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Politicole: Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

By NICOLE BURROWS

I am at a crossroads.

Do I stay in and fight for my country? Well, the country I once thought I had?

Or, do I leave while I still can, and start life anew in another part of the world, where it may be easier for me to enjoy the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness, my labour and the fruits of my labour, where the children I still want to bear and parent will have real opportunities because they are born into and grow up in an environment conducive to lifelong learning and advancement.

And I don’t mean advancement marked by another fancy, inappropriate hotel-condo resort development beyond the reach of most Bahamians, or 12 more of the same. I mean advancement of thinking – real human progression. The kind of advancement born of raw ambition and shoulder-to-the-wheel hard work; but not just hard, manual work alone, because there are many who work hard and strong, but have no self-awareness and no desire to make any impact whatsoever on their world. There is a difference.

Every day I walk outside my house and face a special “only in The Bahamas” challenge, I wonder if the fight is worth it. Toiling, practically slaving to have the life and professional success I want and to have it freely, without someone trying to deny me what is my right to have and to expect of my own country.

I’ve been an upstanding citizen. I’ve done my best to be law-abiding. I work within my limitations. I don’t come from a family with means; we are people who have learnt to live on very little. My Nana (grandmother) used to say “when you ain gat horse, ride cow.” And, to exemplify it, my mum often told me the story of how, when my late uncle and his baby brother (the first two of my grandparents’ children) were little, Nana used to mix rice and grits to make it “stretch”, so that the little she had could be more ... enough to feed her and her two little children (at the time), though I’m sure she would have gladly starved so her two boys could eat. And maybe she did.

My young life was filled with old-time sayings, and they made me more appreciative of the little I/we/my family had. And maybe that is the one reason I was born onto this tiny island, into this country. But maybe that is all Delia wrote and now it’s time to move on to anywhere else where I can walk into my neighbourhood every day and be confident that I won’t be harassed or interfered with on some level or in some negative way.

And I have to wonder, after all these life lessons, were Nana still here with me today, is this the life she’d want for me? Would she tell me to stay and fight another day, or would she tell me to leave? Did she struggle and sacrifice so much and live her whole life with so little, so that I could go off to college only to return home and struggle like she did? Does this life of limitations that I live do her personal sacrifice and struggle any justice? And what about my mum, who has also lived with very little to make sure I didn’t have to? Yet, here I am, now, doing the same thing, living with very little, because the opportunities for me to have a more plentiful, fulfilling and meaningful existence don’t exist here despite my efforts to create them.

When do you say enough is enough? At what point do you divorce the thing, place or person you still love, because the relationship is no longer fruitful, if ever it was?

My college mentor (Pops, affectionately) once told me how he had to make the very difficult decision to leave his home in South America for a better life in the older, safer, cleaner, more hopeful Bahamas, and that he was able to do it because he reasoned that he could only help more while away from his loved ones. And that never made sense to me when he told me, or for years after he told me ... until now.

Now, I get it.

Sometimes, you have to separate yourself from the people you love and the places where you made beautiful memories, to be able to make a better life for yourself and/or for them. It’s like a love relationship that only has love left and nothing else. And love is often not enough to keep that relationship in place. In fact, most times, love isn’t what keeps that relationship.

But Pops’ concept is not something you could ever understand until you have to decide it for yourself. Many people on the outside or people with privilege can’t/will never understand it. People on the outside want to visit The Bahamas and take vacation here because of the sun, sand, sea and all the rest of the fading physical beauty. I get it. It’s a great place to relax for a short while, if you have means and don’t have to fight through the layers of opposition and resistance you will meet every day you live here.

I’ve never been one to con anyone out of money or kiss up for positions and status, so maybe this new Bahamas is really not for me. The Bahamas I loved once is a distant memory, perhaps just a remnant of a potentially thriving country, on the shadowed back end of the drug era; the calm before the storm brought on by an improper, inadequate foundation laid for what could have been a booming country all-around.

I grew up when political freedoms were oppressed, sometimes outwardly, though not always, and in many ways that has never really gone anywhere because the people who still lead us are products of that day.

I remember how all the grown ups would whisper information to each other, because if you were known to be or even suspected of speaking out against the Pindling government, you and your entire family were blacklisted. For having a differing opinion, freely expressed, you stood to be blacklisted, targeted, and deprived of professional and economic opportunities. In many ways, over the years, all we did was make the blacklisting less covert, but it still underpins political and economic activity because the players are of the same or a very similar ilk.

A more liberal, freer speaking Bahamas was known after 1992, but a lot of damage had already been done. So many fundamental rights were not protected in theory or in practice, and many critical elements were not put in place. Their absence from our early years as a pseudo-sovereign nation are the reasons our country is caving in around us now. Of course, there are some external forces at work, but strong buildings are built to resist high winds and torrential rains, and the strength of their foundations is a significant part of their ability to withstand storms and other harsh processes.

Only now as it disintegrates do we get to see the full extent of the weak, crumbly foundation our country was built upon. It has to be rebuilt. But our so-called leaders are running around like headless poultry, trying to plug the thousands of holes of neglect, some of which they may not have created, but are certainly perpetuating.

From my vantage point, all I see is a mad scramble. The people in charge of decisions which affect my life and yours inspire a total confidence of nil, in anyone who has eyes to see or dares to dream. You can feel the uncertainty, the panicked, tentative attempts to build and rebuild/reinforce the structure of The Bahamas, and it is extremely unsettling. Why should I deliberately choose to stay in the middle of this? Should my mother’s and my mother’s mother’s struggles be all for nought?

What is the potential fallout of an ongoing fight for a hopeful country? Do I want the rest of my hopefully long life to be a battle with people who don’t want any more or better than they have? People who work hard but have no real ambition to create a better country for generations to follow, or people without vision ... more of them? Is that what - who - I want to fight for?

The Bahamas is not a place I go for vacation, it is where I have to live. And I have two choices:

I can stay and toil until time is done, by squeezing into politics, offering myself for election to government and working my ass off in the administration of my country to create the better country I want. Because, let’s be real, I’m not going to be able to do it any other way.

Or, I can fight the establishment, continue to speak out against developmental, economic and social injustices, from a place where I can reap actual rewards of my ambition, live fully in my passions, not worrying about who won’t let me speak freely, and have a real living legacy for my children that they can see in action, as opposed to a struggle. And, maybe, finally make my mother’s and grandmother’s sacrifices worth the pain and lack that came with them.

If I try, do I stand to make any substantial gains in a country whose constitution says I have freedom of speech, but finds some way to censor my words, directly or surreptitiously, even by the roundabout threat of financial lawsuit? How free is my free speech? What about the free press which, no matter the truth it uncovers, it can never fully expose it and nothing seems like it could ever be done to change it? What good is a free press when, no matter what they find, there is fear to act boldly on it by the press corps itself or by the civilians who are trying to build a more transparent and accountable society?

What about my freedom to protest and assemble, where I need a permit to publicly congregate, so that those in leadership against whom I protest can see me coming from a mile away and lock down my protest before it even gets started? How free are we to grow where we are planted? How free are we to have the forward-thinking, forward-moving country we not only want but need in order to achieve our dreams and realise our ambitions?

The current PLP leadership is inspiration-less. To vote them back into the leadership of this country is to slam all our heads into a concrete wall, in unison, all day long, for evermore.

The current official FNM opposition is weak and tentative. Its leadership consists of a soft centre surrounded by others who may in fact be firmer, but who, for the sake of protocol, will not openly or overtly contest the leadership.

From all my observations, we are going backwards at least five times the pace at which we arrived at this place where we find ourselves today.

So, if I stay in The Bahamas, who will help me save my freedoms and my children’s freedoms in this regressive nation? Who will help to change The Bahamas and set it on a course to true freedoms? Can it be done? Can it be done within?

Do I stay and fight for The Bahamas I want, no matter if it takes a lifetime? Or do I leave, fight from a distance, and have a life ... beyond the limitations of The Bahamas?

Comments

asiseeit 1 year, 11 months ago

Excellent writing and commentary once again. I truly hope the politicians read and understand what you have said in this article. The amount of people from the middle class that are thinking the same as you is astounding. Those with children they have hopes and dreams for are bailing out in droves. What politician can be proud when the people they are supposed to be working for abandon the country because of their (politicians) actions/inaction? The supposed leaders of this country have squandered their chance at greatness, shame on them!

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Cas0072 1 year, 11 months ago

I find most of your columns to be timely and relevant to what is on the minds of patriotic and concerned Bahamians. Whatever you decide, please keep speaking out.

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Honestman 1 year, 11 months ago

Nicole, you are a very talented and insightful young writer. You and many young people like you have been badly let down by the political elite of this country. Shame on all of them. I wish you the best of luck in whatever you decide to do.

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concernedcitizen 1 year, 11 months ago

We keep blaming the politicians ,and yes they have done damage ,but that is forty men .We as a people ,or a great many of us lack integrity .Our men are the worst , even in the authors writings I hear no mention of male influences .Lately there have been old pictures of Nassau/Bay street on facebook .Look at it now ,dirty ,filthy with people w/ no manners full of arrogance just b/c they are Bahamian ..Go to the Caymans ,Bermuda ,or even Turks,nice clean places .We think we are special ,our good luck is proximity to a large tourist market and Cuba being closed ,but the politicians and religious leaders have filled our heads w/ us somehow being "more" blessed and special w/ out having to be responsible , As a nation we have a gigantic "theifing " problem ,,it is really is our national sport ,from workers theifen on the job to our politicians robbing the treasury .Our politicians came from us not from mars ,,They are we

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noshoesgal 1 year, 11 months ago

You made me sign up as I wanted to comment - great read, thanks! You summed up so well what many young and middle aged Bahamians are thinking. I know people who have left and they miss home but they would rather be treated better!

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ObserverOfChaos 1 year, 11 months ago

Just one example of the talent, resources, passion and heartache that is leaving this waste land for better opportunities and life....

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fmunroe 1 year, 11 months ago

Insightful piece Nicole. I feel the same way coming back home to a "Paradise Lost". Where the establishment continues to hold on way past their time and young professionals suffer. Link up franklynmunroe@yahoo.com

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sadindeed 1 year, 11 months ago

The politicians are laughing all the way to the bank and killing the Bahamian people in the process. Nicole wrote such a truthful story and I wish this one could go viral and let's change the Bahamas for her children and the rest of the children in the Bahamas. This was the most powerful article ever printed in a Bahamian news publication.

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Zakary 1 year, 11 months ago

  • The politicians are laughing all the way to the bank and killing the Bahamian people in the process. Nicole wrote such a truthful story and I wish this one could go viral and let's change the Bahamas for her children and the rest of the children in the Bahamas.

Yes the politicians are laughing all the way to the bank, but I’m sorry, it is the Bahamian people who ultimately put these gangsters into Government in the first place

Going “viral” is a fleeting hope, and like one commenter here said before, all of our comments and opinions are essentially useless, because it’s actions that matter. If we cannot convert what we know into tangible action then it’s just words on a sheet of paper, no matter how brilliant or wise.

I’ve seen many intelligent people leave this country for a better sunset, and I don’t blame them, because I know there is a breaking point. My hope is that one day, the most intelligent and able are at the helm of Government, but that seems a far off.

I hope well for the columnist wherever the winds lead her. She has something many of our own don’t have; a truly independent mind.

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My2cents 1 year, 11 months ago

Your commentary was on point regarding those who stayed and ironically, many who left. It is a difficult decision but changing mindsets, the core of our problem, is an uphill battle. Even if you decide to leave, you can still contribute to a change that is greatly needed for the country we all thought we had. Maybe it will take a collective effort. But current circumstances, almost blatant corruption, increasing crime and economic instability suggest that you do what’s best for you.

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TruePeople 1 year, 8 months ago

Maybe dis country needs to fall hard before it get sense... it been gliding thinking in flying high.... but what goes up.....

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juju 1 year, 7 months ago

If I were a young person with your talent, I would move to America.. Do it soon before it becomes more difficult. If you are not American. You can always return home to visit or live for that matter. Life is a struggle in the Bahamas for most everyone. Unfortunately, with this Government it will only get worse I fear. You don't ever want to regret not going.

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Prichyta 1 year, 6 months ago

I am a mother of three young adults, two of them left the bahamas almost two years now, disillusioned with the current environment and lack of opportunities, the two remaining members of the family hope to leave as soon as we are able to sell the home. We waited for life here to improve but instead is gotten worse in every important way. Uprooting is complicated but it can be done and beginning again somewhere else is better sooner rather than later. The grass is not always greener somewhere else but in the Bahamas the grass is dying. Unless the people unite and demand change, change will not happen. As the will of the people goes, so goes the country.

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