By NICOLE BURROWS
The nature of who we secretly are is the reason we can’t gainfully advance our country or the people in it.
We live happily and obliviously in a culture where people are well aware of what’s improperly going on around them, but almost no one wants to say anything about it officially or on the record because they have something or someone to protect: their job, their title, their income, their proceeds from a bribe, their spouse, their child.
Bahamians don’t like to address things head-on. Ostriches in the sand. They actively avoid addressing reality and are quite content to live it up in their fake worlds, their fake secure jobs, their fake relationships, with their fake self-respect. They speak in passive-aggressive terms and they speak at each other or at a subject, but rarely do they speak to a subject.
“I hear so-and-so say (fill in the blank with your choice of secret), but chall don’t say nothin.”
Okay. Confidence is important to a point, but what about when people are being adversely affected by the silence you maintain or the secrets you keep? What about their welfare? What about their livelihood? Is it enough to get bought out with a few dollars in exchange for a closed mouth and a look in the other direction?
There are so many people who know crucial things, have been privy to things which are detrimental to the greater good, who conceal those things out of a twisted sense of loyalty or obligation, because they get something they deem valuable in return for their zipped lips, or simply out of irrational fear.
So many Bahamians are in the position to blow the whistle on all varieties of the foolishness that goes on in government, the public service, in business and in family life, but few - if any - want to speak up. What does that say about them as individual parts of a larger society? What position does that leave ‘us’ in, ‘us’ to potentially include some of your own loved ones, family, and dear friends?
The irony of this ‘secret’ society is that Bahamian people love to gossip. They like to be the first to know. They like to be the first to say they know. And it doesn’t matter if they have the full or true story, they want to be the first to tell it.
So how can you rush out to the mountain top to spread rumours and inaccurate gossip, but when you know something substantial and can provide evidence of it, you cower and fade into the darkness of the cave under the mountaintop? It’s a mangled mentality is it not?
And if this is how people of the society operate on a day-to-day basis, then it’s no wonder our present circumstances look so bleak. Who has a backbone? Who stands for anything wholeheartedly, unashamedly and consistently?
The further irony is that in a land filled with so-called Bahamian patriots, so few are willing to do what is needed to save their country from ruin.
How may people know the truth about what really stalled the Baha Mar project, the political interest in the development, the reason why CSCEC (China State Construction Engineering Corp) didn’t pay its own workers, or the sexual harassment of young Bahamian female employees at Baha Mar by Chinese construction workers?
How many people know the truth about the inner workings of the Urban Renewal Commission, its co-chairs, and its lengthy list of unnamed committee members?
Who knows exactly who the BEC bribe-taker is but won’t disclose because they are political party affiliates or family members?
How many people know the truth about the BTC and Cable Bahamas fight over communications towers and the real reason for the delay of cellular liberalisation, or the real story behind the two per cent shares ‘won back’ from Cable and Wireless?
Who knows the whole truth about the ‘overspent’ $3 million on Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival - did it go missing, or was it misappropriated? Someone - perhaps more than someone - knows.
And what about the Rubis and other unnamed gas stations’ (quietly under renovation for months and years) leaks? The real readiness of the Critical Care Block at Princess Margaret Hospital? The granting of webshop licences and approvals delays, and the lack of enforcement of closure on the basis of no valid licence? The unspoken of threat against the Bahamian Parliament? What’s really going on at the Bahamas Union of Teachers and the depth of its leadership conflict?
Who knows the true(st) crime statistics? Who knows which politicians’ private businesses owe public utility companies? And what about the Bank of the Bahamas losses - who got the loan proceeds that sunk the bank’s liquidity (some say also their solvency), how much did they get and why can no one say?
Who is responsible for the deaths of Harl Taylor and Thaddeus McDonald - how did they really die and why has it been kept secret and dropped into cold cases?
What’s really delaying the gender equality referendum? Why did Rollins and Moss really leave the Progressive Liberal Party?
Who exposed little Marco Archer to the rapist and murderer and why shouldn’t they also pay for their crime? What is the real extent of child abuse in the Bahamas?
What are all the sources of the unabated oil ‘leaks’ at Clifton, and why is nothing of consequence being done to remediate the catastrophe of destroying the Bahamas’ self-proclaimed bread and butter tourism?
And how did CLICO really get the opportunity to abscond like thieves in the night with the life savings of so many Bahamians, in the presence of a Registrar of Insurance, with years of time to see imminent collapse, and under the nose of the government at the time?
How many people see truth flying in their faces every day, are in a position to say “wait, this is not right”, but they don’t?
At the end of all things, what are you, the potential whistle-blowers really protecting? Your own weakness? Because, if you sit by while people run roughshod over systems put in place to defend the very people who ignore them, what is there left to save? And what/who are you saving it for? Your children? Well, you are teaching them how to be ignorant and oblivious ... how not to stand tall for the greater good.
What concerns me most about the curtain (not veil) of secrecy in the Bahamas is that, in the final analysis, what this ignorance and oblivion means is that justice is, for the most part, not served. Because too many of the people who can help to provide that justice are fearful or selfish. What future will we have without justice? A lack of it in our present circumstances already discourages us. It gives us nothing to look forward to. Because if you can’t promise that the people who speak out are protected, what good is there in whatever effort you might make to build a nation?
The status quo remains: the bribe-makers continue to make bribes and the bribe-takers continue to take bribes, perpetuating dishonesty and corruptibility. There’s no level playing field at this stage in the game, be it in government, in business or in the home.
People are desensitised. They are immune to truth. It could stare them in the pupils but they will act like they don’t see it. They decide they won’t see it. Or they can’t see it because they’ve spent so much time pretending the truth in front of them isn’t really there. Or, perhaps, they believe, foolishly, that one day it will miraculously change, or that someone else will change it ... just not them, because they don’t have the power and they have too much to lose anyway.
Then they go and they sit up in a church on whichever day they deem holiest, praying for forgiveness, when the people whose forgiveness they should really be seeking have no clue of the extent of the damage done, or how easily it would have been to avoid it if the prayerful churchgoer had only spoken up with truth to begin the natural unfolding of justice.
It’s sickening. It’s weak. And it’s a reflection of who we are: weak people. Fearful people.
I deeply despise weak-mindedness. To me, it is the single most unattractive quality any human being could ever have. And the saddest thing about it is that the most educated are among the weakest-minded, when all their knowledge of the world around them should really make them stronger.
If you have the presence of mind to know better, why can you not do better?
The next time you get some truth before your eyes, whether it is your own personal truth or someone else’s, what will you do with it?