and talk shows.I've pretty much made up my mind about how I plan to vote, and have said so publicly on Facebook. However, I'm reading two articles that just might inspire a change/change my mind; I don't know yet. I embarked on this process—which started in 2014—convinced that I would vote this time, as I did in 2002, in favour of eliminating the discriminatory clauses in the constitution. However, it turns out that the process may not be as simple as that. The bills being advanced to amend the constitution are transitory documents, and they have been subject to considerable qualification. Our political leaders are extremely receptive to public opinion—willing, indeed, eager, to put popularity before principle—with the result that the clarity of the proposed amendments has lessened. Indeed, one or two are positively murky.For anyone who is seriously considering how they will vote on Tuesday (if they have not already voted in the advance poll), I recommend you read this article by Stephen Aranha. And then go and read this interview of Erin Greene by Alicia Wallace. Yes, both require expending some effort. (Needless to say, you should also spend some time with our constitution and with the proposed bills, paying close attention to the wording of the amendments so that we don't make the mistake of thinking we are voting against one thing (gambling) when we are in fact voting against something quite different (the regulation of webshops).True, reading both of them may not change any minds. But part of the responsibility of democracy is the requirement to inform oneself—and to inform oneself in a more serious manner than simply listening to what others have to say (without checking to see whether what they say is even true or accurate) and jumping on their bandwagons. We have not got many channels by which to exercise our democracy in this nation; when we have the chance, we need to make our decisions count.I'm not writing this to take a stand. As I said, I pretty much know what my vote will be tomorrow; but I am open to looking at the issues from different perspectives, and I'm willing to think about the possibility of changing it one way or another if I find another argument convincing. After all, a vote is not a commodity to be sold or bartered away to the most emotional orator, to a favourite political party, or even to a preferred political stance. Our vote is our voice. It's the only voice we have. Don't throw it at this referendum lightly. The way we vote tomorrow will affect us for far longer than the standard five years; our constitution is a forever thing.For me, I'm going to do what I can to make my vote matter. I invite you to do the same.
It's been a long time since I was one for debating politics. I'm not saying it never happened. I am a Bahamian after all. But I've since recovered from that particular illness. There is little to debate. There is little that is happening worth debating.OK, so I know that the pundits and the newspapers might disagree with me here. After all, you have only to open a computer or a newspaper and you will see drama splashed across the page or screen. Hit men. Foreign investors. Referenda. Rogue politicians insulting people. The wry satire of political one-liners. The rabid hate of, well, haters. And crime, crime, crime.But there is nothing to debate about these things. There are simply facts. They are sobering facts. They tell us very serious things about who and where we are as a people and a nation. And yet we do nothing about the facts. Rather, we use them for entertainment. We use them to point fingers at public figures, to rack up Likes on Facebook, to provide "commentary" on what we generously call "politics", to delude ourselves that engaging in that kind of conversation is making any kind of difference.We are in decline, because we spend too much time talking about people and situations, and too little time doing anything to bring about change. We continue to assume that those people who present themselves for election to public office can make any kind of dent in this decline, and waste hours and breath bigging up or tearing down this or the other of those people.We willfully ignore another fact: that far too many of today's public political actors are either devoid of any shred of integrity or compassion or intelligence, or else have compromised so much of themselves that integrity, compassion and intelligence have been bartered away for nominations, political ascendency, power. We disregard the very clear truth that virtually all the people we're currently faced with electing have had to choose between their personal convictions, their values, their goals for their nation (assuming they began with these), and their place in their particular political party—and that virtually all of them have made the wrong choice. What we see in the political sphere are greed, truthlessness, cowardice, megalomania, and lunacy. When last did we see our politicians display qualities like honesty, humility, or common sense? These days, party politics are a corrosion which destroys everything it touches.And so I have absolutely nothing to say about political parties. Do not ask me to say anything; do not ask me to comment on any one of them; they are all compromised, all tarnished, all corrupt in many ways, big and small. One or two individuals stand up head and shoulders above the crowd; but even these have sacrificed their ability to bring about real change for the perceived security of remaining tethered to their parties.But I do have something to say about this:
We need a movement.I am the first Volunteer.I am not going to create a new initiative. I am going out from the studio everyday, and I am going to help those who are already helping others; I am going to serve our people and I am going to ask you to send them what you can to help, but more than that, I am going to ask you to join me.Simply put, My Fellow Bahamians, we are in the midst of an unprecedented national emergency. A crisis of faith, a crisis of conscience, and ultimately, a crisis, not just of leadership but of servant leadership.Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: "Anyone can become great, because anyone can serve. In service is our greatness". Therefore, my friends, I will do everything in my power everyday from here forward not to permit any Bahamian child to go to bed hungry, homeless or in fear.I am going to live Dr. Kings message.And, I am asking you to join me.--Jeff Lloyd
Amen. I am on board. It's a new day. Talking about a revolution sounds like a whisper, and I'm whispering.
Eighteen months ago, I was invited to write an article for Global Voices about the proposed referendum on gender equality in The Bahamas. It was published in October 2014, a month before the referendum was initially scheduled to take place. That the referendum didn't take place is common knowledge now; it was postponed to allow "public education" to take place. Well, it's now back on the national agenda, and I'm not sure how much education has happened. So I am now going to publish what I wrote back then in its entirety in an attempt to inform the discussion we are now having with some facts.The Commonwealth of The Bahamas is amending its 41-year-old constitution. I’m using the present continuous tense, because the amendment is a process, one that began some twelve years ago in 2002. Back then, a constitutional referendum was held and failed—the proposed amendments to the Constitution were rejected by the general public. But the need for amendment has persisted, and ever since 2012 a constitutional referendum has been imminent.The main issue at hand is the question of equality between the sexes under the constitution. The most striking instance of inequality in our constitution is that between men and women in relation to their ability to pass on Bahamian citizenship, but, as the most recent Constitutional Commission has noted, the inequalities in the current constitution are manifold. This Commission has narrowed them down to the following categories: inequality between men and women, between children and between married and single people. To this we can add inequality based on place of birth.The last item on that list notwithstanding, the Constitutional Commission has drafted four bills which, if passed by the two Houses of Parliament and agreed to by the general public, will make Bahamian citizens more equal than non-Bahamians by seeking to address the first three inequalities.Put simply, the main inequalities are as follows:- Married Bahamian men and unmarried Bahamian women automatically pass their citizenship on to their children at birth.
- Bahamian women cannot pass their citizenship on to their overseas-born children at birth, if they are married to a non-Bahamian.
- Single fathers may not pass their citizenship on to their children, as the constitution defines children born out of wedlock as not having a father.
- The non-Bahamian wives of Bahamian men are afforded the right to be granted citizenship upon application.
- The non-Bahamian husbands of Bahamian women are afforded no such right.
The issue, however, is complicated by several other requirements that make the passing on of citizenship from parent to child less straightforward. Primary among these is a clause which addresses the institution of marriage. Under this clause, unmarried Bahamian mothers are defined as “fathers” for the purpose of passing on their national status to their babies. This particular clause also nullifies single Bahamian fathers’ ability to pass on their citizenship.The four bills drafted to amend the constitution seek to rectify the situation. They are designed to promote equality for children, among men and women, and to enshrine the principle of equality throughout the constitution. The first of these seeks to award the children of both Bahamian men and women citizenship at birth. The second entitles all non-Bahamian spouses of Bahamian citizens to Bahamian citizenship. The third allows single Bahamian fathers to pass their citizenship on to their offspring. And the fourth bill seeks to enshrine the principle of equality between the sexes in the constitution by adding the word “sex” to the list of categories under which discrimination is prohibited.On the surface, this seems a simple enough task. It is complicated, however, by a public discussion which has focused mainly on the fourth amendment—the one which is, in its own way, the simplest of the proposed changes: the adding of “sex” to the categories prohibiting discrimination.The current categories include race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, and creed, but exclude sex. The opponents of this amendment have construed the word “sex” as relating to sexual orientation, and have gained much traction in the eyes of the public by claiming the constitutional amendments are designed to permit same-sex marriage. If this Article is amended, their story goes, Bahamians will be giving the government permission to allow same-sex marriages to take place. These arguments obscure the principle of equality between the sexes and make this clause appear the most controversial—which also makes it the most threatened as the time for the referendum draws near.And there are other questions of inequality that have not been addressed. Most notable among them is the question of birthplace and its effect on the awarding of citizenship to Bahamian children. There are two elements at work here. The first is the fact that birth on Bahamian territory is no avenue to citizenship if neither of one’s parents is Bahamian. The most that a person born in the Bahamas is entitled to is the right to be registered as a citizen upon making application at the age of 18.The second, more difficult challenge, is the kind of citizenship one is granted if one is born abroad to Bahamian parents. One peculiarity of the current constitution which has not been put forward for amendment, is that children born to Bahamians abroad, even if they are classified as citizens, have no automatic right to pass their citizenship on to their own offspring. In other words, children born to Bahamians studying or working abroad, or giving birth in another country for reasons of health, may be classified as Bahamian citizens. However, if they themselves have children outside of The Bahamas, those children are not Bahamians at birth, and have no right to claim Bahamian citizenship whatsoever.The issue is complicated, and most Bahamians are not aware of this stipulation. Most of the discussion relating to citizenship and our constitution has focused on the next generation—on our children. We have not yet thought about our grandchildren. What the current situation does ensure, though, is that not one of us, whatever the outcome of the referendum and whatever amendments are made to the constitution, can be confident that our grandchildren will be Bahamians at birth.Let me bring this home. In my family, I have cousins who were born abroad because their Bahamian father was studying in the UK at the time of their birth. They are Bahamian. Their children, though, unless they are born in The Bahamas, are not.Similarly, I have a nephew who, once again, was born in Canada when his Bahamian father was studying. He is a Bahamian, but his children, unless they are born in The Bahamas, will not be.Finally, I have another young cousin who was born in Miami while his parents were there getting medical treatment for their older son. That cousin, even though both his parents are citizens, will not be able to pass on his citizenship unless his children are born in The Bahamas.And none of these issues even begins to address the question of statehood for the many children of undocumented immigrants (most of them of Haitian origin) in The Bahamas. Most of those children currently have no national status at all. It is a situation which must be addressed, but which has not been touched upon in the present referendum.So critical is this question of citizenship that a 2013 Report on the constitution recommended appointing a second commission altogether to focus exclusively on the issue of statelessness in The Bahamas, as the commissioners did not feel they could give it the necessary attention. No such move has yet been made.The constitutional amendments are long overdue. They will go some way to equalizing the granting of Bahamian citizenship to children, and to even out the distinction between male and female, married and unmarried, that currently exists. But they are only a beginning. Serious issues of inequality remain, and the climate in which the discussions regarding the referendum is taking place has grown fraught with misdirection. The popular interpretation that the addition of “sex” to the categories where discrimination is prohibited is an endorsement of same-sex marriage plays into a deep-seated homophobia in Bahamian society. But it’s also worrying for another reason: it is entirely possible that this relates to homophobia only tangentially, and is in fact a strategic move to campaign for constitutionally-sanctioned misogyny without openly admitting that fact.
Einstein: The Negro Question (1946) | On Being.In 1946, Einstein wrote the following with regard to white Americans' prejudice against Blacks. I believe we need to challenge ourselves today to consider the way in which we think about and treat people who migrate to our society from Haiti -- and their children and grandchildren as well.
Much of the discussion I hear about "illegal immigrants", which clothes itself in trappings of patriotism and concern for Bahamian sovereignty, has plenty in common with the racist rhetoric directed by whites against blacks. I long for the day when we can discuss the issue of immigration without using the rhetoric of racism to do so.