It’s pretty clear that all is not well in our beautiful Bahamaland. I know; that’s an understatement, perhaps of prodigious proportions, perhaps just an understatement. We have been independent for forty-plus years, and in that time we have created new classes, new racial profiles for the country, we have urbanized most of the island of New Providence, we have attracted 6 million tourists, we have racked up a staggering debt, and—most worrying to most of us—we have also moved, in one generation, from being a sleepy, peaceful nation to one where criminal violence is taken for granted, and where fear, anger and untimely grief are commonplace emotions for us all.
You may be surprised when I say that this is, in many ways, par for the course. What I mean by that is that societies that experience rapid growth of any kind, be it in terms of population, revenue, immigration, any rapid change—become unstable unless those changes are anticipated and planned for, unless, indeed, the social structures that maintain order are elastic enough and strong enough to respond to those changes. In most cases throughout history around the world, social structures are slow to change, are cumbersome, and cannot respond adequately, and when rapid transformations occur, periods of instability occur. Those periods may be inevitable, but they are not insoluble.
I’m saying that because I think that the one thing that I don’t see enough of in our society right now is hope. It’s true that we are going through tougher times than the current generations are used to; but The Bahamas has weathered far tougher times of far different kinds, and, in the past, has overcome them, has even flourished. But it takes the ability to understand what’s going on and the ability and the will to respond in ways that may not be so commonplace.
One of the most important ways we have to learn to respond it to be able to put aside emotion and to look at the problems dispassionately, analytically, without blame, without fallacious reasoning, without hype, without sensationalism. This is critical in our nation, because in addition to the not uncommon social instability we are facing right now, we are also a nation who has inherited a historical burden that makes it difficult to believe in things that can make a difference. If I were to name that burden as “racism” it would oversimplify it. But we have inherited a view of the world that is racist and that was created and perfected for the purpose of enslaving a group of people and of maintaining their subordination over time. Even though that subordination has officially ended, the world view that maintained it continues, and according to that world view the descendants of African slaves are fundamentally incapable of governing themselves or others peacefully or in an orderly fashion—evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
If we are to begin to approach a solution to our social problems, we have to recognize this burden of history and eradicate it.
So I have been thinking about how to begin that process. Now that classes are over, I would like to begin a series of posts that outline the conclusions I’ve come to. For writing may be a small, small thing, but there’s value to approaching big problems in a different way.
Here’s what you won’t see me do.
You won’t see me divide the world into two political parties and assume that the one that isn’t in power has any of the answers. It’s pretty clear that our political class has no idea whatsoever how to solve our problems—or, if it does, has not got the courage or the humanity to exercise those solutions.
You won’t see me divide the world into races, either; because finger-pointing and racial profiling don’t solve the problem either, and are, indeed, part of it. That does not mean I’m not going to talk about race; I am, but not from the point of view of skin colour or of individual human beings. What we need now is a structural dismantling of racist institutions, not a petty battle about and between individuals.
You won’t see me assume that there is such a thing as a “true-true” Bahamian and draw lines around and between people of different origns or nationalities. We all inhabit the same space, and we have to learn how to be generous with that space to all those who contribute.
There are some things you will see me do, but not just yet. Watch this space. I’m trying to clear my head. I’m trying to start a different conversation, and to get some ideas going that might, in the end, help us stabilize our nation. In the long run, of course. Because there is no magic bullet at all.