Politics and Nation Building are not the same thing. Here is little story to clarify the difference. Jacob and Esau are two friends, standing on Wulff Road, trying to get to Rawson Square.

Jacob: I’m going to take the number X jitney. It goes directly up East Street to Rawson Square.

Esau: I’m taking the number Y. It goes up Collins Avenue and up Shirley Street. This time of day, East         Street, just below the hill, is clogged. I’m going to get to Rawson Square well before you.

Jacob: Maybe, but you’re going to have to listen to only Bahamian music. On the X, I can listen to some dancehall too.

Off they go. We’ll never know who got there first or who enjoyed the trip more. But they will still be friends when they get together in Rawson Square. Their different choices would have led to the same destination eventually.

For the Bahamian people, the destination is Nation Building. That is the goal towards which they must agree to move. What that place looks like and what they will find when they get there is a function of their shared vision, the dream they would have agreed to work towards. The jitneys are the political choices they make to get them there. They may choose a jitney that promises to get them there quickly, or one that promises the fun of the trip. The leader’s role as the driver of the jitney is to announce the route and to guide the jitney through the traffic. His reputation and his announcements entice passengers for his route.

This, in fact, is all party politics is: different ways to get to the agreed destination. The question of the number of routes the jitney companies offer is irrelevant. There may be many routes available; different short-cuts, different music, some air conditioned, big or small. The only non-negotiable item is the destination. The choice is not the jitney company’s choice, not the jitney driver’s choice. It is the people’s choice.

I don’t believe the people of the Bahamas have agreed a destination. In a 1970’s poem called “Mailboat To Hell”, I suggested that the Bahamian people chose to be passengers on their ship-of-state, rather than the crew. They had left the choice of destination to the captain and relaxed on the deck. For the past 40 years, we have simply complained about where we have not arrived. The questions of economic style, social responsibility, academic purpose and cultural commitment have not been our responsibility as we’ve enjoyed the cruise. The driver of the current jitney would always deal with those pesky questions. As long as he left us alone, he could take short cuts, refuse customers, run lights, change the style of music or just stop and wait for his friends. Or, as in the poem, he could decide which beach he would run the ship of state up on. We might blame him, but we would have no responsibility to counsel him.

So, Nation Building is the responsibility of those wishing to create a Nation. Once they have determined what it will take to accomplish that, politics is the way they choose the vehicle to get them there. All Leadership does is drive the vehicle. The Destination is our responsibility. It’s time we choose.

Patrick Rahming

May 24, 2015