Politics Abusing Theme: Believe In The Bahamas

Have you ever been in a relationship where the other person swore they cared about you and believed in you, but turned around and did things to break you down as a person? We probably all have, whether it is with family, friends or loved ones.

When a person believes in you, they will do what is best for you whether it personally benefits them or not. When a person believes in you, they will help you stand on your own two feet instead of having to depend on them for your survival. And when a person believes in you, they don’t feed you lies and keep you blind so they can get what they want from you, but they instead give you the truth – because they know that once you know the truth, the knowledge of that truth can surely set you free.

When a person thinks little to nothing of you, they will help you stay at your worst because they don’t see you as being the best, and they know that if you ever wake up to what you are truly worth – you will see that you don’t need them anymore.

With that in mind, let’s take a detailed look at what has recently become one of the more vilified political themes in our society, and how both the use and abuse of that theme shines a glaring spotlight on some very important truths about us as a people that we often try to deny, but desperately need to accept so that real change can be seen in us as Bahamians.

The theme: Believe in The Bahamas.

Now it is time for some real talk. No one can walk over you unless you lie down like a rug and let him or her do so. There are some “rug” mindsets woven into our cultural psyche that politicians, specifically but not limited to those who are part of the governing party, know of full well and know exactly how to effectively exploit for their gain.

Here are some of the “rug” mindsets that we as Bahamians clutch like pearls and that politicians massage and manipulate to keep us down so they can stay up:

Rug 1 – Money and free things are our gods. We will literally sell our children for coins, sell our country for a conch snack and sell our future for a phone card. We love corruption and money and free things so much that we cannot see how degrading it is for a person to walk up to us with a phone card, some rum or some weed to get something from us. Your life and future are precious and priceless. But the person trying to buy you has cheapened that and is basically saying that a phone card, a conch snack or a few dollars that cannot even fill a trolley at the food store, are all your life is worth. They want to keep you there, because as long as you stay down, they will stay up.

Rug 2 – We often want something for nothing. This is why politicians will tell workers anything to get elected, because they know that often (though not in every case) the workers who make the most noise are the ones doing the least amount of work, are the least qualified, or are causing the most problems on the job. They don’t tell you to get your act together, do your job and do it well, because they don’t care about you improving yourself. They want to keep you there, because as long as you stay down, they will stay up.

Rug 3 – Many of us don’t read and don’t want to be bothered to read either. And so, politicians tell you anything they think will stir your emotions up enough to have you going their way. Since you do not have the facts, you may not know they are lying to you; and that is why they pick you to lie to – because they can detect in just a brief chat with you that you do not really know what is going on. They want to keep you there, because as long as you stay down, they will stay up.

Rug 4 – Some of us have a problem with white people. That is why politicians will tell you that when there is progress happening in the nation, it is something that is being done “to help the white man and keep the black man down”. Meantime while they are telling you not to invest in the “white man’s stock”, they are right there buying up all those same stocks and laughing at you while they are doing it. It is nothing less than self-hate to pull the race card on us every time we have a chance to take part in creating and boosting our assets in life. It is also nothing short of ignominious to sow racism and xenophobia as a means of reaping a win at the polls, whether it is toward whites, Haitians or whomever. They want to keep you there, because as long as you stay down, they will stay up.

Rug 5 – We don’t like to take personal responsibility for our lives. That is why politicians tell you that no matter what you are going through, it is not your fault – it is the other political party’s fault. That way, you will never grow up or “emancipate yourself from mental slavery”, because you have deceived yourself into thinking that you don’t play the key role in where your own life is at today. They want to keep you there, because as long as you stay down, they will stay up.

Rug 6 – It has been drilled into our heads that we are to fear and never question authority. This is why politicians do whatever they want to do – sometimes boldly and unapologetically – and if you open your mouth in protest people react as if to say, “do you know who they are?” They want to keep you there, because as long as you stay down, they will stay up.

And do we know who those politicians are? Yes, we know who they are – they are our employees, not our bosses. Every elected official, from the Prime Minister down the line is supposed to answer to you and me – the people of The Bahamas. When they make you feel as though you should not challenge them, they are treating you like a slave, instead of the master of the ballot box that you truly are.

Take a good look. All the programmes that were in place to help us stand on our own two feet and not have to beg a politician for help were the very first programmes our government took away from us, including:

Self Starters & Jump Start Programmes – programmes where the government granted seed money to young and older Bahamians to help them start their own business.
Backyard Farming – where the government provided seed and soil, and taught Bahamians to grow food in their own yards – cutting down our grocery bills and helping us to live off the land instead of all the junk we as Bahamians eat everyday. Just the other day, a friend of mine went to Agriculture for more of the seeding kits and was told they are not doing that anymore.
52 Week Job Training Programme – where thousands of Bahamians who needed jobs got the chance to acquire on-the-job training skills while taking home a solid paycheck every week. The government slammed the programme as reckless spending. Well, if taking thousands of Bahamians off the unemployment line, giving them an income and training them for the future is reckless, then reckless it is. I’m sure those who benefitted do not see it that way.
Volunteer Bahamas – has anyone heard a word about this since the general election? This programme was about people helping people – Bahamians coming together to lift each other up instead of tear each other down. No one speaks of the programme anymore – the government hasn’t publicly asked for more volunteers or encouraged more private sector participation.

Now as for Social Services, this is an absolutely critical area the government should always ensure has adequate money and staff to meet the needs of the poor and less fortunate in our country. That being said, I saw the Social Services Minister say she will ask for more money so Social Services can pay more rent for people. Now I can get into the budgetary spending aspect of her request another time, but what stood out to me is this – they are cutting the programmes that would help you no longer need to go to Social Services for help – and they do so by claiming they have no money. But, they rather spend the money to keep you dependent on them for a cheque.

Am I saying people should have to wind up on the streets? Of course not. Am I saying that if we begin to give people legal and viable opportunities to provide for themselves, the streets may never become an option for them again? Absolutely.

Bahamas, understand that this is how governments try to stay in power forever – they stack the system so that you will either have to come to them, or you won’t make it or will feel like you can’t make it.

With all the government’s talk about their using foreign consultants and companies instead of Bahamians, we’re getting angry. But why would this surprise you? Remember what I said earlier – if they thought anything of you, they wouldn’t keep overlooking you.

Of the South African gambling consultants the Prime Minister said he brought in, gaming minister Obie Wilchcombe said their pay could be “very substantial”. He then had the effrontery to say Bahamians should not be upset about that because we need to understand that we must pay well for those who are educated and pay well for education.

Well, if every teacher and every professional person in this country does not march down to the Prime Minister’s office to demand immediate pay raises since the government now believes that educated people should be paid handsomely for their education and skills, then Dorothy, we are not in Kansas anymore!

Mr Wilchcome, go tell that to holders of college degrees in this country who cannot get paid for their qualifications. Tell that to the skilled professionals who are being paid peanuts compared to what they could be making in other jurisdictions. Instead, you tell us that the unknown qualifications of unknown foreign people should be given a round of applause and a huge stack of our tax dollars because “they are worth it.”

Bahamas, we now scoff – justifiably so – at the theme “Believe in The Bahamas”. But my people – what we need to accept is that politicians only swung us with that line because we don’t truly believe in ourselves or the future of our country. If we did, we would not sell our birthright (our vote) for a phone card, a few dollars or worse – a promise of a few dollars.

If we believe in ourselves as Bahamians, we would not turn a blind eye to wrongdoing. We would not refuse to take the initiative to find out the facts about what is happening in our country and around the world. We would not slack off on the man’s job and cause him lost income but then run to the media or union if he or she hires a foreigner or even another Bahamian to do the job we are too lazy to do.

If we believe in ourselves as Bahamians, we wouldn’t let people string us along with lies, play with our emotions by throwing the black/white/Haitian card at us, or belittle us because they know we may need the money and so we either take their money and take the abuse along with it, or make do without it.

We have put ourselves in our own chains you know. It is our own mental slavery that has allowed politicians to keep us under foot. But none of you reading this has to stay there, neither do your friends, family or loved ones – unless they want to.

Which, if any, of those six “rugs” mentioned earlier describes you? It is time to pick up that rug and don’t even bother dusting it off – just throw it away.

Throw away your lust for money at any cost, including the cost of your home, your family and sometimes your own life. Throw away your “don’t care attitude” about your country. Throw away that mindset that it is always someone else’s fault for your not getting ahead in life. Own your choices – because they are yours, not anyone else’s.

Throw away the mindset that because you are named “Bahamian” you don’t have to work hard, study hard and perform well to get something in life – the world owes you nothing. And please throw away the mindset that you are supposed to fear or bow down to politicians as if they are gods. There is only one God, and He shamefully cannot get a quarter of the praise we give to politicians and persons “with name”. Bahamas – throw those rugs away.

And in their place, begin a new set of steps; a set of steps where you can look in the mirror as a Bahamian and truly say “I believe in me”. The day you can get to that point, you will never be able to be swung again by any political party who sings the song “I believe in you.”

I tell you this because even though those who sang “believe in The Bahamas” may not think much of you – I do. You are better than this. You are better than what they want you to be. You don’t have to stay down so they can stay up – you can rise up. So get up, and be that better person.

Real talk? Believe in yourself as a Bahamian, and your light will shine so brightly the world will have no choice but to believe in you as a Bahamian too.

Sharon Turner