Ladies and gentlemen, I am working for the revolution.
I have disengaged from many of the channels that purport to give news or share ideas. I maintain a presence on Facebook, but more often than not I check my newsfeed only after someone I know and trust has told me of some intervention that has happened in that space that piques my interest. I have stopped listening to radio talk shows often and I do not watch the news. I skim newspaper headlines but do not take them seriously enough to do so every day. I check my Twitter feed because the people I follow in Tweetville are pretty sensible and are still able to inspire original thought or honest reaction from me, but even so. I correspond on an irregular basis with groups of activists whose approach to politics and social issues does not focus on personalities or on partisan mythology but attempts to rest on principle and fact. This is not something that is limited to here in The Bahamas; I am not following the American campaign for the same reasons. Personality and partisan mythologies guide public discussion, and both slather reality with a toxic frosting of lies.
I live my life in college classrooms and theatre spaces and tiny crowded meeting rooms because I have a need to engage with constructive, original thinking. I’m working for a revolution that is not happening in the world of current affairs. My best conversations are with those people who are struggling to identify and comprehend root problems and then seek to solve them with ideas and action. I have worked for two and a half years now with a group of researchers about whom I was initially sceptical, but whose perseverance, openness to change and willingness to engage with people on the ground, to listen to their challenges, observe their lives and recognize their needs (some of which those people did not know they had) has transformed the way I think about my country and its problems, and I no longer have patience for the run-of-the-mill approach to social ills.
So I’m working for the revolution.
The revolution? you ask. What revolution?
Well, here’s the thing. We have created a society in which young Bahamians do not want to remain. I have had and overheard more conversations about emigration than I ever could have imagined I would. Once upon a time the thing that distinguished The Bahamas was the fact that ours was a society into which people immigrated, not from which they emigrated; but in the second decade of the twenty-first century the tables have changed. More and more, Bahamians, young and old, are considering leaving the country of their birth to find another permanent home.
The reason? We have systematically and proudly created a society in which all are welcome to flourish except our own children. We have created an open economy which invites expatriates to make investments in our society but which does not allow much room at all for citizens to compete on any level field; which offers concessions to foreigners but does not give breaks or incentives for locals; which encourages education and offers scholarships to virtually anyone who wants a higher education, but does not provide any opportunity within our country for those people who have attained that education to pursue the careers of which they dream.
We live in a society that ignores, splendidly and in the full assumption of correctness, the painfully obvious: that our refusal to deal with the question of waste has affected the quality of the air we breathe, contaminates our groundwater, and poisons our land; that our neglect of the many islands that constitute The Bahamas has resulted in severe overcrowding in the capital and an exacerbation of social ills; that the islands on which we live, low-lying and porous, are dangerously vulnerable to rising sea levels; that the structures and institutions to which we have clung ever since we inherited them from the British are inadequate to meet our current needs; that our collective bigotry blinds us to the realities of our population and our labour force; that our addiction to fundamentalist ideologies has blocked us from considering different ways of being in this world.
Our children can see very well what we refuse to, and those who can move are choosing to live their lives elsewhere. We live in a nation which once flourished, but we are smothering it by our collective actions.
And so: I’m working for the revolution.
The revolution will truly put Bahamians first. I will not argue here with those people who insist that without foreign investment the Bahamas will sink and die; but I will say that no society that does not make room for its own citizens can hope to survive.
The revolution will reward merit, not longevity.
The revolution will reward innovation. The revolution will call for it.
The revolution will imagine greatness and seek to achieve it. I have been to places in this world where stunning achievements were made by madmen/dreamers: Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro is one of them, the Taj Mahal is another; the pyramids a third. Our society currently smothers such dreamers, laughing them down, and rewards pragmatists who make our country smaller and less remarkable because we make no room for risk. The revolution will take risks.
The revolution will make room for young people. Their ideas can save the world.
The revolution will break the stranglehold the single tier of government has placed on our whole nation. It will free the islands from the clutches of Nassau, and will encourage development across our whole archipelago all at the same time.
The revolution will privilege the rule of law over the rule of expediency.
The revolution will try wild ideas and when they fail try more of them until it finds the idea that’s so wild it makes sense.
And that’s just the beginning.
So: I’m working for the revolution. I’m sowing seeds in 2016. Let’s see what trees they grow, and when.