“The bitterest pill I have had to accept is that in a democracy the majority can never be wrong”

Stokeley Carmichael – Civil Rights Militant

Last week I shared the thought that voting against a Constitutional amendment designed to make all citizens equal under the law because you don’t trust or like the government is like filling your gas tank with water because you have a beef with the gas station.

Regardless of what the various personal views on the four referendum questions were, I believe the questions answered were different from those asked. Those actually answered were:

  • Do you trust the PLP government?
  • Do you believe a Bahamian who chooses a foreign love-mate still deserves to be considered Bahamian?
  • Should a person have the right to choose his or her sexual preference?

The answers were “no, no and hell no”.

Meanwhile the Constitution, the document on which all laws in the country are based, and through which our children and grand-children will chart their future, remains hopelessly flawed, after almost five decades of majority rule. Gender equality is a small part of what needs attention in the Constitution, but the attitude towards it is clearly that we would rather suffer the status quo.

On talk shows and in political speeches, we hear a lot about the “maturity of our democracy” and the “will of the people”. Stokeley Carmichael reminds us that in a democracy the majority determines what is “right”. This concept of democracy, to which we are committed, depends on the quality of information available to the majority when making their decision. Manipulating that information is the product of politics. Researching and debating that information is the responsibility of citizens. If citizens avoid the work of honest debate and research, their decisions are based upon the information presented primarily for the benefit of politicians. That is the way it is. Bad citizens make bad decisions.

As an aside, the public is aware that no government over the past forty or more years has been good at delivering education, either formal education or public education. 50% of those flowing through the schooling system can’t even graduate, and the public has not yet answered the question of gender equality despite two “educational” campaigns.

As managers of the people’s business, the government does not “win” or “lose”. They take instructions. Although they might be confused, they in fact cannot have “a horse in the race”. They have a sophisticated media empire available to them to educate the public, but have so far not learned to use it for public purposes.

“Winning” and “losing” is fine for sports (or election to Parliament), but not appropriate when discussing the repair of the document that will shape the future of unborn children. When we take that attitude, we all lose. Who do you hurt when you fill your gas tank with water? Certainly not the gas station.

June 12, 2016