By Rupert Missick Jr
THERE are a generation of Bahamians, men in particular, who in their minds missed out on their opportunity to make revolution … not necessarily “the revolution” or “a revolution” but any revolution.
They have a subconscious fear that they will close the final chapter of their lives as tepid footnotes in the annals of our history.
You see, they were old enough to have fed on the godlike words of Martin Luther King Jr, to drink the prophetic sermons of Malcolm X and bathed in the hot bath of Newton and Seal’s Black Panther Philosophy but were too young to do anything about it other than channel their teenage and collegiate angst to sympathize and dream of the day when they too could really speak truth to power.
They read the fiery words of CLR James and Fanon and believed that one day, when they had their turn in directing the wheel of the nation’s progress, that “Wretched of the Earth” would become the basis of their national and foreign policy.
They envied the testicular fortitude of Fidel Castro, Jomo Kenyatta and Nelson Mandela and promised themselves that when it was their turn, they would be no less of a man than they were.
This was the generation who, as doe-eyed children looked upon Butler, Pindling, Hanna and Foulkes on the platforms of the Southern Recreation Grounds as they clung to the hem of their mommy’s housecoat.
These are the ones who sat at a distance when the founding fathers heatedly debated Independence under the shade of their newly hard fought for political power.
But when they came of age, their bodies eager to convert that potential energy into a kinetic force of progressive postcolonial action, they found that the Caesar of the day, unlike his Roman counterpart, had indeed surrounded himself with fat, sleek-headed men.
They found a Bahamas that was no longer willing to, or at least did not see the need to march, to rebel, to revolt and even if they did, who would it be against?
The colonialist, beaten and worn by the blitz and the strain the colony placed on their purse, were gone and happy to leave; the white men who ran Bay Street, while an ever present and available scapegoat had been virtually castrated and became, in their estimation, regrettable partners in building this new nation.
The country to the north that Cuba and Jamaica had once defied was now sacrosanct and the source of most imports and the reason behind most jobs.
They found themselves in a place where the sexiness of the physical struggle against oppression was gone and the romance of a postcolonial world was a smouldering ember in the campfire of greater men than they were.
They woke up with the reigns of political power, and by extension the means to direct economic power, in their hands.
So, now, if their revolution would come, it would come for them.
They were now faced with being actors in a more difficult kind of revolution. This revolution would require a more existential change; a revolution of consciousness, a revolution that would require them to abandon their new found comfort and launch into unchartered waters.
It required them to be creative, to reject the perpetuation of paternalism, of tribalism to teach a new reality to a new people.
But they failed. It was too abstract for them; it was not the kind of fight they were looking for.
This was a fight that was complicated, required work and had no clear enemy. In fact, in this fight sometimes they were the enemy and other times the people were the enemy. But how could you ever admit that out loud?
No, better resurrect the ghosts of the enemies from the decades before, the “hidden, outside forces” that they wanted to fight in the 60s and 70s.
Perhaps the biggest opportunity of their lifetime would have been to transform the Bahamas’ constitution into a progressive, modern document that could have been the envy of the hemisphere.
But through negotiations between tradition and the status quo we were served a bland report which amounted to a watered down porridge of convenience, necessity and compromise.
With the more “radical” positions on the Constitutional Commission beaten back by “reality”, this great post-colonial Bahamian generation now faces a future where they will die with their Queen or her successors reigning over them, a bicameral parliamentary system with an appointed senate, and a final court of “real adults” in London to correct their judicial errors.
In this regard I found the juxtaposition of our Prime Minister standing in the same spot where a great man once drew the attention of his nation to the “fierce urgency of now” and exhorted the world against taking the “tranquilizing drug of gradualism” heartbreaking.
I don’t know if that generation will ever understand what they missed, what they had, what they let slip through their fingers.
In the United States, activists like King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers never had the kind of power that the men of their same generation had in the Bahamas.
Even today, there is no constitutional power in the United States which is comparable to the power which Mr Christie wields here at home.
What could Rep John Lewis, the last living speaker of the original March on Washington, who as a 23 year old led and organized the march from Selma to Montgomery, who faced down the dogs, hoses and state troupers of Southern racists, who is now only three years older than Perry Christie, what could he have done for his country and his people if he possessed the kind of constitutional powers that Mr Christie has now.
Mr Christie’s grand appearance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and his call to stand up for “dignity” and “social justice” is punctuated by his laid back response and acquiescence to the counterintuitive, self-destructive approach his minister has taken to handling the controversy of the brutal beating of illegal immigrants at home.
Today the language that we hear surrounding the controversy of the Cuban detainees, the frothing, hyperbolic defense of nationhood and national identity, the subtextual suggestion that those who fail to defend the abuse of the detainees are somehow ashamed of their skin colour, the accusations of aid giving to the enemy and promises that political opponents will be crushed, these are the death rattle of a generation desperate to fight a revolution, only it’s not the one that is actually theirs to fight.
Our great post-colonial generation missed a teachable moment where honesty, forthrightness and transparency could have not only shortened the length of this issue but could have served as an excellent counterpoint to the malignant dishonesty prevalent in our society.
Instead, they hunkered down, wrapped themselves in our flag and warmed themselves with anti-colonial rhetoric.
These words neither protect nor advance our nationhood. They are just words and they will never fill the hole that their lack of creativity and courage will leave behind in our society.
It’s cheap invective that in the long run means nothing significant to either the world or the future of this country.
But in the end, it’s red meat for the base; it’s a pleasant distraction from the work of the long awaited revolution.