By NICOLE BURROWS
There is a school of thought in public and private circles in the Bahamas that says our political leaders make the decisions they do and act out those decisions in certain objectionable ways because they believe the Bahamian people are ignorant and they want to keep them ignorant and oppressed.
It is very tempting to think this way, and perhaps it is even possible, at least at times, to find truth in this notion. But what would a politician stand to gain by doing this? Why would any politician, much less every politician, see this as needful over any length of time?
Some may say that the length of time is of little concern to the political leaders; some believe politicians may think and act in shorter, five-year time spans, doing what benefits them most from one general election to the next. Many Bahamians believe politicians take advantage of a flawed and dysfunctional system of government and then ride the wave and the people for as long as they can. But to what end?
If the vision of Bahamian politicians is indeed myopic, as many repeatedly suggest, how is it helpful to the people, to the country, to have the ‘blind’ govern by keeping their voters ignorant? And, if there is such a lack of vision, why do we elect the same politicians, if they can’t look to potential future outcomes and see clearly on our behalf, and plan diligently and accordingly? If the politicians can see no further ahead of today than we can as ordinary citizens, why do we choose them to lead us?
One of my lecturers/mentors at the College of The Bahamas used to say that the best leaders are the ones who can make firm and fair decisions without knowing or having any idea of what lies around the corner. Firm, not wishy-washy. Not “we need a consensus today and tomorrow we don’t.” Fair, not biased. Not “we want opportunities for all Bahamians and then give them only to a few or to ourselves”.
In all reality, what good does it do for a young and growing nation to create and maintain a deficient electorate? If you keep the people stupid and ignorant, they’ll be too stupid and ignorant to build the country. And no matter how much money you’ve lined your pockets with prior to the takeover by the stupid and ignorant, you’ll never be able to do it again, assuming they let you get away with it at all in an uncomfortable political and economic climate like the one we’re in now.
If the end result of keeping people ignorant is that you cultivate a society of people who can’t think for themselves and who are, because of this disability, without hope or opportunity, you end up creating a prevailing uselessness that is hard to erase.
If the people can’t think independently, they look to others – the government and the church – to do their thinking for them. That’s where the ‘Black Moses’, ‘Papa’, and ‘Saviour’ principles all come into play. And that is the root of the myopic vision, which, don’t you dare be fooled, they all have.
There is a special kind of blindness or lack of vision that is derived from depending on others to see; the dependency in itself is blinding. And, as a politician, if you demonstrate that you want to become the people’s saviour, since apparently they need one, they become your faithful followers and without you there is no salvation for them. It is now and forevermore your job to take care of their every need.
The people will come looking for you when they have no money or no job. They will expect handouts because you promised them something in return for their allegiance. Any personal problems they have they will throw at you, because you are supposed to take care of them, save them, even if only from themselves. If their child or parent or other relative gets into legal problems, ranging anywhere from a traffic citation to a charge of murder, they expect you to intervene and make it so that they are cleared of their wrongdoing.
We hear it all the time – how so-and-so knows so-and-so and therefore they don’t have to pay, or they don’t have to apply, or they don’t have to wait for any of the things the average citizen who has no political connections will have to pay, apply, or wait for.
If your power goes off because you had to get your weave or your new rims and didn’t pay the bill in four months, all you have to do is find someone who knows someone who knows someone willing enough to take a payoff, never mind the fact that their bill is 500 times the amount of yours.
If you know someone at the passport office who can handle your application so you can get your new e-passport and hurry up and go on that shopping trip to Miami, never mind the 70 other people following the regulations and procedures and waiting in line, you can find someone to do it for you for sure; just slip the right amount through the door crack.
And from all of that kind of thinking we get what we see before us now. We get a nation that doesn’t mind being ignorant of the correct or fair way of doing things, as long as there is someone to take care of our ridiculous negligence. And this is the nation that can easily be kept ignorant, particularly when all that really concerns them is that their trivial needs are taken care of. Is it any wonder that the politician finds the person with this (lack of) character easy to keep ignorant, and easier still when they don’t realise it, or when it doesn’t matter to them even if they do?
When the people are ignorant, you can bet that there is a quality of politician that is a mirror image of who the people are and the foolishness that sustains them from one day to the next. As a people, it is our collective fault that we choose the women and men we choose to lead us and that we demand not much greater. And when your standards are this low, anything can pass through the door and call itself your leader.
Of course, none of this inherently means that being a politician makes a person bad, or that politicians have no redeeming qualities, but being a politician puts a person in a position of considering things she or he likely would never have considered before. The politician is faced with difficult decisions which many of them would sooner not make, especially
when confronted with the mob mentality of the people
they leave to linger in ignorance and stupidity.
As a result, the politicians don’t choose, because it’s easier not to. They don’t make firm decisions, certainly not with the degree of urgency that we should expect of our leaders, and their decisions in the end are anything but fair.
But if a politician should ever choose deliberately to keep the people in the dark, unaware, uneducated, uninformed, and unfortunate, as is the trend in today’s Bahamian political landscape, then they should always look to the world that is created immediately around them after they make that choice.
One day, these same politicians who may choose to keep the people blind and ignorant will be older and retired from politics, and from the difficult decisions which are now left to others, possibly including the people they kept ignorant. The politicians at the end of their careers may even see themselves as ‘too old now’, saying they will leave the hard decisions for the young people to make.
But, with damage already done, they fail to recognise that even when they’re gone, in their absence, they leave behind family: spouses, siblings, children, and grandchildren. And these descendants will have to live in or near to the mess their forebears created, or escape the country in the exact same way they tell everyone else not to when they talk about building the nation.
The choice by any Bahamian political leader to keep the Bahamian people oppressed and ignorant will invariably lead to the oppression of the leader’s own loved ones, and the steady destruction of that leader’s own country. And this would not happen because those loved ones suddenly become ignorant, incapable or disadvantaged themselves, but because they now have to exist in a country filled with ignorant, incapable and disadvantaged people who won’t be stopping in the middle of their revolt to ask questions about “who ‘so-and-so’ people is.”
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