In my worship tradition, I have been accustomed to greeting the approaching  New Year with a ceremony that invites me to identify the things in my life that I would rather not have and to ceremonially release them. Over the years I believe the practice has helped me to discover and confront things I would rather have in my life and to use my energies pursuing those things instead. I believe the practice has made me more productive overall. This is not to say that I have always been successful in the removal of those unproductive ways of thinking or being, but that identifying them and consciously “calling them out”, as Jesus once did, has been beneficial.

With this in mind, I thought it might be worth suggesting that we as a nation ask ourselves what in our national life we might wish not to have there, to “call them out” and to ceremonially and publicly commit to erasing them from our consciousness (“as a man thinketh”), so to speak.

Here, then, is my short list of my items for inclusion.

  1. Poverty. We should give up thinking of ourselves as a poor country. By any form of measurement (creativity, intellect, natural beauty, history and culture, international accomplishment, even resources) we are a rich nation. Yet all of our national discourse and all of our public policies are designed around the idea that we are a poor country. The poverty mentality is a national liability.
  2. Slavery. We blame our failures in both commercial and social matters on our history, mostly our history as slaves. The past (over which we have no control) is the raw material with which we are made. What we do with that raw material is our own responsibility. We have demonstrated by our successes in just about every sphere of life that we are capable of competing globally, and that the restrictions of history have not been significant.
  3. Prejudice. We should recognize that our nation is weakened when we diminish each other. We are raising our children to disrespect and even hate anyone different from them, whether their race, colour, national origin, even economic group, rather than embracing those differences as part of the wealth of their nation. We should teach them their rich history, including the contributions of those they call “foreigners”, so that they are aware that we are all foreigners in these islands, and that the nation only flourishes when we agree to develop it together.
  4. Dependence. Our style of politics has led to total dependence on Government for everything from a job to repairing our damaged houses to school uniforms. As citizens, we are happy to have Government handle our personal responsibilities, claiming either poverty or misfortune. Unfortunately, the result is a nation hopelessly in debt for programs designed only to show that politicians “care”. The development of the nation is severely retarded by this drag on productivity as Government has no time or resources to provide proper governance. We should focus on the development of a citizenry that accepts responsibility for the success of the country, for their personal success and for the creation of an independent spirit in their children.

These four “habits” we have developed are clearly unproductive. Over the New Year holidays, many people will adopt resolutions designed to chart a course for 2019. As I mentioned, we at Unity Center of Light will write our list of the habits and thoughts we would like to leave behind. We will ask God’s blessing on the intent and watch as fire consumes the paper list. Perhaps the nation will join us and move into 2019 with a commitment to the development of a wealth mentality, to greater respect for the past and our history, greater respect for differences among us and a commitment to greater personal independence.

By the way, anyone wishing to join us in our Burning Bowl ceremony is  welcome. This year it will take place on Saturday, January 5, 2019 at Unity Center of Light at the Medical Arts Building on Dean’s Lane, Fort Charlotte at 7:00 pm. Come and release your own list.

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They know. They know, but they say they have nothing to say. They know that the country is scratching its head, wondering why, after five decades of “progress” the key indicators have not changed. Too few jobs, too many poor people, a dilapidated built environment, unreliable utilities and a heavy public bureaucracy. They know why, but they’re not saying.

They know that jobs don’t create wealth, and that becoming wealthy requires taking risks. But it is just plain too comfortable being promised a secure income with which to pay bills. Let someone else take the risk.

They know that throwing money at a social problem will not solve it, but they relish the idea of a temporary burst of cash in the system. They might be among those getting some.

They know that debt without benefit is unproductive, and find the massive increases in public debt difficult to justify. But then, there’s always the promise of benefit, even if it never materializes. So they cross their fingers and hope this time it will work out.

They know that schooling and education are not the same, that degrees are not indicators of intelligence. Unlike the schooling system, they know that the choice to become an auto mechanic is not an indicator of less intelligence than those choosing to be lawyers or doctors. Yet they participate in a schooling system that treats those choosing “non-academic” careers as either failures or remedial cases.

They know. Deep inside they know. But the past half century has told them that they are not responsible, except for a mark on the ballot every five years, for the way the country is run. So they mark their “X”, declare support for the shirt colour they think will make their life more comfortable in the short term, and retreat to their air conditioning and their Netflix.

They know. But they have nothing to say.

I call them the Silent Majority.

 

At the end of a church service almost 35 years ago I first sang the song “Let There Be Peace on Earth”. To my surprise, shortly afterwards, at the end of an outdoor performance at Disney’s Epcot Center the entire audience of global tourists rose and sang the same song. Since then, I sing that song about once a week, whether in church or in my car. I have become quite convinced that peace on earth is a worthy objective for everyone.

Of course, the need for peace only exists because rather than peace on earth, there is war. Rather than peace in the Bahamas there is war. The newspapers, news reports and talk shows all confirm that we are at war. The casualties are young men laying dead in the streets, husbands killing their wives and angry crowds protesting everything under the sun. We are at war. The language heard in public places are words of war, as the various sectors of the society (blacks, whites, gays, workers etc.) establish their various positions as their declarations of war against their other sides. We are certainly at war.

We are at war in defense of our children’s minds, assaulted by the influences of global consumerism. We are at war, dodging the missiles from international agencies who believe we must have their benevolence. We are at war with those who would separate us into different colors, religions, economic groups or political tribes, preaching the futility of unity. We are at war with our own selves, seeking to purge ourselves of our history and our global families.

These inner wars are exhausting, draining us of energy and distracting us from the task of crafting a new nation, of living our truth. The most gifted people on the planet living in the most beautiful spot on earth live as beggars and gangsters, brutalizing each other in every way possible, ignoring their responsibility to create a place where every citizen lives a productive life and has the opportunity to achieve their potential. Each wants to take whatever the other has. The war is winning.

The only defense against war is peace. If we are to begin to make a nation that lives up to its potential, we must have peace. We must find the way to fit the declaration of peace between the various wars we insist on waging. There is, however, one truth we must face. Peace requires personal commitment. Each of us must either commit to war or to peace. The closing song sums it up well.

Let there be peace on earth

And let it begin with me

 

 

 

 

Power

Power

Power to the people

Power to the priest

 Power to the powerful

 

Masses’a screamin’ ignorance

Rushin’ like a bat outta hell

Inta hist’ry

Vot’n

Ta exercise their God-given right

Vot’n

Ta he’p stop the c’ruption

An’ fav’ritism

Vot’n

Ta try an’ get in

On the jags an’ the nightclubs

Vot’n

Fuh the man’a their choice

The man they never see b’fore

Vot’n

Cuz vot’n

Is da only power the people gat

‘Cept vot;n ain’ much power

If someone else

Guh choose the choice

 

Power

Ho-ho-ho

Ta the People

       Pat Rahming – 1972

 

Democratic administrations are proud to quote, “Government of the People, for the People, by the People”. This is supposed to suggest that whatever government is in office, it has been selected by the people to govern on their behalf, and that governance includes the involvement of the people. Governance therefore requires that government manage the people’s business using the mandate given them in their selection. They must establish and maintain rules and processes designed for the benefit of the people. Their selection democratically ensures that government is of the people. Their mission is government for the people. But what about government by the people? In the Bahamian context, it does not exist.

Public debates refer to our “system” of government as based on the Westminster Model. The obvious shortcomings of successive governments have caused some to suggest that a change to a Republican Model might be better. Unfortunately, neither those who believe that the present arrangement works nor those that would replace it are right. For 45 years we have tried to make half a system work, and whether it is based on the Westminster or the Republican model no system of government works without the “by the people” part of it. To be clear, The Bahamas is attempting to govern itself with no vehicle in its make-up for the involvement of the people in governance. We may in fact be the only country on earth attempting to do so.

In England, from whom we say we borrowed our “system”, the people are involved in governance at several levels, including the municipal, county and borough levels. Similarly, in the US, our proposed model, they have access through involvement at the municipal, county and state levels at least. Other Commonwealth countries that have adopted the Westminster Model, like Canada, offer their citizens access to involvement to governance in municipal, county and provincial governments. The idea that a single National Government, chosen every 5 years can provide adequate governance is absurd, and most people wouldn’t even consider it. Yet we hold onto it with clenched fists, echoing excuses like “it’s  too expensive”, and “we’re too small”. Or the most ridiculous of all, “when we are trained enough”. We don’t care about training for the selection of the National Government. But we are afraid to risk having “untrained” citizens making decisions at other levels. (I should note that what we currently call “Local Government” is really a branch of the National Government, with no real sphere of local power. That is wwhy it can be reserved for only a third of the population.) There are, of course, poorer countries than us, smaller countries than us and many countries far less sophisticated than us. They all have vehicles for participation by their citizens at more than one level.

Before the last election, the “We March” group publicized long lists of demands. A close look at those demands confirms that the group was simply asking for involvement in the governance of the country. Unfortunately, since we have become more accustomed to confrontation than discussion, the people who recognized the request gained more by remaining quiet, in some cases securing major political objectives at the expense of the people.

There is a saying in the multi-level marketing business,

“The system works if you work it.”

There is nothing wrong with either the Westminster or the Republican system. But neither works without the citizens taking responsibility for the working of the system. And that’s impossible if there is no vehicle for their involvement. Voting once every 5 years can hardly be called “involvement”.

Of the People, for the People……………where the People?

Independence_Day_July_9-10__2017.___116242

At the recent Independence celebrations, the head of the Christian Council crossed the line. In an effort to play to his congregation, he “preached” his views on the taxation efforts of Government. I recall that when asked to do the same thing, Jesus was very direct. The business of the Sate, he said, was the business of the State. God was on a different channel. He told his congregation that as citizens, they should meet their obligations to the State. As far as I recall, he never passed an opinion about what would certainly have been onerous taxes by the occupying regime. I believe his reason was simple. The State is not separate from the people. Taxes are collected to transact the people’s business. Whatever the taxes are, they are required to provide what the people say they want.

This is why the Bishop, and many of those representing the religious community are so often on unstable ground. Rather than helping their flock live lives that avoid “bad” things, they use their platforms to attack the State’s handling of those things, like gambling and “riotous living”. Throughout his mission, Jesus repeated that the material world was not important, that “as a man thinketh” was the reason for his messages. This is the mission of the church, to raise the consciousness of the people, not their bank accounts or the kind of cars they drive.

The difficulty we have making ends meet is not because of the level of taxes, it is because of the level of demand we have for material things. This is a fact. It is neither good nor bad. But it is the reason for needing more tax dollars. The Government responds to the public’s request for “stuff” (new roads, schools, public ceremonies, world-class facilities etc.) by spending money. That money must come from somewhere. The most common places are they must borrow it or ask the public to give them more. Even the borrowing eventually must be paid for by taxes. Attacking taxation is really attacking Government’s wish to pay the bills piled up by the people. It may sound good in public, but it makes no sense. If the people are dis-satisfied about the accounting for the taxes, then that is what they should address, not the need for taxes. The only relief from taxes will be a change in the demand for “stuff”.

Here’s an example. Currently I am told there are building sites being offered by Government for less than $25,000. To survey a lot, build roads to get to it and to install the infrastructure (water, electricity, telephone) currently costs between $15,000 and $18,000 per lot. And that is without a sewer system or having to address flooding. Raw acreage runs from about $120,000 per acre and up. That means to bring the cheapest lot to market, with no marketing cost runs a developer into a minimum of between $35,000 and $38,000. For Government to offer a lot for $25,000  means someone else is paying the additional $10,000 to $13,000 for the lot. It probably also means there is no profit going into the Treasury for the sale of public land. If the public wants the Government to offer lots for $25,000, it must be prepared to pay the additional cost of those lots through taxes. You can’t wish to have the cheap lots and expect not to pay additional taxes.

We can paint the same picture for a number of the other Government initiatives currently underway. The “tax-free zone” may be free for those living there, but someone will have to pay for the new infrastructure, the repair initiatives and the social programs. That is what taxes are for. To pay for our materialistic, entitled lifestyle. Government must get money into the Treasury. They are only trying to be our Business Managers, taking our orders, delivering the “stuff” and presenting us with the bill. They may be trying to find creative ways to move the debts around, but at the and the bills must be paid.

The fact that the law says that I can drink or smoke does not make me drink or smoke. That is something controlled by my inner self, the part of me the Bishop is in a better position to affect than Government. Instead, he chooses to address the material world, where we measure people by their bank account and their ability to make expensive choices. We speak of being excluded from things we don’t even enjoy. We denigrate our neighbours because they were born in another country or are darker or lighter than us. We label people “poor” because they live in a particular neighbourhood. We speak of having things like money, cars and houses as though they are the things that make us human. We have built a world that demands the ability to buy more and more. We have made our national bed, but now that the bill has come, we would like to sleep elsewhere.

If the Bishop feels that taxes are too high, perhaps he should be reminding his flock that they already have everything they need, and that living within their means is a worthy objective, that they should not be judging their success by what others have, personally or nationally. Perhaps he should be helping them build character, not palaces. At the end of any shopping spree there’s always a cashier.

I’m sure the Bishop knows that.

 

“Without vision, the people perish” is one of the most misquoted biblical phrases by people who don’t read the Bible. Most understand it to mean that the blind are in danger because they can’t see the hazard before them, or that without a destination, they may wander around until something bad happens. In both cases, vision is important, both personally and for societies.

Vision, then, is like “destination”. It is what the society works towards and how it knows it is headed in the right direction. It is that result that makes a decision “right” for a particular group taking action. For Steph Curry it is raising the championship trophy. For a farmer in Exuma, it is loading crops onto the mailboat on its way to market. For the first-year university student, it is retiring from their own successful business. In each case, the path to the destination may take twists or may be washed away by misfortune or circumstance, but the commitment to the destination makes it easy to find other paths or to rebuild those destroyed. In the end, it is working together to reach a common destination that makes a team a team or a nation a nation.

For both individuals and societies options for the future have expanded exponentially in this 21st century. Concurrently the security afforded by traditional social borders has been lost as social groupings are redefined, with new visions for their development. The social grouping known as a “nation” finds itself in need of new national visions that accommodate those new, more personal 21st century dreams.

Of course, this paradigm shift has happened before, many times. The “empire” vision, for example, drove the Romans, the British and now the Americans, all convinced that the world would be a better place if they ran it. Each has eventually reached a point when circumstances led them to choose a different vision. For the Americans, the “empire” consciousness is their current struggle as the rest of the world explores a more sophisticated version of the 20th century “Service State” vision that created such phenomena as Singapore, India and the Cayman Islands, driving the creation and management of global wealth and social mobility.

These successes all have a plan. They all know where they want to be, their destination, and have created a plan to get there. One speaker asks, “Would you go to the airport, place your credit card on the counter and ask for a ticket without knowing where you want to go?” For most people the answer would be “No!”. You have to have a vision. You have to have a destination.

But how does a country or a society know where it wants to go? Where do nations get their vision?

There are three institutions that provide the society with its social programming. Each addresses an important part of the society’s sailing of its Ship of State.

The first is the Institution of Politics, the Institution of the Past. Its primary benefit to the society is its ability to satisfy the need to respond to the concerns of the past, to right social wrongs and solve perceived problems. This creates confidence in the present so that the future is not a threat. The Institution of Politics is the Captain of the Ship of State, but he does not choose the destination.

The second is the Institution of Journalism, the Institution of the Present. Its primary role is to help the society understand what is happening right now by presenting the facts and creating context. It cannot offer vision because there are no facts in the future and the context is by definition unknown. The Institution of Journalism is the Compass on the Ship of State.

Finally, there is the Institution of Art, the Institution of the Future. Its primary role is to provide the society with glimpses into the dreams of the members of the society so that those dreams become a picture of the future the society wishes to have. It is the only device that has the freedom to walk into the future, sending “selfies” back to the present, so that the society can create or find paths to their dreams. It is not restricted to logic, dictum, reason or even being possible, but it is as real as the other influences on the Ship of State, and the only real source from which to create vision. Art is the Navigator on the Ship of State. It points to the destination dreamt of by the society.

Machiavelli may not be admired as a person, but the practice of politics around the world still gets its patterns from his writings. Joe Rosenthal’s iconic photograph of the soldiers hoisting the American flag at Iwo Jima still convinces Americans that the world needs them for their freedom. The architecture of the Roman Forum, the Greek Acropolis and the Washington Mall convinces the world that these are great nations. The Bauhaus Movement in art changed the face of the built environment globally and created the defining feature of cities all around the world, the skyscraper. Jamaica defines the Caribbean for most of the world, largely because of Bob Marley’s music. First the art expresses the dreams, then the society develops the vision.

The Bahamas has trivialized its art, especially over the past forty years, expecting to find ways forward from politics mostly. Therefore it must struggle to find a vision for its future. Like the Israelites, we are wandering around in the wilderness looking for a Promised Land. Unlike them, however, we think the “pillar of clouds” making that striking pattern against the morning sky is just the threat of rain. Also like them, we may be closer than we know.

Without vision the people perish. For sure.

 

 

The mechanic said to me,

“I don’t have much to say. I’s just keep my head down an’ do what I could to survive, cuz them people don’t talk no sense. They wan’ keep spennin’ an’ borrowin’ money an’ then when they need money they tell the people to sacrifice. So why they don’t sacrifice? Why they don’t stop promisin’ stuff they cyan afford ‘till they could afford it? No. They know they could always put it on the people.”

What incredible insight, I thought (probably because it mirrored my own views). The increase in the VAT is not about a number – 12% or 15% – or about any International standards or what our neighbours do or don’t do. It’s about the Government’s plans for the next while, how much they will cost and how they intend to pay for them.

Like each of us, the Government has obligations – salaries, rent, maintenance etc. – for which they must raise money. Also like us, the Government has stuff -new stuff, trips, ceremonies- it would like to do or buy for which money must be set aside. But unlike us, the Government does not have to worry about running out of money. They, you see, have a fairy godfather/mother. It is us. We provide them with the additional money they need either through taxes or by allowing them to borrow in our name with our commitment to repay.  Unlike us, they do not have to worry about what they can or cannot afford.

So, as our agents, you would expect them to tell us when we can’t afford stuff so we don’t have to borrow money or pay higher taxes unnecessarily. Wouldn’t that be the responsible thing to do?

The answer is that they have the excuse that they are the victims of our selfishness and lack of discipline. We demand stuff from Government with absolutely no concern for cost, then judge Government’s “performance” by the extent to which we get those things. Public discussions about whether Government should lay people off or not, for example, make no allowance for the fact that those people must be paid if they are kept on the payroll. And their union will not even discuss lowering salaries to keep them on. So we demand that Government both hire more people and pay them higher salaries.

We demand better utilities, cheaper homesites, more Government services and social programs and imagine these things will not affect our personal pocket-books. After all, our Government has a social conscience. We even ignore the fine print in the announcement in the newspaper that says “This is a loan” from the “generous” international agency.

In fact, we hear the term “National Debt” and are unmoved by the staggering increases. Our “experts” tell us we are doing better than our friends, so we can afford to borrow more to get more “stuff”.

The increase in the VAT is a wake-up call. We could choose to continue this undisciplined spending and pay for it in increased taxes to fund higher levels of unemployment (as businesses fail because of higher operating costs), higher grocery bills to pay for untaxed essentials and a greater disparity between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. But we would have more “stuff” to brag about.

Unfortunately, we talk about “leadership” as though we expect those in front-line politics to help us out of this pattern. That can never happen. Politicians have one overarching concern; getting re-elected. When campaigning, they promise whatever they believe we want (not need). When they become the Government, if they wish to remain the Government, they must deliver, or at least appear to deliver on those promises. So for them the clock is always ticking. They must spend as much of your money in five years as possible to give you stuff, so that you will return them next time around. There is no limit to what they can afford, because they can always borrow in your name or take more from you in taxes.

So it’s not about the VAT. It’s about whether we have the discipline to demand that our Government buy only what we decide we can afford or that we have the commitment to pay for the things we really believe we need to have RIGHT NOW.

(Unfortunately, as the only country in the world without a vehicle for citizen participation in governance, we will never really have that discussion, will we?)

Words have the power to shape the world. The instant a word is spoken, it begins to manifest the thought that gave it birth. That is why we are admonished to “speak our world into existence” by so many sages. The mind creates our world, our tongue shapes it into words and the Universe responds with its manifestation.

This is true whether those thoughts are positive or negative, since the process does not discriminate. Whether productive or not, the Universe manifests the world we create in thought and shape into words. This is a law of the Universe, set in place by whatever we believe God is.

It is important, then, that we should be careful with the words we use, especially when we are consciously seeking to build the world we would share with the future. Some words build prisons, others build gardens.

We have identified three words in common use that we believe have destructive effects on our world, words used as tools for manipulation rather than emancipation. Those three words are “poor”, “free” and “rights”.

For those having followed my writings, my concern for the society’s role in the development of self-image would come as no surprise. All human behavior is driven by self-image (You can’t do what you don’t think you are!”). it is a primary job of the socializing process to feed th self-image of its members with the diet that builds a strong and positive self-image. That diet begins with a sense of personal history, a spiritual connection and a sense of community. At the end of the day, that is how identity is established.

It is therefore distressing to have whole communities declare that their self-image is rooted in the word “poor”. As suggested above, this means that the behavior associated with being “poor” is expected to be the accepted behavior within those communities. Other words, complete with their behavior assignments, tend to come with this “poor” identity, words like “ghetto”, “inner city” and “hood”. This is bad enough when it is generated by odd members of the community, but when it becomes the basis for Government programs the word “poor” is truly destructive. It makes the assumption, for example, that dignity is based upon the conditions of the world around us, and that quality of life is based upon possessions. As Bob Proctor, an American pastor says, “Poor is not what you are. It is how you live.” We must reconsider the use of this word in connection with the planning of our communities.

The second destructive word is “free”. My marketing friends tell me it is the most important weapon in their arsenal of customer manipulation. With it, they can literally get anyone to do anything. They can get a very private person to expose their personal details online with the promise of a free ebook or a cosmetic sample, or to declare allegiance to something they hate in order to win a trip. It is therefore suspect when public programs get public support by promising “free” access to tax-payer services.

“There is no such thing as a free cup of coffee.”

The use of the word “free” in connection with taxpayer services does not mean there is no cost, just that other citizens are making the payment, and while many citizens may happily pay for their brother’s welfare, it is disrespectful to pretend that there is no expense involved.

Finally there is the word “rights”. There are no “rights” in a vacuum. There is no “right” to own property, drive a car, have a job or get an education. These are the privileges of citizenship (and legitimate visitation).They are the result of living up to the responsibilities of citizenship, including contributing to the cost of providing those things, creating and supporting the legal framework within which to enjoy those privileges. Suggesting that the fact of birth gives us “rights” is both dishonest and counter-productive, as it separates the benefits of citizenship from the responsibilities of citizenship.

The recently-announced Over-The-Hill revitalization program makes liberal use of these three dangerous words, even suggesting that the program will be expanded to include other “poor” communities which would also be “free” of taxes and where people would have the “right” to cheap housing. This “free” stuff may well be considered “rights” for “poor” people, but the only way they will be paid for is either by higher contributions to the public purse (taxes) by those outside those areas or by borrowing yet more money. This may all seem highly academic and, as Athena Damianos says, negative, but If we create our world with our minds and our words help make it manifest, should we not use only the best words?

Think about it.

 

 

Let me tell you a story. In 1953, in the belief that the government of the day was not delivering adequate governance, in that it was not protecting its citizens from racial discrimination, it allowed a small, privileged class to vote multiple times in elections and it refused women the right to vote at all, a group of men organized themselves into the first political party in the Bahamas. Their mission was clear. Those three conditions noted would have to be eliminated. The government of the day, which soon formed the second party, was less concerned about social issues than about bolstering the economic regime, from which they benefitted personally. This difference in perspective provided the separation needed to offer the electorate a choice,

. It also provided the two parties with their missions for the next decade.

By the end of that next decade, although not yet the government, the socially-oriented party had created the public conversation that, even under the reign of the other group, resulted in the correction of all three conditions. The country was finally democratic, with one man, one vote, universal franchise and a law against discrimination. Having achieved their formation goals, they now found a new goal – becoming the government on behalf of the African majority.

By 1967, the first election held under the new democratic conditions, they had achieved that goal.as well. Their new mission now became political independence. The other party considered independence a worthy goal, but “not now, not under those conditions”. This slight difference drove the two parties into the 1973 declaration of independence.

Standing on the threshold of a brand-new country, both sides now needed a vision to guide them into the future. Neither found one. They both seized upon the same, perfect goal; they would “take good care of their people”. The socially minded group would have the advantage of sharing both race and poverty with the majority, while the other side offered the promise of access to economic power.

For the past 45 years, Bahamians have switched from government to government, demanding to be better taken care of. Younger Bahamians in particular now firmly believe that the job of government is to take personal care of them and are angry that neither party seems ready to take that responsibility seriously.

This concept of benevolent government has unfortunately produced a generation of totally dependent yet somehow entitled, risk-averse, insecure people, lacking the confidence, self-determination and entrepreneurial spirit of their parents. Rather than embracing the challenges of growth they complain about the lack of government-created opportunities.

If government’s job is not to take care of the people, then what is it?

In a recent talk on autism, my daughter, Anne Rahming Jovanovic, who lives in Canada and has an autistic son, declared her objective for seeking programs and strategies for the development of her son:

“….to get him to the point where he is able to live an independent life in his own private environment, sustaining himself doing something productive.”

That must be the objective of EVERY parent, and it is government’s job to create the conditions and the processes within which each citizen can pursue an independent, personally satisfying and productive life. Citizens are assumed to become adults, not remain children who must remain under protective care and handed success as a reward for “good” behavior. They are expected to grow up and take responsibility for their own success.

These conditions are outlined clearly in Abraham Maslow’s schedule of human needs. For an individual (and by extension, a society) to develop an independent, productive life there must be conditions within which he can feel safe and secure, find food and shelter, build and maintain community, know that he is valued by his community and is able to pursue whatever he feels his potential is. These are the conditions a government is expected to maintain.

The processes it must therefore build and maintain are those that create and sustain these conditions. For example, to feel safe and secure may require good street lighting at night, buildings that withstand the weather, a general respect for privacy and personal space and the rule of law. To support these conditions, we might need a good public works system, an effective Building Code, private property laws, a legal system and a Police force.

Government’s job is not to protect citizens from competition in business, failure in enterprise or from themselves socially. The child must be allowed to grow up and embrace the responsibility of citizenship if the country is to function productively.

It is time for Government to do what governments are suppose to do, and not what spoilt children wish it to do.

 

 

 

The hippies once saved America.  In the 1960’s the US had fallen into a dangerous time, drunk with its military and economic might. Internally, racial division, gender division and class division were ripping away at its core, while leaders like Johnson and Nixon were unprepared for the outright bigotry of people like Governor George Wallace, therefore for the blossoming of the civil rights movements or for the loss of the space race to Russia. It seemed that America had no conscience. In fact their conscience was asleep, and it was awakened by the hippies.

At the heart of the hippie movement was a powerful need to know why. It was a need to link policy with purpose, action with intent. For them, life’s actions had to be justified. So they made music or poetry that demanded justification for the wars, especially those far away like Southeast Asia, for the publicly-supported bigotry and for the mistreatment of the earth. Their adopted lifestyles explored their personal purpose, often using religious practices and philosophies alien to North America. They questioned the adoption of a robot-like suburbia, with its uniformed business class. Their rhetoric suggested that the mental independence with which the country was created had been lost to a factory-like adherence to social and political rules that simply made no sense.

While they were called “drop-outs”, the majority of the hippies either were or had been college students. Many were well educated. But most had not gone to college by conscious choice. Their wartime parents had lived up to their promise that their children would get the college education they were denied because of the war. So they went, and many graduated without a personal agenda for the future.

The leaders of the hippies were not people on podiums preaching political dissention. They were artists, simply doing what artists do – sharing their particular insights. They looked at their society, saw its rotten core and made what they saw visible to others. Many of those others may not have left suburbia or ditched their Wall Street uniforms, but they slowly found their conscience, saw that their children were dying in unjustified wars, internally and externally, and began demanding that their governments change their policies. They began embracing the idea that all men and women should be equal under the law, as they were in creation. They protested the image of the Ugly American, raping the world with the threat of his war machines. Their leaders were artists like Bob Dylan Jimmy Hendrix, Peter, Paul and Mary, Ritchie Havens and dozens more, not the makers of LSD and other hallucinogenics, as popularly thought. It was music and art that saved America.

My own heroes during those hippie years were Bob Dylan, Ritchie Havens, Paul Simon and the Mighty Sparrow. They opened my eyes to the world I am a part of, and I thank them for sharing their insights.

Today, the Bahamas is in need of a hippie movement. We are a rudderless country with only politicians for leaders. Having recently lost one of our most powerful visionaries in Ronnie Butler, there are fewer and fewer left prepared to share their insight as a guide to our future. And the few that are left we consider only entertainment. For vision we have chosen to look to the very source of our ailment – a political culture designed only for victory at the polls, not for social or cultural integrity.

Phil Stubbs. Eddie Minnis. KB. Patricia Glinton-Meicholas. Dynomite Daisy. James Catlyn. Max Taylor. These are the kind of leaders whose agenda is the health of the society, not a seat at the table. These are the leaders with vision to offer  if only the rest of us were not so blinded by politics.

We need a hippie movement.

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ARTICLES BY PAT RAHMING

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