A new vision

By the Rev Canon S Sebastian Campbell, CM

THE Bahamas always benefited from nefarious activities; giving shelter to crooks and shady characters is a historical fact. From 1698-1718, The Bahamas became the world’s capital of piracy. New Providence was sprinkled with whorehouses, motels and shops that catered to pirates. The records will bear witness to corrupt politicians, even governors, of that period, taking bribes and a share of ill-gotten loot.

Woodes Rogers arrived in The Bahamas in 1718 with a mandate to clean up The Bahamas. It was a matter of “setting a thief to catch a thief”. Rogers himself was once a pirate. He sailed into Nassau harbour on 26th July, 1718, as a hero. He sailed in a convoy with the largest British fleet ever seen in The Bahamas. Help and hope were on the way.

He declared martial law, attempted to set up a basic judicial system and government and enthusiastically set out to rid The Bahamas of the scourge of piracy. But he accomplished very little in his early attempt. He was a smooth talker but failed to accomplish much. He left The Bahamas in 1721, bankrupt, frustrated, and ill.

He returned in 1729 as governor until his death in 1732. During this term the first slate of permanent laws was introduced, and the motto Expulsis Pirates Restitute Commercia was introduced. But were the pirates ever expelled and was commerce ever restored? Piracy did decline, but not due to efforts by Woodes Rogers. The decline was due to the efforts of Governor Phenney, (1721-1729). Check our history it is heavily punctuated with: Pirates, Buccaneers, ship wreckers, rum runners, prostitutes, drug-lords, and drug-peddlers. What a history! These nefarious characters were and are being elevated as heroes in the pages our history.

Isn’t it appalling, hundreds of years later, how little has really changed? Who punctuates our annals of history today? The pirates are still with us today. We must struggle with the reality today of drug lords and drug peddlers, child molesters, liquor merchants put on pedestals as heroes, shady characters in high office in all phases of society. The pirates, have they all been expelled? The chicken has come home to roost.

Dr Timothy McCartney and Dr David Allen have been two voices among many of us over the years saying in loud and simple voice: “Wake up, Bahamas.”

The late Prime Minister Pindling warned in the 1970’s, “Bahamians are playing a dangerous game they don’t understand; in the process many will die...”

We are now in the midst of violence and mayhem in biblical proportions, all before unknown in The Bahamas.

An ever-escalating murder-rate is indicative of a morally starved people. Are we all, especially parents, asleep at the wheel in a ship that is rocking and reeling in the waves of criminality and ethical distress. One thousand teen girls expelled from our schools every year due to pregnancy should have us squealing.

Primary school children engaged in sex on the school grounds is real and a symptom of mental disorder.

Wake up to the fact that as a society we do not cry out for greater academic achievement. Do we realise that many “graduates” from our school system are unemployable? The GPA of some of our children is 0. The way ahead must be to expel the pirates in home and family life.

Too many of our children never experience childhood; they are yucked up into adulthood all too soon, pressured by the fact that many have no full-time parents to surround them with love, care, fun and spiritual upbringing.

There is a father hunger. Many children yearn to know who their fathers are, to be with them and play with them and bond with them.

Far too many times, mothers are the pirates of moral value and standards. The male element in our society must be rescued and saved from extinction. How much further can we go without arresting this mud slide? June 23rd, 2011, Omega College graduation class, not one single male included.

In Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre, including geriatrics, the mental asylum and the drug unit men outnumber women more than four to one. Her Majesty’s prison men outnumber women probably more than ten to one. Do we go on?

Check again the boys and girls detention centres. I hope my words will not be taken out of context...we have a problem, a big problem, a massive problem.

Woodes Rogers was sent with a clear mandate to expel the pirates so that normalcy could prevail economically in our land. Today I charge you with the same mandate: expel the pirates in our midst, in our lodge, in our churches, our society, in our home. Work diligently to bring radical change in our midst. The pirates we need to expel is inside each of us. We need radical change. Ghandi once said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

There must be a paradigm shift from holding crooks and shady characters as heroes. Paul in Galatians 5:19 talks about redeeming debased human nature. He says, “It shows itself in immoral, filthy and indecent actions... people become enemies and they fight, they become jealous, angry, and ambitious. They separate into cliques and groups. They are envious and get drunk, have orgies, and do other things like these. I warn you now as I have before: Those who do these things will not possess the Kingdom of God...” The way forward challenges us to forge a new vision of hope. Bahamians are known for being far less adventurous and far more conservative than our Caribbean neighbours. We are known for defining insanity as, “doing the same thing the same way, over and over again, and expecting different results”. A paradigm shift, a radical overhaul in our value system and our approach to our challenges is necessary if we are to evolve a new vision.

Five suggestions:

  1. Expel the pirates: The pirates in us, as we make a radical turn around in our thinking and deal with our own moral and ethical delinquency. In love we challenge the decaying values and standards in our organisation and society. We must speak truth to power.

  2. Home and family life must be redeemed: Most of our problems are domestic in origin. There needs to be training and producing of qualified counselors in this area, even to assist the police force that is ill equipped in handling the many domestic challenges that come their way from day to day.

  3. Organisations must produce surrogate parents to answer the father hunger crisis: We must be willing to invest our time and resources to be there for our maladjusted children, many of whom are parented by the television with the constant diet of sex and violence.

  4. Uplift and venerate: role models among us so that generations to come will know our value system and honour us.

  5. Speak out against political strangle on our development: Our advancement as a people being strangled because of our petty, small political minds. The party in power should advance great ideas left in place by the former government, while we the electorate rise above calling right wrong and wrong right.

Today’s challenges call out to us to have a new vision, a vision of help and hope. New horizons beckon us to steer courageously into the chilly teeth of the prevailing winds of change.

Those courageous enough will give us hope for that new vision in which every Bahaman can participate.

This new vision for a new Bahamas, ever evolving to greater heights. A Bahamas, truly free from colonial appendages, a truly Independent Country. We have made advances yet so far from being all we can be. What next?

(Canon S. Sebastian Campbell, CM, hails from Arthur’s Town, Cat Island, and is presently Rector of St. Gregory the Great, Anglican Church, Carmichael Road, New Providence, Bahamas).


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