Listening to talk radio and reading the letters to the newspapers, I am amazed at how important people seem to feel it is to live down to the title “Third World”. Few actually use the term, but the concerns chosen to discuss and debate, and the subjects chosen for headlines and topics are overwhelmingly from that concern, being worried about the “requirements” for being judged a “Third World” country by others.

For example, while so-called First World countries plan their economies with an allocation for cheap, immigrant labour, Third World countries worry about losing jobs to immigrant workers. Therefore, while First World nations manage their immigration, Third World nations fear it. While First World nations think of taxation as a device for improving the standard of living for their citizens, Third World countries think of it as Government-sponsored robbery and making up for poor planning. While First World countries think of education as a way to create a more productive and empowered citizenry, Third World nations use it to create social classes; the “educated” vs the “un-educated”, the “technical” vs the “academic”.

The Bahamas has seen itself as a Third World country since declaring its independence from Britain. Its political, social and economic policies have been shaped by the need to be seen as such by the wider world, with low expectations in trade, governance and living standards, a low level of discipline in both the public and private sectors, a high reliance on external thinking, advice and judgement and complete reliance on the benevolence of International social and financial agencies. As a nation, as well as individuals, we have welcomed being dependent.

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful New Year’s resolution to recognize ourselves as the gifted and creative people we are and begin managing our affairs from the perspective of a First World nation?

We could begin by making citizenship a responsibility, rather than just a right of birth. That responsibility would require us to “pay our way”. That is what a tax system is for. We would choose (and pay for) social goals that strengthen the values we choose to embrace, rather than relying on the “programs” created and discarded by others and the “goodwill” of a benevolent Central Government. We would expect and demand participation in the governance of the country, and take responsibility for its successes as well as its failures. We would accept responsibility for the economy and decide whether we wish to embrace competition with the wider world or whether we prefer protective dependence on the State. We would recognize that “small” is first of all a state of mind and celebrate the bigness of our spirit and of our accomplishments. We would seek assistance when it is in our interest, based upon our own plans, not just those blessed by outside agencies.

Finally, we would dismantle the infrastructure of dependence on foreign direction, reliance on foreign aid and the assumption of local incompetence and discover our own capacities. Wouldn’t that be a New Year’s resolution worth keeping?

Just sayin’.

The reality is that there is no such thing as a First World or Third World country, just a First World or Third World mentality. There are powerful, globally-feared nations that in some instances behave like those Third World countries, like the US and its present immigration efforts, or Greece and its reliance on foreign aid. And there are small countries with little global power whose internal agendas are determined completely by their own development plans, like Singapore and Switzerland. Being “First World” or “Third World” is an attitude, not an expression of size, military might or physical wealth. It’s like the sign on the wall of the football locker room says,

 “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re probably right.”