I struggled to decide on how to approach this week’s column. Writing for me comes very easily, but this week it was a challenge.
It was a challenge because this week, more so than others in recent months, the weight of the hurt I feel as a young Bahamian watching my country slide down the slopes it has been set upon is a bit much.
In many ways, this train called The Bahamas has come to a screeching halt, with many passengers who were unable to brace for impact.
When I walked into the voting booth last year, I didn’t walk in as a zombie led by a red, yellow or green remote control. I walked in as a 36-year-old educated, independently minded Bahamian who fully understood the critical importance of my vote and of my right to vote. I don’t do foolishness with my one vote. I cannot be bought. I am beholden to no one, and a politician is no more worthy of respect and regard than the man on the street corner to me, therefore I am truly free to vote in a free and fair election – because I am free where it matters most: in the mind.
When I voted, I voted for my country to get better. I voted for progress. I voted for what I both believed and knew was the best option of the options presented, for a better Bahamas. I made my choice, and tens of thousands of other Bahamians who voted, made theirs.
Now I look around me and in just a few short months, where there was order, there is chaos. Where there was certainty, there is confusion. Where there was confidence, there is fear. Where there was pride there is disgust. Where there was relative calm, there is a powder keg brewing. And where there was a leader who was vilified for having a handle on everything, there is a leader who repeatedly and boldly insists to his country that he is never aware of anything.
People in life want many things. Some want power. Some want money. Some want praise and recognition. Some want followers. Some want slackness. Me? All I wanted for my country on Election Day 2012 was better. That is not happening. The exact opposite is happening – and it hurts.
These are the pages from the diary of a hurt Bahamian.
I look at my cousin and her son, my godson. She has been displaced to two islands in the past few months in unsuccessful attempts at finding a job. She is facing homelessness soon again, and I can’t help her. I can’t help her primarily because the employment situation in the country is so bad right now. But I also cannot help her because now we live in a Bahamas where your political affiliation once again could mean the difference between your being able to get a job or not.
Persons who she would ordinarily be able to get a character reference from she is afraid to do so, because they are known FNMs, and she is afraid that a potential employer may recognise their name and decide not to hire her anymore. Do you understand how much that hurts?
Do you understand the fear of a mother with a young child who is uncertain of where she and her child may sleep in a few days? Do you understand how sickening it is to not only have to deal with the problem of unemployment in and of itself, but also to have added to it the fear of being shut out of work because of “who your people are” or who someone thinks you may have supported politically?
And then there are friends of mine, industrious young people who don’t have the issue of politics as a stumbling block, but simply are continuing to struggle to find gainful employment. I hurt for them. I wish I could help them all so that they can stop worrying about how they will feed and take care of themselves and their families. They are in my heart and mind every day and night. I pray often for a breakthrough for them.
When the police have to come to the public and announce that they are unable to control the serious crime of armed robbery in New Providence, it is an indication among other things, that criminals on the island are becoming more reckless, bolder and of course, more fearless.
As Bahamians, we have to do the best we can to try to protect and defend ourselves from criminals who will literally shoot an elderly woman in cold blood in broad daylight and not bat an eye. We need to know that the authorities are doing everything possible to deal with these hardened criminals.
So with all the dying and crying out here in these streets, how would any right- thinking Bahamian be expected to feel when for the second time in nine months, the Minister of National Security tours Fox Hill Prison, after which time he emerges saying “give the criminals bail” and bemoaning the living conditions of inmates?
When he first became Minister, BJ Nottage toured the prison and met with convicted criminals – not persons on remand who have not yet been proven guilty, but convicts. He then told the press he agreed with their complaints that the former government’s ant-crime laws passed were too tough, and said his government may have to look into lightening the prison sentences for certain crimes.
If you were a criminal and heard a government Minister say these things on national television, tell me what message you are likely to receive from his words? You are breaking the law and breaking hearts and spirits along with it, and “the man” is telling you he is with you and he hears and agrees with your cries. So what about our cries, the victims of the crimes committed by these convicts who have managed to find favour in the government’s eyes? As a Bahamian, is this not supposed to be a hurtful thing to hear and see?
Watching or reading the news these days is a chore. Every day, there is a story of something in government that used to be running right, but is now running very, very wrong – and with no plausible explanation or no explanation at all from the powers that be.
If you are a person who just sails through life and doesn’t care much about what happens in your country, things like this would not matter. But nothing is more frustrating than a society of chaos, where nothing seems to be operating as it should, everybody seems to be on autopilot and critical things that we take for granted in the running of a country are being left undone.
What kind of life are we living now for instance, where when the Commissioner of Police gets on television to speak, there is a chorus of “suk teets” in the homes of people watching what he has to say because people no longer believe what he has to say? Take crime reports as one example. In the past, if the Force says there were 100 murders in a particular year then fine, there were 100 murders. The public didn’t question it and neither did the media.
But then the Force, whether by government edict or by decision of the Commissioner of Police, decided to change the way serious crimes are to be calculated and reported to the nation. What also seemed to change was the Force’s ability to classify obvious murders (like a person found dead in the bushes wrapped in a sheet with a gunshot wound) as murders. All of this leads to the public distrusting the crime statistics given by police, such that now Bahamians are starting to keep their own murder count. Some media houses for the first time, began doing the same thing, because they no longer trusted the information coming from the Force.
If I cannot trust the Force and the head of the Force, what kind of quality of life am I experiencing as a Bahamian?
Watching Parliament is like watching a horror movie – upside down. The intellectual bar in the Parliament is so low you would have to limbo to get past it, save and except for just a few members in the Upper and Lower House.
The Speaker doesn’t know the rules of parliament, most of the MPs do not know the rules either, those who know do not seem to care, and altogether Parliament has become the rubber room of Bay Street. What is the benefit of having elder statesmen in the Parliament if they do not lead the way in bringing context, depth, propriety and maturity to it?
Some MPs cannot even read their own prepared “debate” contributions. Their reading and pronunciation abilities are atrocious, as is their content, such that schools should really be given advisories on when not to take their students on field trips to House sittings. It is just that bad.
We herald politicians as being the best and the brightest in the country. If I turn on the television and see an elected official who cannot even articulate a decent point of view, or who otherwise does not know how to communicate without being unproductively loud or boisterous – is that not supposed to be a hurtful thing to see as a young, educated Bahamian?
If my television when on channel 40 now spends more time on mute than anything else because the mephitic fumes of the oratory of many MPs require a mad dash for oxygen, is that not supposed to be a discouraging and yay, a hurtful thing?
As goes the head, so goes the body – and to the extent that is true is the extent to which I am an exceedingly hurt Bahamian today. Our Prime Minister has demonstrated such an either ignominious inability or incomprehensible unwillingness to lead, that I often ask myself where in the world is this country going to end up soon.
I honestly have to wonder and worry about the state of mind of a leader who has no problem telling his country that he is almost never aware of anything that happens in his Cabinet or his country.
Take the College of The Bahamas as the most recent example. For weeks, there have been media reports and then public demonstrations and even a march on the Minister’s office by COB students about proposed budget cuts to the College’s subventions.
The Minister previously announced that though there would be cuts, those cuts in his view, would not harm the viability of the College. Then here comes the Prime Minister, who this week while on COB’s campus, told reporters he was not aware of budget cuts for COB.
Say what? The Minister of Finance, and head of the Cabinet from which one of his ministers already announced this budget cut, is unaware of the cuts? Persons who know the Prime Minister better than the general public can advise on whether these constant “I am not aware” statements by him are untruths or not. Either way, it is a living, breathing disaster for The Bahamas to have such a leader in the chair.
Forget about politics – this is common sense. If the person in charge on your job is not competent, strong and properly in control of his or her responsibilities, you tell me what kind of work environment that creates for you. If a parent is not the parent in the home, what kind of home environment does that create for the children? If your pastor is contrary, what is the state of the congregation?
So if the head of our country almost never knows anything, and what he claims to know about he has repeatedly been caught in contradicting public statements on – is this not expected to be not only a hurtful thing for the nation generally, but for individual Bahamians like you and me, who care about our country and worry about what our future will look like with a leader who routinely advises us that he is not really leading?
Anyway, that’s all for today, dear diary. These realities have become altogether exhausting. It’s a couple hundred words short of the usual, but this will have to do for now. A bit of rest and I’ll be back to normal, though the uncertainties for now remain. And as much as I hate to admit it, I know it will only be but a short matter of time before I have to add more pages to this, my diary of a hurt Bahamian.
Tribune Column by Sharon Turner