By Malcolm Strachan
“SMALL things become big things.” It’s not intended to be cliché – as much as it may sound like one we’ve heard a million times. However, it is truly a life philosophy that I am guided by. When we look at our nation today, and painstakingly review all of the issues that we face as a society, we can see that “slackness” has stifled us. Fundamentally, we are mired in Third World issues.
A struggling economy. Cronyism and corruption. Lack of checks and balances. While it has never cost us much more than record unemployment and a few credit downgrades, we somehow find a way to reset our norms and adapt. As a society which has grown comfortable with settling with the scraps tossed to us by our political leaders after being serenaded during election season, we’ve never witnessed the errors in our “slack” society come back to bite us so viciously.
The tragedy that took place in Andros, where six Bahamians lost their lives in the unfortunate plane crash, is one of those events that should serve as a wake-up call. Of course, we never want to be taught a lesson when the losses are so painful, but often those are the lessons we heed the fastest. When it hits this close to home, we are shaken back to reality, and everyone begins to question, “Why?”, “How can this have happened?”, “Where did we go wrong?” All of these are valid questions, but all a reaction to a symptom.
This is by no means intended to diminish the pain the families are feeling right now. Quite the contrary. The nation mourns for them. We mourn with them.
We never want to see our dismissal of order and regulation result in such tragedy.
As two of the Cabinet Ministers in the Minnis administration, Jeff Lloyd and Dionisio D’Aguilar, sounded off the alarms last week about the slack regulation of the aviation sector, one can only wonder, couldn’t this issue have been prevented?
As respected Bahamians and aspiring politicians – which is by no means to suggest the onus falls solely on their shoulders – we still must acknowledge that they should have ideally understood the issues affecting The Bahamas before entering politics. Certainly, at the very least, as Minister of Tourism and Aviation, D’Aguilar should have seen that the lack of strict regulations in the aviation sector was a powder keg set to blow at any moment.
The previous government also failed each and every one of the families shattered by this tragic event, as they would have had more knowledge and time to fix the issues. That should not go unnoticed.
As we should all be empathetic to our brothers and sisters who are hurting right now, all of our leaders who had the power to right the system should be feeling some level of culpability.
However, in hopes to avoid the political blame game that has already begun between D’Aguilar, and his predecessor, Glenys Hanna Martin, we should only focus on what needs to be done at this present time.
Still, the deferral of blame and responsibility between the two is indicative of the broader issue. Nobody wants blood on their hands. None of them wants to look those families in their eyes and accept partial responsibility for not fixing the issue when they had the power.
With attention drawn to the aviation sector, the government has no choice but to correct the faults within the system. Many Bahamians are now afraid to travel to the family islands on planes that look as if they should be put out to pasture and with pilots whose experience passengers cannot easily verify.
The game of life has never had higher stakes.
But for many, the local aviation industry presents tremendous challenges as they have no choice but to travel to New Providence or the family islands. Undoubtedly, the lack of airlift has largely led to the proliferation of the hacker industry.
And while everybody knows this has been the norm for years, as D’Aguilar pointed out, there was “no political will” to do anything about it.
Moreover, the will of the citizens to witness change in our country is also minimal, at best. We thrive within the same systems that perpetuate slackness.
From paying someone a little extra at government offices to expedite a service, to paying less to fly on a sketchy charter flight – even if it means it may potentially be our last. Unfortunately, this has become a cultural norm that there’s hardly a thought that goes into it outside of the convenience of flexibility and the savings of a few dollars.
Then when there is a shocking revelation, we shudder to find out about missing money in government ministries and agencies. We gasp at politicians boldly stating their case in Parliament for why they should be regarded higher than the Bahamians they swore to serve.
This is the reality we have set up for ourselves – one where once untouchable cronies can sit on special lists and create sieves for millions of dollars to escape the public purse, and people turn a blind eye to egregious wrong-doings if they are satisfied that it does not affect them. No one should be surprised when our economies struggle. No one should be shocked when planes fall out of the sky. We should not be stunned by scandals, nor the disenchantment of our youth.
We have fallen so far short of what the nation’s ideals used to be that it is now almost easy to question if they were real or not. While tightening up is very necessary, its practicality may only have a short lifespan if there is not an intrinsic change to how we have evolved as a collective people.
Unless we embrace the energy that connects us all together and step outside of the insulated bubble of an individual existence, it will not be sustainable.
For a country as small as ours, we cannot afford our society to be so fractured. A little love for our brother and sister would go a long way in our country.
Certainly, we all have our part to play, but as our politicians have stepped up to the plate and picked up the mantle of leadership, they have a great responsibility to the citizenry. Too often we have seen humble men transform into entitled shells of their former selves that it has become disheartening to envision progress.
However, as the prime minister has pledged to transform the way the country is governed, we hope to see evidence of this, and soon. An interesting study revealed that the top 10 governed countries in the world are also among the world’s happiest people. If there is validity to the correlation that the success of a government is reflected on the happiness of a people, we have an uphill battle to climb.
While Prime Minister Minnis has given some evidence that he has no intention of condoning the nonsense tolerated by the former prime minister, he still has much to prove.
With his first official year of being prime minister underway, we would like to see a government that has full understanding of the nation’s issues making actionable steps toward real change in every aspect of Bahamian life.
Likewise, the citizenry ought to look in the mirror and in the spirit of self-reflection and see how our contribution to the world can make the country a better place.
Let us evolve from being a people that only talks about change, to one that takes action. We must do our part to fix our society. For in doing so, we will all reap the benefits of living in a beautiful Bahama land.