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I love magic. The magician waves his white-gloved hand, the drums roll, there is a puff of smoke and…….ta-dah….. his assistant vanishes into thin air! Where’d she go? The magician jokes with the audience for a minute, then raises his magic wand, shouts his favorite magic words and…..poof!….. The spotlight suddenly finds the assistant waving from a faraway balcony seat. How’d he do that? I just love it.

Of course, magic is the art of distraction. The waving hand, the smoke, the jokes are all designed to distract the audience from the execution of the illusion (which is usually very clever and requires lots of practice and preparation) and to help maintain that sense of wonder and surprise.

So I consider the way we are running the Bahamas an example of an attempt at magic. We have become accustomed – no, addicted – to avoiding the core issues of our national development by creating elaborate distractions. Supposedly, the desired results will magically appear at some pre-determined climactic moment. In the meantime, all we seem to have are waving hands and puffs of smoke.

Let’s take the subject of the economy, for example. What is needed is to increase everybody’s income while reducing the cost of running the country. Now since more than two thirds of the country’s income comes from tourism, and since tourism is the most profitable business in the world, the logical place to look for more income would be from tourism. This means involving the population in the creation and maintenance of more and more tourism product and providing a larger range of services to that sector.

Instead, we distract the public from their wealth-building opportunities by suggesting that tourism is an inadequate base for the development of the economy (while more of the countries in the world are building their economies through it) and needs to be replaced, that there is a need to “diversify”, and that hotels, not the destination’s unique geography, history, belief systems and lifestyle, are the keys to a successful tourism business. Further, even when we focus on tourism, we distract ourselves with statistics that “show” that we are the leaders in the region. Unfortunately, we also know that those numbers are mostly (75%) someone else’s customers, who account for just over a tenth of our income. Our own 90% customer, who spends between 16 and 22 times as much as the cruise visitor, is seldom even part of our conversation, and nor is how to attract them. When our customers tell us that we have nothing for them to do, we distract ourselves by changing marketing organizations and increasing the budget rather than building attractions to satisfy that need. There is an opportunity to develop real wealth through the development of an attractions industry yet we are satisfied with the distraction of opportunities to have jobs in new hotels.

Or the subject might be Downtown Development. The need is to create an environment that is first of all a thriving marketplace, then a repository for our rich history, a celebration of our accomplishments and our personality and an icon for our civilization or sense of order. Most of all, however, it must be characterized by lots of people enjoying life, which demands a preponderance of opportunities for dining, entertainment and cultural activity, designed primarily for local consumption.

How does the magician distract us this time?

First, by making property ownership and value the most important part of the conversation. Then by promoting mantras from “studies” that have no real role in the development of a successful downtown, although they may be features in one:

“You have to have people living downtown”

“We’ve got to allow taller buildings to encourage development.”

“We should pedestrianize Bay Street.”

“We’re going to build a Boardwalk.”

None of these suggestions create a sustainable customer base or what is called critical mass of customers on the sidewalks, enjoying their experience. But they do distract us from asking what does.

Finally, we distract ourselves by making downtown an idea dedicated to short-stay cruise tourists, with programs of “cultural” activity that last a few weeks at a time. After over thirty years, locals still avoid the downtown, the sidewalks are still bare, and the area is still shut down after six, when most spending takes place. The magician’s jokes are beginning to annoy us, but we still somehow expect the rabbit to pop out of the hat someday soon.

As far as running the country for less, while the largest key to that object is reducing the size of the national payroll, the distraction is remaining the nation’s largest employer and being proud of it.

I really love magic. But my favorite part is trying to spot the key to the illusion. I know it’s an illusion, but the magic in magic is that it is also real. It produces results. Whether I spot the key to the illusion or not, the rabbit is real when it pops up, to everyone’s delight. There is a very real purpose for the magician’s distractions. They give him time to do his thing.

But then there is empty attempted magic that does not work. There is the waving of the hand, the drum rolls, the puffs of smoke, then……nothing happens.  Just meaningless distraction. Now that’s a drag. At least at a magic show I can get up and leave.

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It is interesting that much of the discussion about the treatment of former Government Ministers before the Courts has centered on whether they deserve it or not, or whether they should be treated differently than other accused persons. The almost universal response has been that anyone objecting to their treatment is either blindly PLP or is asking for special treatment for politicians.

How hypocritical we are!

We take developers to court (in some cases to the Privy Council) because we are appalled by the treatment of dolphins – actually holding them in pens and making them perform for us. We demand prosecution for horse or dog owners caught mistreating their animals. The nation a aggrieved when the swimming pigs are suspected of being fed bad food. Yet when it comes to other human beings, we roll in the aisles over their humiliation. We rejoice, even representatives of the Church, when they are treated worse than we would treat our domestic animals. What a terrible indictment of a so-called Christian nation!

I recall a sermon years ago that emphasized that the Jews were so wrapped up in their anger and hatred towards Jesus (who had failed to save them from the Romans) that they preferred to have a convicted killer released into their midst JUST TO MAKE SURE JESUS WOULD BE CRUCIFIED. Clearly a self-destructive mind-set.

I have been watching foreign TV news for about a half century, and in that time I cannot remember having seen a newscast that showed an accused person being paraded through the crowd on the way into Court, hand-cuffs or not. Yet we – good Christians and animal lovers – look forward to the videos of the humiliation of our brothers and sisters AS ENTERTAINMENT, ready to re-post them to all our contacts, with our spiteful comments added.

It’s not about Shane, my friend. It’s about our humanity.

What is “Mobocracy?” It is the belief that appropriate social behavior is determined by the majority. For example, while it is clearly socially destructive for people to film a murder rather than trying to prevent it, it has become accepted behavior to reach for the phone, not to call the Police, but to begin shooting a video of the attack or tragedy, then immediately, with no thought about the ramifications, to post the video to social media, then monitor the extent to which it goes viral. Then, to extend the benefit of the mob behavior, there is such buy-in to this counter-productive behavior that it is immediately forwarded by all and sundry to all and sundry.

There are those who call this democracy in action. The problem is that the majority-rules form of democracy was never meant to apply to social behavior. The principle of Democracy was meant to apply to political behavior. Social behavior is meant to be guided by the principle of Morality.

So, in the Bahamas, Mobocracy is the current greatest threat to Morality. In fact the evidence shows that we have finally fully accepted that Morality is determined by majority vote. We can now say proudly, “The Bahamas is a Mobocracy.”

During the recent election campaign, I heard several politicians justify their entry into politics or their remaining on the scene by promising Bahamians a “better quality of life”. Unfortunately, while it appears many people responded to that promise, judging from the talk-show callers, that is a promise no politician can deliver on. What they really mean (giving them the benefit of the doubt) is a better standard of living.

Quality of life is the personal, perceived experience, which results from a set of personal, inner commitments, and is not primarily the result of outer conditions. Quality of life is not determined by the “facts”, but by the inner lens through which those “facts” are seen. A “positive” person, one who is generally thankful for life, forgiving and generous and has developed a strong relationship with his or her “God”, and a “negative” person, whose life is driven  by regret and the conviction that they are always victims, will experience a different quality of life in identical circumstances. One may experience peace, while the other experiences paranoia. So for a politician to promise a better quality of life assumes he or she is aware of those inner conditions for a whole group of people. That is clearly impossible.

On the other hand, a better standard of living is definable. You either have a roof over your head or you don’t. You either have electricity and running water or you don’t. You either have inside toilets or an out-house. You are an owner, renter or a squatter. These are “facts” that apply equally across the board, and as a politician, they are the things he or she can promise to deliver. Their effort can in fact improve your standard of living. That is the job they have applied for, and not the result of their generosity.

This clarification may seem unimportant, but it is very important, especially now. In promising a better quality of life by delivering a better standard of living, they are supporting an assumption that has had disastrous effects on our nation. In its crudest form they are supporting the assumption that money buys happiness (assuming that happiness is a better quality of life than unhappiness).

The consequence? It is the belief that the answer to any social or environmental problem is more money. It is the belief that getting money, however it is gotten, will somehow make a miserable person experience gratitude, a person whose experience of their world is “negative” would somehow experience a “positive” world with more money.

We all know these assumptions are not true, yet we allow our children to hear us affirming them daily. Then, when they disrupt the quality of our lives with their efforts to “buy” happiness, we are shocked! Where did this materialistic attitude come from?

The Chinese proverb goes something like this, “The greatest change in the world results from a change in my point of view.”

Standard of living is the purpose for the political structures we create. Quality of life is what we experience as a result of the vitality of our inner lives. Then there’ this, compliment of Bob Proctor:

I’ve learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances.

Martha Washington – 1731-1802, Former First Lady of the United States

 

Obviously, the title of this post is borrowed from former President Bill Clinton’s campaign of a few years ago, “It’s the Economy, Stupid”. After the crushing defeat of the PLP by the FNM two weeks ago, the public has turned its attention to the satisfaction of only one political promise – punishing the wrong-doers. That is the agenda being advanced by most of the people calling talk-shows, the hosts of those shows and letters to the editor.

But I have another agenda. My agenda is based upon the satisfaction of the things those same people were asking for just a few weeks ago. Then they were asking for three things:

  • Inclusion in the process of governance.
  • Accountability
  • Access to business opportunities

 

In response, during the campaign politicians committed themselves to providing all of these things. Unfortunately, the public believes the delivery of those promises is provided by a combination of executive integrity and resolve. But the sustained success of any political benefit requires a commitment to systems that themselves are based upon principles of governance.

The three principles underlying the demands listed above are:

  1. Inclusion in governance requires more than a single level of government administration.
  2. There can be no accountability without consequence.
  3. Opportunities are created for those prepared to take them.

The rhetoric of politics is designed to convince voters that individual integrity and resolve are the keys to delivery of the desired conditions, and while no doubt most politicians know that little is possible without the establishment and maintenance of systems, their agenda is often framed by the need to appear to “deliver” personally on their promises. But it is the systems that allow the delivery of the results needed, and attention to those systems is the key to successful governance.

My agenda for the moment, therefore, is a review of the systems intended to provide good governance generally, but immediate attention to the three systems necessary for the delivery of the most demanded items during the election campaign, as noted above: inclusion, accountability and opportunity. Those three systems are:

  • The creation of an autonomous system of Local Government
  • The creation of a recall system for elected officials
  • The re-definition of the education system as the preparation of all Bahamians for productive participation.

This is the foundational infrastructure for the development of a more productive Bahamian society. I believe the new administration is committed to this kind of agenda. I hope it is an agenda the public has the patience to adopt.

 

Listening to talk shows or political campaign speeches, it is obvious that the criteria for making a choice between parties or candidates are very vague. When pressed for a reason for their support, answers from voters sound like this:

“I’m looking for someone who has the interest of the country at heart”.

“I want someone who believes in Bahamian first.”

“It’s time to give someone else a chance.”

“You cyan’ do much worse dan ‘dis!”

When asked to explain how these statements help identify a choice, the explanations are even mare vague. Frustrated respondents make reference to one of three beliefs:

  1. The belief that people go into politics primarily to line their own pockets.
  2. The belief that political power is used to unfairly benefit “friends and family”.
  3. The belief that Government should take care of their personal needs, as represented by their mortgage, their child’s schooling or their ability to find a job.

In other words, as long as a candidate or their party would promise to take care of us – by finding us jobs, negotiating high salaries, offering free education, healthcare or electricity – whether they actually know how to do the job they are applying for or not is not important. After all, others in the past have proven incompetent, and the country is still standing!

This seems a little fatalistic to me. At least during the interview process, we should require applicants to present something that shows that they know what the job is, and have both the commitment and the ability to do it. Declaring that the present staff is incompetent or that the other applicants have no experience is just not good enough.

What makes this process even more difficult is that it’s necessary to recognize that the voter’s choice is not one choice, but two. First, there is the choice of the party whose policies a voter would like to see in place. Government is formed by the party that forms the government, not by the individual candidates, and citizens should know what policies would deliver good government so as to make that first choice. Then, and only then does the choice of the individual candidate become relevant. Candidates must be able to discuss their party’s policies with voters and to commit to support them. But without knowing the requirements of good government, any choice is simply based upon emotion, more often than not just desperation.

So, I have a suggestion. For those who may be looking for a guideline for assessing the success of a government or to evaluate those seeking support to run the government, and assuming that the government’s purpose really is to provide for the satisfaction of the basic needs of its people, I suggest the use of Maslow’s list of human needs to help define the job.

Need #1: Food and Shelter

The way Government ensures the sustained ability to meet the basic, physical survival needs of its citizens is by developing and maintaining adequate trade and a healthy economy. All other services require that these are healthy. Therefore candidates and their parties must be able to demonstrate an understanding of the structure and workings of both trade and the economy, and to present strategies for expanding both.

Need #2: Safety and Security

What makes us feel safe primarily is the rule of law and the institutionalization of the protective agencies. The proper functioning of the justice system and the constant improvement of the framework for the application of the law is the most important form of satisfaction.

Need #3: Belonging

The development of communities requires government to recognize that communities exist, and to develop those agents that provide for the sharing of the value systems and traditions that create and strengthen them. Cultural activity, both formal and informal, is the primary agent for the sustained development of communities, local and national. Government must provide the facilities and opportunities for expanded cultural expression.

Need #4: Self Worth

The sharing of history and of the accomplishments of the members of the community are the most important activities in the satisfaction of this need. Parties and candidates should understand the importance of historical preservation, the teaching of history, monument-building, cultural activity, civic design and the honouring of locally-defined heroes.

Need #5: Self Actualization

This is about “being all you can be”. It is about dreaming. It is about the creation of a mindset that celebrates the act of dreaming, reduces the social impact of failure and provides the infrastructure for self-improvement. It is not about the safety of welfare or protection from the outside world, but rather the pursuit of personally-defined dreams. Both the parties and the candidates must commit to facilitating that pursuit.

Today we are inches from the milestone of another election. We speak of our democracy and our political maturity. It must, by now, be time to demand that political parties and candidates speak of the satisfaction of the real basic needs of the Bahamian citizenry, not just about the dis-honesty or self-destructive behavior of their opponents, or trying to excite us with promises of “free” stuff.

Political parties exist to offer alternative ways to address the satisfaction of our needs. Maybe it’s time for us to require them to do so, or to stop wasting our time, our energy or, most importantly, our dreams for the future.

A community is a social group identified by its shared values, usually resulting from shared circumstance, background or experiences. It is inherently self-defining. Communities are strengthened by the sharing and celebration of those shared values, and by devices that reinforce them. While they may evolve over time, the evolution is always based upon the internal growth and development of the community.

A team is an example of a community, sharing values related to competition. To celebrate and reinforce those values, they get together and talk about the game, about what makes them successful as a team community. They work together on skills that they believe are needed for them to win. They develop internal relationships of trust and mutual responsibility. They are proud to wear their uniform and to be identified with the other members of the team. They celebrate the individual successes of the team members, and relate those successes to the growth and development of the team. As any coach knows, you can’t build a team from the outside. You can’t “legislate” team spirit, a winning attitude or team brotherhood. Junkanoo groups and lodges are also examples of communities sharing values.

Why, then have we concluded that we can “make” our civic communities from the outside? What makes us think we can draw a line on a map and decide that “this is such-and-such a community”? How do we ignore the whole question of shared values and assume that all communities must be the same because they share our prejudices? A legislated grouping may be a constituency, but that does not make it a community. And more often than not, a constituency is made up of many communities, and therefore no single “community” device (e.g. a community center) can address the value-sharing or value-reinforcing needs of all of them.

In my opinion, we have been actively destroying communities for the past several decades in the name of Community Development. The devices that promote the sharing of community values – churches and church halls, youth groups, community gatherings to share cultural expressions, social societies – have been phased out in favour of externally-designed “one-size-fits-all” solutions that destroy the souls of the communities. For example, in the community I grew up in, self-reliance was an important value, and part of what brought many of the men and women we now call the fathers and mothers of the nation to the stage. Today that community is defined by its attitude of dependence and the shared behavior of constant begging. I don’t accept that the change is due to natural “evolution”.

There is a need to revisit our attitude towards communities, to regain respect for the existing social and micro-political structures as representative of the value systems shared by, in some cases, generations of families that have filtered through those communities. We need the humility to seek out the internal coaches, human and otherwise, who know how to build team spirit, to involve the community in training to win and how to develop internal trust and responsibility. Once that is done, legislators can ask what kinds of support is needed by those coaches, rather than constantly sending in new coaches with “one-size-fits-all” game plans and a rule book that promotes dependence on a Central Government.

Two final comments come to mind. Einstein is reputed to have said, “A problem cannot be solved by the mindset that created it.” I think what we are seeing in our communities – from environmental degradation to crime – we have created with the mindset that disrespects the inner sanctity of communities. It is time to change that mindset.

The second is a note from a book I read some years ago. It said there are three conditions of human existence. In hierarchy, from the bottom to the top they are dependence, independence and inter-dependence. Real communities foster inter-dependence.

I was born in Grant’s Town and raised in Bain Town. There is no such community as Bain and Grant’s Town. ‘Nuff said.

 

Who decides how long a political leader stays in office? How long is too long? One term? Two terms? Three terms? Who decides?

If you listen to public conversations and talk radio, you would have to conclude that the political leader himself or herself decides. Somehow, he or she has the power to determine the outcome of their own election. No matter what the people think, if he or she decides to stay for another term, they stay.

Wait a minute! I thought our system of democracy ensured that the winner of the contest is the one with the most votes (please, let’s ignore the wrinkle of constituency imbalances for this discussion). So if a candidate attracts the majority of the votes, he is the one who ends up sitting in office. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work in a democracy? How is it possible to anticipate that someone would lose an election but end up in office, just because they decided to stay? That is the fear that cries out for term limits. If that happens, we would all be screaming that our democracy had been violated.

Term limits assume that democracy does not in fact exist. If the majority of the voters determines that a candidate is unworthy, their responsibility is to vote them out of office. The only way an unworthy person remains in office is if he or she is placed there by the majority of the people, in which case they should remain in the seat, poor performance and all.

What term limits do is remove the responsibility of the citizens to act in accordance with their judgement. The right to vote comes with the responsibility to assess the performance of their representatives and to take responsibility for the outcome of the elections. We do not elect political leaders. We elect constituency representatives. As citizens, it is up to us to decide whether that is a system we wish to keep or to change. But limiting the number of terms an individual stays in office is nothing more than another way of avoiding the fact that democracy has a fundamental flaw, once pointed out by Stokely Carmichael, an American activist,

“The bitterest pill I have had to take is the fact that in a democracy, the majority can never be wrong”. Tuff stuff.

I am not swayed by the fact that other countries have term limits. I am more concerned that because other people may be confused, I should feel constrained to be confused too.

In a recent post, I admitted my regret at my generation’s role in the raising of almost two generations of spoilt, entitled young Bahamians. Several of the responses indicated tht many of you agreed, and were pleased at the admission. So, what now?

Well, rather than trying to be more adult than we were, our children (you) have chosen to approach nation-building as though it is someone else’s job. Based upon your behavior, you apparently assume you are SUPPOSED to have systems in place that create good governance, a “level playing field” and your fair piece of the pie. And when you find   that they are not, your response is to throw a tantrum. None of it is your responsibility.

For example, you demand accountability (and are prepared to give your support to any politician that promises it to you) but take no responsibility for your role in establishing it. When you hire someone, YOU are first of all responsible for their performance. The only way you can live up to that responsibility is to have consequences in the employment contract, including the power to fire them. Otherwise they are not accountable to you and you can’t be accountable to your organization. So how you can demand accountability before demanding the inclusion of consequences in the contracts you sign with your political representatives is a mystery. In fact it’s just plain irresponsible. Your responsibility is to demand better contracts, not stand in the doorway screaming that your employee is not being accountable.

Another of your demands is that your voice be heard. Most people who know me are painfully aware that I believe the Bahamas is the ONLY country ON THE PLANET that has no device for the inclusion of its citizens in the governance of their country. That is the primary role of local government. That, and training people for involvement in public life. It is the curious that almost everything the “We March” effort wants is accomplished by the introduction of an autonomous system of local government. It is your responsibility to control the political agenda, but to do that you have to be adults, making strategic demands that lead to important goals. Are the goals laid out in political party platforms your goals? Most are not my most urgent. For example, most of your current demands are only realistic in the context of a system of local government, and it’s not possible to have accountability without recall. While several parties may have mentioned these, none has made it a major part of their platform, just an afterthought. Those are the pivotal issues for the present, and they are required if you are to live up to your responsibility to ensure a future for your children that is better crafted than the one we crafted for you. No real forward movement is possible without these two factors.

There is no such thing as a level playing field. The only people looking for one are those destined to be the losers. Excellence will always be more favoured than average, and it is your choice which to be. You do NOT have the right to own a house, a car or property. You either pay for them with your own sweat or with the power you give away to politicians. Wealth creation will always be more sustainable than job creation, but it is easier to choose the latter, and to support those who promise you the easy way out. On the other hand, you must eventually come to the realization that there is no such thing as job security (although government jobs may come close) or free lunches.

It is time to build a nation. If we did a poor job, that is not a good enough reason for you to accept that you have no responsibility toward your children. You clearly have no clear idea what building a nation requires, and hope some “leader” will do the research for you, and all you have to do is get him elected. You ignore the key functions needed to create or sustain a country as if you are exempt from needing to develop them. The reason for creating a country is the satisfaction of a whole array of human needs, not the admission to International bodies. How are you addressing those needs? Not very well, I believe. Your complete focus appears to be on basic survival. Despite being the richest nation in the Caribbean, your entire focus is on begging for hand-outs, whether from Government, rich people or the IDB. Learning how to run the family business (Tourism) is not one of your concerns. As my friend Eddie Minnis says, “We’re living in a “me” generation”. Sadly, you are raising your children to be more dependent and bigger bigots than we raised you, teaching them that race, class, party affiliation and national origin are more important than responsibility.

It is time to grow up. Get over your youth. For every Mark Zuckerberg there are a billion ordinary, waiting-to-be-responsible young people just like you. Thinking that your superior tools make you superior to your parents has so far only gotten you a place on the corner begging. 90% of all progress is plain old hard work. We may be sorry we’ve left you a poor inheritance (that appears to be the way you see it) but that is not an excuse to do the same to your children.

It’s time to get over yourselves and get down to the job of building the nation you inherited. No political regime will do it for you. No “leader” will do it for you. You have to ask yourself, “What must I do to build the greatest little country in the world?” Then get off your arrogance and do it.

I am ashamed of my generation.

We dropped the ball fifty years ago, which has led to almost two generations of spoilt children. And now we sit on the sidelines, too embarrassed to admit our errors and to speak the truth, consoling ourselves that our children are more technologically advanced than we are, and that we need to “understand” them. We listen to their conversations and repeat the same meaningless platitudes they use to make themselves feel “educated”. All they do for us is remind us that we screwed up.

What does “It starts in the home” mean? Does that statement tell a new parent what to do to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem? Or is there some toxic product in the home that turns children into monsters? The fact is that the statement has no functional meaning beyond finding someplace to place the blame and making the speaker seem enlightened.

Or how about “It takes a village to raise a child”? This is simply an observation by someone from a nuclear family background that extended family communities produce more culturally stable children, but the sentence is used to lament the loss of community in the Bahamas. Unfortunately, it does not offer a bridge between the present social condition being addressed and the ideal being expressed. What exactly does one do tomorrow to begin to apply the principle of the village raising a child?

The claim that “these children are different” suggests a need to find new solutions to the problems of human development. Unfortunately the statement ignores the fact that humans have not in fact changed, only the tools with which they solve their problems have. The problems are still the same, their needs are still the same and the community must still address these social, emotional and spiritual issues squarely if it is to survive. The slogan does nothing more than give us an excuse for not having engaged a successful child-rearing process. It says we are not responsible for their behavior because we don’t really know these kids. Instead, we ask them to raise themselves.

These kinds of platitudes have led us to make at least three terrible mistakes.

The first was our abandonment of a commitment to our role in the transmission of cultural values. For the record, cultural values are the beliefs a particular community shares about good and bad, right and wrong, fair and unfair, good and bad manners etc. They are primarily acquired during the first seven years of life, a period we have now chosen to use to “jumpstart” our children academically, making academic results more important than the transmission of values.

Secondly, we have convinced ourselves that academic results are more important than the development of character. Parents are quite prepared to drive their children the length of the island or pay a fortune to have their children in the “right” pre-school or primary school, but are completely unconcerned about the lack of focus on a value system. Manners and respect for others are not considered important. Good grades are. Agencies that focus on the development of character are considered “extras”.

Thirdly, and perhaps most destructively, we have replaced morality with legality. Public decency and respect for other people and their property are replaced by declarations of personal rights. While we certainly have the right to raise monsters, we also have the responsibility to raise productive citizens. Watching our children shoot and kill one another must remind us of that responsibility and of our failure to live up to it. Personal rights must take a back seat to societal rights if the society is to survive. This, I’m afraid, is exactly opposite to what we have taught our children, and their belligerent behavior should not surprise us as much as it does. If they behave as though their wishes are more important than the creation of order in the society, it is because we have convinced them of that truth.

The development of a nation is not about the celebration of individual rights, but about the creation of an environment in which every citizen has the opportunity to achieve their full potential. Maslow gives a great guide for planning a community’s development, which requires attention to the satisfaction of the social, emotional and spiritual needs of all of the members of the community. The social environment designed to nurture the development of character is called the socializing process, which certainly begins in the home, but it relies for its success on partnerships with a multitude of social agents, from schools to churches, lodges, youth groups and cultural presenters. Non-organic programs only magnify the failure of the poor socializing process.

My generation failed to live up to these responsibilities, being more concerned about “international” validation, the creation of personal wealth and the fascination with a variety of sectoral rights. Somehow we forgot that the most important right we have is the right to a civilized environment in which to live, which requires respect, public decency, a celebration of communal traditions and cultural identity. It is only possible to address anti-social behavior if there is a clear and agreed definition of social behavior, and that definition can never be a legal arrangement. It is ur concern for sectoral rights that has made our communities unlivable, not crime.

We dropped the ball, those of us over 70. We have lied to our children about almost every aspect of their development and raised them to be spoilt and entitled. Talk shows demonstrate this, with hours on end of complaints about everyone in authority and precious few attempts at crafting solutions to the nation’s real problems or taking responsibility for solving them. Their unproductive behavior makes noise, but does little to move the country forward. They blame us for the inertia, saying we should get out of the way. The problem is, they are less prepared to run a country than we were, because our parents did a better job of preparing us to take responsibility than we have.

I am ashamed of my generation.

 

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ARTICLES BY PAT RAHMING