This fable was part of a “Conversation With Pat Rahming” with students of the art and architecture classes at the College of the Bahamas on Friday, September 16, 2016. It addresses the popular discussion of building a nation.

Two friends, Og and Shabog, crouched behind a tree, waiting for the winter’s food to come by, armed to the teeth with rocks and their best clubs. Og turns to Shabog and, out of the clear, blue sky says,

“Let’s start a nation.”

Shabog’s short forehead furrowed, as he searched his computer-like prehistoric brain.

“What the hell’s a nation?”

The ground began to shake. The mammoth would soon be in the valley below.

“ Gorgon the Seer talked about something called a nation he once saw when looking into the future. Sounded cool.”

“So how do you start one of them?”

“When we get back to camp, let’s go ask him. Here comes the beast. Time to go to work.”

The old man motioned for them to sit down on the ground. He walked around the fire, selected a special branch from a pile next to his stool and dropped it into the fire. As the smoke engulfed him, he stood above it, eyes closed, head raised toward the cave’s ceiling. Then he sat down, opened his red eyes and began to speak.

“I see a great tribe made up of many tribes. Under a mystic spell, all the tribes in the great valley will put down their clubs and rocks and become one great tribe. All tribes will be one within what will be called a nation tribe.”

Og was curious. “How will that be possible? Each tribe is so different.”

The old man’s voice got higher and stronger, and he began to rock back and forth on his stool.

“In the future, a wise man says that what makes a tribe a tribe and what makes all tribes one are the same.  All warriors and their women and their children are carried to their destinies through the measure of the same five tests. The tribe confronts the tests for each tribesman, but the nation tribe will face them for all the tribes.”

Og and Shabog looked at each other. They have no idea what was just said.

“But what are these five tests?”

The cave was now filled with smoke, and Og and Shabog were feeling a little strange.

“They are the test of food, the test of safety, the test of the tribe-family, the test of honour and the test of becoming. Every warrior passes them for his woman and children, the tribe passes them for each warrior and the tribe nation passes them for the tribes.”

What the old man was saying made no ense to Og. Maybe this nation idea was just the old man’s imagination. Besides, he wasn’t saying anything about how to start one of these nation things. They might as well leave. But Shabog was now leaning forward, listening.

“To survive the first test, the test of food, the nation makes its food. Women no longer need to go into the forest and the tribes no longer have to go from forest to forest or follow the herd across the plains searching for food. The nation creates forests and herds, and the tribes trade with each other for food and water. In the nation there is enough food for everyone. No one dies for want of food, and the first test is completed”

Now the two friends were sure the old man was crazy. Imagine having enough food for many tribes. This nation thing must be just a wild dream.

“The second test is the test of safety. In the nation, everyone is safe because all the tribes agree to live in peace. Each man’s cave is respected, and called his property. Each tribe sends out their best warriors to stand watch, and punishment is the same for all. Fire is always lit, and each cave has wood enough to spare. The test of safety is passed in the tribe nation.”

Shabog started to laugh. There is no way a tribe would feel safe being guarded by another tribe’s men. But the old man was on a roll.

“Every man must belong to a tribe, and the tribe is the first family a man finds. The nation will be the second family. The nation family respects the tribe families and makes provision for each tribe to become stronger. The nation celebrates its tribal makeup and the things its tribes share. The nation keeps the customs of the tribes sacred, and creates customs all tribes share. In the tribe nation all tribes are one, but all tribes are still true to their own past.”

“Wait!” says Shabog, “You’re saying that this big tribe wants each tribe to be strong? Doesn’t that make it harder for the nation to control the tribes?”

“Yes it does. But is it not true that the stronger each of a tribe’s warriors is, the stronger that tribe is? In the same way, by having strong tribes, the nation becomes stronger.”

“Yes, yes. I see.”

“By building strong tribes within the nation tribe, the nation passes the test of the tribe family. And that is where the next test begins – the test of honour. Regardless of their tribe, the nation honours all great heroes of the hunt, keepers of the tales, the great doers of magic and all the greatest feats of strength in public ceremonies and monuments. Each man, regardless of his tribe, is given value in the nation tribe. And thus the nation passes the test of honour.”

The old man stopped, and the cave was silent again. Only the crackle of the fire broke the almost sacred silence. The two friends understood the need to honour the great ones, and this test made sense. With his eyes closed, the old man raised his arms towards the ceiling.

“Finally, the greatest test of all is the test of becoming. The nation seeks to make every tribesman great. Its warriors are trained by the best warriors from all the tribes. The same  is true for its singers of songs, makers of loincloths and painters of cave walls. In the nation, the many different tribes have come together to give every tribesman the best chance to be great. In the future, this will be the greatest test of the nation. In the future, the nation will create great halls for the pursuit of wisdom and places of becoming great. In this way it will pass the test of becoming.”

The old man opened his eyes slowly, and Og and Shabog noticed that they were completely glazed over. On his face there was now a strange, toothless grin as he rocked back and forth on his stool, covered in dark grey soot.

Suddenly a great shadow fell across the fire, and the old man’s woman stormed into the cave.

“You crazy old man. You burnin’ tha’ bush again? You know thas what gat you crazy now. Seein’ the future my eye! You’s just be dope up on tha’ bush, thas all.”

And thus ended the dream of Og Nation, One Million Y

ears BC.

Once upon a time, humans lived in caves. Some still do. Literally. We went out, found and killed stuff and brought it back to our cave. While we were gone, we knew our family was protected by the cave, and it made us feel good.

When bad weather came, we blocked the entrance to the cave and moved deeper into its safety.

stoneage-family-20578687

Today, our cave looks different. It’s got many entrances rather than the standard one, these things called “windows”, and thin walls. It’s much easier for the neighbours to get in to take our “stuff” while we are away, and a wooly mammoth or a bit of bad weather can easily leave us cave-less.

So we’ve learned to rely on things called “locks” and “hurricane straps” and “impact windows” and “reinforced concrete” to feel OK about leaving our cave to go out hunting. Today, we can even use magic eyes to see what’s happening in and around the cave while we are miles away with something called “cell phones”.

This is what we call cave security.

Oh, and today we call our cave our home. The neighbours who want to take our treasures we call burglars. The witchcraft that allows us to watch our homes while we are away we call surveillance. The wooly mammoth is gone, but the bad weather we now call hurricanes.

This week, Patrick Rahming & Associates and Cacique Homes have arranged for experts in the various aspects of home security to bring us up to date about these things. We’ll hear about developments in the technology of impact doors and windows, surveillance systems and building intelligence. And since stuff happens, we’ll hear about the role and benefits of insurance.

The event is called “Is Your Home Secure”, and is open to the public as part of our effort to share information. We hope you find it useful.

(The flier is below.)

Seminar Flier 3_0

 

 

 

How many times have you heard it? You’re listening to your favorite politician tell you how he plans to create a better world…..

“I’ve got a great idea….I’m going to…”

A year or two later, you remember the “good idea” and check it’s progress, only to find that it had not worked as expected. Was it a matter of resources? Was the timing wrong? Or was the idea a good idea in the first place?

One current example is the “idea” of making Bain and Grant’s Town a Free Trade Zone. The apparent rationale is that it would “revitalize” the area. It would not.

Are the people of Grant’s Town poorer than the people of Pinewood Gardens, Nassau Village or Yellow Elder Gardens? No. Their plight is similar, except for one thing: the former area has had a longer time to decay, and the rot is more evident in that area. Money might create a less derelict environment for a while, but it will not address the real reason for the decay.

Those of us who grew up in either Bain Town or Grant’s Town lament the decay, because we remember the proud people who, with very little money, fought the decay daily. They kept their yards clean (even under the floor) and their houses repaired (most of the time by themselves). It was important to them that everyone knew they were decent people. There are still many of those people in the area, and they still insist on being known as “decent people”. For them, duty free materials might be a nice bonus, but it would never be the reason they repair, expand or refurbish their property. Their reason would still be that they are “decent people”.

The idea would also not encourage significant business. The two existing duty free zones have both been struggling economically for decades. Freeport is nowhere near the business environment that Marsh Harbour is. Nor is Bay Street. The fact is that while there are certainly benefits to creating free trade zones, it is the mindset of the people of the zone that creates the environments, both personal and business. And the mindset of the people of Bain and Grant’s Town, the mindset created by the promises of politicians of paternalistic policies, the mindset the “idea” of the free trade zone is designed to exploit, is one of dependency. Most of the present residents honestly believe that to change or improve their condition they need Government help, despite the good work of activists in the area to demonstrate otherwise.

Bain and Grant’s Town is a major part of the City of Nassau, not its backyard. When both the political establishment and the people of the area recognize that fact, then the planning agenda of the City will include them, and real change might become possible.

The problem is this: the “good idea “must first of all be a way to solve a problem that has been identified for which a solution has been conceptualized. When you know you need to cut the grass and that a lawnmower is a solution, the “idea” of borrowing a lawnmower makes sense. But before you decide that the height of the grass is a problem, the lawnmower is irrelevant. First the problem must be identified, then a solution conceptualized, then “ideas” about how to make the solution possible. That is the sustainable sequence.

“I have an idea. Let’s make Bain and Grant’s Town a Free Trade Zone”.

Totally irrelevant idea.

August 6, 2016

Richard Lightbourne thought he saw a problem and proposed a logical fix for it. If the statistics show that people struggle economically when they have lots of children, then those having economic problems should have fewer children. The perks would be that the country’s social service network would be relieved.

But that’s not how it works.

Fortunately, few of us are the result of an economic plan, nor were our parents pessimistic enough to predict their own hard times and avoid the extra expense. And no one had the right to tell Grammy to tie her tubes.

Recently, the PM unveiled a scheme that he says would form the basis for a new Master Plan for the City of Nassau. Like Mr. Lightbourne, the study, no doubt expertly conducted by a Viennese Technical College and the College of the Bahamas, presents a logical guide for the physical development of Bain and Grants Town, based upon what appears to be an external value system. Whether it is logical or not is irrelevant. Planning is first of all about intent. It is about the intended development of the potential of the community being planned. And the key to its success is self-determination.

Communities are defined by shared values, not political constituencies or convenience. Bain Town is different from Grants Town. No amount of legalese will change that. But it can compromise both of their developments.

Having not seen the plan presented, I admit my comments may be out of order. The fact that activists in the area I spoke to had not been interviewed suggests that the plan may be premature. Mr. Lightbourne’s intention was good (I believe), but his solution would have imposed his privileged values on Bahamian women. Government and the IDB may also have good intention, but they have similarly placed the cart before the horse (the solution before the question) and are preparing to impose external value conclusions on those communities.

The community reacted both immediately and passionately to Mr. Lightbourne’s comments, but not at all to the news of a master plan for their city. Unfortunately, the effect of a master plan on the social development of the communities included is crucial to the behavior we see on the streets. You see, an environment that does not express the value of those inhabiting it produces people who show no value for themselves, and therefore for others. If crime is an issue, self-worth is the number one weapon. And the master plan‘s intent is the first volley in the battle.

 

 

This is a part of a presentation developed and presented about 5 years ago, shared with at least one Government Minister.

Imagine:

  • You take the edge of the wharf along Woodes Rogers Walk, the one used by the booze cruises, water taxis and ferries, and extend it out about 75 feet. That leaves more than enough for those present uses.
  • Imagine extending this new wharf as a walkway all the way around to the end of Prince George Dock. (Still leaving enough space).
  • You now have over 2 acres of brand-new, unzoned, publicly-owned waterfront property (plus the Customs Building, of course).

Now, imagine:

  • You create a zone of art, craft and entertainment, using both the new property and the existing Customs Building on Prince George Dock. The development would be similar in some ways to Bayside in Miami or Navy Pier in Chicago.

Market Range2

Then imagine:

  • The whole development themed as the Nassau of 1850, with buildings built of “old” wood, lit by gas lamps and with cobblestone floors. The façade of the Customs Building converted to the façade of the then Bay Street (or its equivalent). Workers in the area might even wear period clothing.
  • A replica of the Queen Anne’s Revenge (Blackbeard’s ship), moored at the western end of Prince George Dock as a tour.
  • A new dockage for themed water taxis and ferries at the western end of the development, and an open, floating stage for occasional free concerts at the eastern end.

Balcony House

 And now, can you imagine?

  • The whole development created by a Public-Private Corporation designed to create entrepreneurial opportunities for local businesspeople.
  • 20-hour-a-day commerce and entertainment from Rawson Square to Navy Lion Road, with millions of satisfied visitors annually and hundreds of successful local businesses.
  • Existing Woodes Rogers Walk businesses sharing this new success, with both new volumes and extended business hours.
  • This development fuelling new and more vibrant business in the whole area.

By the way, the development would draw on the history of Nassau harbour as the most important (and safest) in the region, with a key role in piracy, slavery, rum running, wrecking and, of course, Colonial rule. It would be called Olde Nassau Harbour, and I believe it could be the most potent destination attraction in the region from its completion.

Just thinkin’…..

July 17, 2016

 

 

“You can’t build a long term business with short term strategies”

(Webinar on E-Commerce)

In the recent Budget Communication, government unveiled a new Apprenticeship Program, with a $22M price tag. The Opposition noted that it was pretty much the same as the program they had proposed, with a different name. What both entities seem to have agreed on is the need to provide job training for the multitude of school leavers who are un-prepared for entry to the workplace.

On the surface, this seems an appropriate response from a caring government. But on reflection, it is the most shocking admission of failure by both the present PLP and the former FNM governments. Both are admitting that the nation’s education system is not expected to produce individuals prepared for engagement with the real world. In fact, they have together perpetuated an agreement to fund four entities to do the same job: produce a citizen capable of functioning productively in the society. There are four line items in the Budget to produce the same functional individual: the Ministry of Education, BTVI, The National Training Institute and the new Apprenticeship Program.

The three clearly-remedial programs demonstrate two very serious biases. The first is the commonly-held belief that someone who chooses to fix cars is less intelligent than someone who chooses to become a lawyer. Not only is this not a reasonable assumption, the case may in fact be reversed. But as a result of that assumption, the Ministry of Education’s program facilitates the lawyer with his academic degrees, and treats the fixer of cars as a problem to be “fixed” in the shed out back. Painting the shed makes it no less a shed.

The need to re-assess the very core of the nation’s educational strategy has been urgent for decades, but is still buried under a conversation about “grade average”, a concept most teachers have agreed has no discernable use in the real world, where 50% of those reaching the end of their schooling are not qualified to graduate, and most, as noted above, are useless in the workplace.

The second issue is the ease with which we agree to postpone addressing our crippled education system by creating remedial programs, most of which become entrenched. Fifty years ago, schooling included technical and trade instruction. That  system, regarded by today’s “modern” educators as archaic, produced the fathers of our nation. Today’s system is creating unproductive (and therefore dependent) young people, many of whom have expressed their frustration in ways that frighten most of us.

Remedial programs can never be the building blocks for the development of a progressive nation.

June 18, 2016

“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

“…I have a right as a Bahamian….”

“They can’t just come here and expect to get citizenship”

“…As Bahamians, we have to protect our rights!…….”

Sound familiar? We hear it all day long on radio, on TV and on social media. Bahamians worried about their rights. What you probably don’t hear is a similar concern about the responsibilities that create those rights.

For example, the current discussion about the potential amendments to the Constitution revolves around two issues; the possibility of gay marriages and citizenship for the foreign husbands, wives and children of Bahamians. Bahamians are passionate about the protection of their citizenship. But what about the responsibilities of citizenship? Are they as passionate about living up to the responsibility to be engaged in the governance of their country? It appear not.

We do not intend to have foreigners come here and take advantage of our precious God-given citizenship.

For example, recently we embarked on a process to develop a 25-year plan for the development of the country. The first step is documenting the starting point, what the Government calls the State of the Nation. This is the foundation from which planning for the future begins. It is certainly a core citizenship responsibility to become involved in the construction of that foundation, first by becoming familiar with the contents of the report, then by providing responsible comments and responses, and finally by demanding that the final report represents something they can build on.

Unfortunately, I’ve spoken to too few people who have either read the document or intend to. They have accepted that the Government is on its own path and has its own agenda, and that their comments would have no impact on the final document, despite the effort to involve them in its initial compilation. To some extent, the present report does justify their concern, but it does not relieve them of the responsibility to engage in the process. The National Development Plan can only make sense if it is based upon agreed objectives. The choice of objectives is affected by the perception of the starting point. That is why this first step is so important. We cannot afford to “leave it up to Government”. Our rights as citizens is only worth fighting for if we are prepared to live up to our responsibilities as citizens. Then, and only then, can we be concerned about others “taking advantage” of our citizenship opportunities.

(By the way, as someone whose life – especially my creative life – has been immeasurably blessed by foreigners who decided to make the Bahamas their home, our paranoia about foreigners seems out of place.)

Living up to the responsibility of citizenship is what gives us rights. If we fail to live up to those responsibilities, we cannot expect to have the rights. It is time to begin behaving like citizens. Or are we just Permanent Residents with the Right to Gripe?

May 15, 2016

 

cultural-city-tour-of-nassau-in-nassau-289266

Think of the last time you went somewhere overseas. Maybe it was to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando or London. Or maybe it was a cruise. What made it worthwhile? How did you measure its value in relation to its cost? In all likelihood, it was the specialness of the memories you shared with friends and relative, even after many year. Just listen to a grandmother share the memories of her honeymoon in Acapulco decades ago with her teenage grand-daughter. The gleam in her eye transforms her whole face. The cost of the trip was well worth whatever it was.

The business of Tourism is all about the creation of memories.

The way memories are shaped for a tourist – including you and me when we travel – is by getting the inside story of the lives and stories of the people in the places they visit. They get to experience the special places, share the unique history and lifestyle of those people. And the door through which visitors are invited into these inner stories are the stock of attractions created to share that story.

  • Tours, the most important attraction, provide safe, guided access to the unique and special details of local life.
  • Events bring them to places where they can be exposed to local lifestyle and customs.
  • Resorts expose special natural or man-made attractions while hosting visitors.
  • Retail attractions are the point-of-sale for the creative output of the community.

 

This is how the visitor gets what every tourist has always looked for– memories and tales to share with those they love.

I hear you asking, “But how does this affect the economy?”

Well, attractions require a wide range of skills, from business planners to architects and their many consultants, from human resource training and supply to creative consultants and performers, from marketing and promotional specialists to producers and many others. Attractions are one of the most potent ways for a tourist destination to provide employment and build wealth while building market success.

They are, indeed, “economic indicators”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A politician is not just someone who decides to make a living manipulating public perceptions, with the power to shape the transaction of public or communal affairs. A politician is also someone who understands the purpose behind the rules and regulations, the traditions and customs, the do’s and don’t’s of so-called “public” life. He or she acquires most of that understanding through actual involvement in the process of governance. It cannot be acquired without that involvement. I am not a golfer, although I “know” most of the rules and regulations, traditions and etiquette of the game, having watched it for years.

It is therefore ridiculous to suggest that non-politicians would do a better job of governance than politicians. That is the equivalence of suggesting that because your favorite basketball team stinks, we should replace them with people from the stands. A more sensible strategy would obviously be to find better basketball players.

If, then, we are to improve on the current abysmal political performance at the National level, replacing poorly trained politicians with untrained ones is not a winning strategy (basically why we are where we are today). Providing training for those aspiring to enter the political arena makes much more sense.

Unfortunately, as long as we pretend that the only way to train politicians is on the job at the National level we will never get well-trained politicians. The NBA and the NFL know that players are trained in colleges and high schools, and they do everything they can to support and encourage their development, for entirely selfish reasons. Yet our legislators apparently see that training as a threat, and worse still, we, the citizens, see it as an un-necessary expense.

Systems of local government (city, district, island etc.) are the “schools” in which politicians are trained. Creating the systems that provide that training is the way to replace non-performing politicians, not constantly looking for “good new people” or so-called “outsiders” with little or no training, but lots of loud and irresponsible threats for those with whom they disagree, and no commitment to the development of social justice.

April 10, 2016

 

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ARTICLES BY PAT RAHMING