As Bahamians, we underperform. As individuals, we are phenomenal. For a country of under 400,000 we produce a simply freakish number of high achievers. Yet as a community we underperform in every aspect of public life. We underperform in business, education, cultural development and in our responsibility for the environment. Why?

One answer is, we give ourselves permission with our words. Language is such a powerful tool, one we use most aggressively to support our underperformance. Listen to these:

It’s our Colonial heritage”

“It’s a hold-over from slavery”

“Black people can’t work together”

“The white man holdin’ us down”

“Politicians only wan’ keep the power for themselves”

“The Chinese get’n all the business”

“I’s a small man”

None of these statements is either true or relevant. Our Colonial heritage is only the framework from which we make the decisions about our future, from which we choose the objectives to work towards. There is no ghost of Queen Victoria that forces us to decide against our own interest. We are responsible for our decisions, and if our decisions are not producing positive results for us, we are responsible for changing those decisions. Not the Colonial past. Imagine believing that I have to be a drunkard because my grandfather was one. Or maintaining an education system that does not produce productive citizens because it was introduced by colonists.

Black people CAN work together. In business, the Sunshine Boys proved that. The early PLP proved it in politics. Junkanoo groups prove it every parade. The idea is clearly nonsense. In any case, our citizens are not all black, so why is that important? We should instead be focused on all of us learning to work together.

There is no such thing as a small man. There are men who have not yet discovered their value or their potential, but there are no small men. In this arrangement, is a small man’s child also a small man? I hope not.

These things we repeat without thinking get their power from our repetition, whether they are true or false, positive or negative. Unless we repeat them, they have no power and they are not truths for our children.

So perhaps it is time to take the first step in improving our national circumstance. Rather than searching for some messiah to “cure” the mantras with which we keep ourselves enslaved, we might simply stop repeating them. Marley said it this way:

“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.”

It is time we stop giving ourselves permission to underachieve.

December 16, 2016