By RUPERT MISSICK JR
IF YOU were born with a disability, this is not about you.
If you are a child; this is not about you. If you are among the many who through no fault of their own were born here but remain undocumented; this is not about you. If you are sick and struggle everyday to determine whether the little money you have should go to buy medicine or food; this is not about you. If you struggle everyday to overcome the pain of abuse, or if you are still living under the threat of it; this is not about you. If you are an able-bodied, adult who enjoys all of the rights and privileges – real or supposed – of being a Bahamian, then this is definitely about you.
I want to tell you a secret. You are being lied to. You are allowing people to appeal to the laziest part of your human nature and you are giving people the power over you, your life and your children’s lives. Because in truth there is no white man enslaving us, no foreigners taking anything we don’t willingly give up to be taken, no secret society of “others” or “hidden forces” attempting to keep Bahamians down. And even if there is a black boss, a cabal of black bosses who, through either politics or social discrimination, have been able to keep the masses down, I congratulate them because they have subjugated 350,000 people without firing a single shot.
In the end, my friend, if you feel powerless it’s because you didn’t want the power. You worry about feeding your family because you have left it up to people outside of your house to feed you. You worry about not being able to compete with the ever quickly encroaching world because you have not prepared yourself to be marketable. You worry about the land being sold from under your feet because you have ceded the power over the land to a small group of people who would never have power unless you willingly vote them in. If you are unhappy, if you feel like The Bahamas is teetering on the edge of becoming some dystopian hellscape then it’s because you want it to.
I know I can’t do away with 40 years of excuses made on your behalf in 40 column inches, but I just want you to know, as a church is not the building with polished pews and pretty stained glass, neither is the Bahamas sun, sand and sea – it is the people. It has always been the people and its fortunes rest on the people. And when I say people I don’t mean those people, not your people or my people…I mean on you, the individual.
What upsets you? You don’t like the abuse of our environment? What have you done in the past 40 years, other than talk about it? You believe Bahamians are disadvantaged by an influx of foreign workers?
What have you done to educate yourself to replace the foreigner with the bachelors degree, the masters degree, the doctorate, the one with the second language, the one who has worked abroad or spent 10 plus years in the field?
Are you willing to take the cutlass out of the hand of your Haitian brother to work in your neighbour’s yard or the wash basket out of the arms of the Filipino maid of the lady down the street? And if so, are you satisfied with only being a replacement for the gardener or the maid?
Does crime upset you? Are you willing to call the police on your cousin? What about your uncle? Your son? What about your daughter’s boyfriend or your boyfriend? What about your neighbour? Your husband? Or is it just the crime you don’t benefit from that upsets you?
Does child abuse disturb you? Are you going to say “that’s nothing new” when you hear most of our sexually active teens are trading sex for chattel or say “that’s our culture” when you barely blink at a story of a man in his mid-twenties and the 15-year-old mother of his child?
But I understand. Bitching and whining, winging and complaining… there’s some comfort to that and actually doing something… well that would be something.
If we were honest with ourselves, I mean like really honest, we Bahamians don’t have an issue with slavery. We don’t mind giving up our personal freedoms, our self-determination, we don’t mind having to rely on other people to feed us, to clothe us to determine our future. Like Uncle Tom, we don’t mind a Massa, we just want a good one.
So every five years, as we have done for the past 40 we look to a group of 39-40 overseers who run the plantation for the massa we hope will bring us more food, softer work and nicer things. If they fail we sadly do not turn to ourselves and say what can I do to save myself from this untenable situation we turn to the Massa one plantation over and say: “Run, come Massa Pindling, save me from cruel Massa Symonette”.
And then 25 years later: “Run, come Massa Ingraham, save me from thieving-Massa Pindling.”
Then 10 years later: “Run, hurry come Massa Christie, the yoke Massa Ingraham put on me too hard.”
Then five years after “Massa Ingraham, I sorry I didn’t appreciate you better please help me! Massa Christie does run he plantations slack and let the overseers run through the pantry.”
Then another five years after: “Massa Christie come back, I forget how hard Massa Ingraham is be.”
On a side note, if I were the political powers that be in this country, I would be quick to teach self reliance and self determination because the years between the hand over from one massa to the next is getting shorter.
The sad, unfortunate – and I believe unintended – consequence of our practised version of our adopted European faith is that we continuously seek a saviour outside of ourselves – in a manger, in the sky, existing in some age other than this, in some realm other than the here and now instead of acknowledging the God that dwells within.
But the power of what it means to be Imago Dei – made in the image of God – cannot coexist with a system that needs you to be dependant, that needs you to need it. So we are encouraged to ignore that grace and abandon what could be paradise on earth for the Land of Should. And the land of Should is full of wonderful Should trees that grow big fat Should fruit.
One tree bears: The Government should, the other tree: The Church should, the next one over, the police should and still another, my boss should. But there is another little tree far in a cave in a dark corner in the Land of Should that everyone ignores. It is a very important Should tree, but it grows a bitter fruit that no one likes called: “I should.”
We all say that we want nothing more from these people than access to opportunity – but that’s a lie. Let’s be honest, it is. We want to be given something, a hand out. We’ve spent a generation getting used to it. We have forgotten what our grandparents’ knew: Opportunity doesn’t drag people up from the gutter it meets them half way on their climb out.
We have allowed politicians to tell us that we are poor, disadvantaged, that there is some magical secret bag of money, a whole boatload of stuff in some secret harbour that the other guys don’t want you to have, but only if we bring them into power and put them on the throne that the ship will let loose its moorings from its hiding place and come right into Potter’s Cay Dock. You know it won’t because there is no ship. There never has been, never was and never will be. The only ship that will ever come into port is the one you captain yourself.
There was a time when it didn’t matter that we were poor, that we were uneducated or under-educated, where great achievers emerged from yards with outdoor toilets and clapboard palaces. Why didn’t that hold them back? Because it didn’t matter that they were poor because everyone was poor and everyone had an outdoor toilet. They still had to achieve and they achieved with far less – most dying wishing they had one fraction of the opportunity that we just pass by today.
So the next time “they” are doing something to you that you don’t like, stop and think about how much of that thing you don’t like is being done to you with your permission. Much has been said about how some of our grandparents sold their votes for a sack of sugar, a pound of flour and some lard. Don’t allow yourself to regard this fact with self righteous indignation, we are no different. What is it now? A government job or contract? The protection of a politician? Sweet promises and sweeter lies?
Democracy is an exercise, capitalism is an exercise, that means that it requires effort, work, stretching, heavy lifting, it is a doing, it is not something that is done to you. But if you find that it is being done to you… then it is something else entirely.