Writing for The Nation in 2002, Raúl Courel, himself an Argentinian, reflected on whether the people of Argentina suffered from a moral sickness that made them prone to wrongdoing. When I read the first lines, I said “Wow! This guy is tricky; he is writing about The Bahamas but pretending that he’s describing his homeland.
Our country seems to be writing its own picaresque novel, which is defined as a genre of fiction that depicts the adventures of a roguish of low social class, who lives by their wits in a corrupt society. Bingo Bahamas. What else could anyone say in light of the news reports of the past couple of months? Just two cases are proof enough that we are having tea with the Mad Hatter.
Before we look at these two matters, bear in mind that The Bahamas, at present, has a number of economic and social challenges, all smart Bahamians should be worrying about, writing about and directing all our brainpower and our energies towards solutions. However, a number of well-known, and even influential Bahamians have chosen to drag us down the rabbit hole where morality is turned upside down and chaos reigns.
Parliament passed a new National Honours System in 2016, establishing Societies of Honour, which include The Order of National Hero, The Order The Bahamas, The Order of Distinction, The Order of Merit, The Order of the Lignum Vitae. Sounds simple and laudable enough doesn’t it? (That’s the “ding dong, you’re wrong” buzzer you hear echoing in your head.)
On July 9, the National Cabinet of The Bahamas announced the names of four former leaders of the country whom the Government named to The Order of National Hero: Sir Roland Symonette, the first premier of the Bahamas under internal self-rule; Sir Lynden Pindling, the first prime minister of the independent Bahamas; Sir Milo Butler, the first Bahamian Governor General of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and Sir Cecil Wallace Whitfield, founder of the Free National Movement, which currently administers the government. Not a peep raised about the latter three late gentlemen; it is the naming of Sir Roland, which gave the members of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to, Pied Piper-like, play that seductive pipe of racism to lead many Bahamians to drown in river of shameful stupidity.
They called the decision to include Roland Symonette in the top order “perverse”. They denounced him the leader of a racist regime. It seemed they wanted Lynden Pindling named as the first and sole awardee to the highest honour, and, of course, Milo Butler who, while yet he lived, breathed fire and brimstone on behalf of the party now in opposition in The Bahamas Parliament. Expect no objection there. Cecil Wallace-Whitfield didn’t even get a mumble in any direction, so I guess he okay. In any case, there was no in-depth research or reflection on any of the four goodly gentlemen, whom I hope are basking in the fields of the Lord, and cannot hear any of the spite hubbub below.
This writer’s take on the row? I’m quite at peace having Symonette, Butler, Pindling and Wallace-Whitfield named to the Order of the Nation. I’m a follower of the Jesus who invited the bloodthirsty stone-throwers to fire away if they were sure they had no sin. I say to the Symonette detractors who are looking for heroes without any stain, try another planet. Look next door at the United States, George Washington owned slaves and Thomas Jefferson not only owned slaves but fathered children with one of them. So, do we erase the fact that without Washington’s heroism, the USA would now be an “Overseas Territory” and its people saying “Jolly good!” at every turn?
But let’s look closer home. That admirable polymath Stephen Dillet was a slave owner, should we denounce him as racist and remove his name from the Wulff Road school? Consider the case of Lynden Pindling—all of a sudden a well-known journalist has nigh made him a saint, practically giving him credit for launching the breakdown of apartheid in South Africa. Was this journalist happy to “blacken” his name of yore? But seriously, as prime minister, Pindling put out the welcome mat for the coca lords and brought a ruination and tendency to lawlessness that haunts families, our society and the Bahamian economy to this day.
How I see it? Pindling like Symonette was multi-sided like the rest of us. For me the acid test is does the good that they did (and yes they did) outweigh the wrongdoing. I would say so. Let those without sin cast the first stone. I plead with the Opposition to find a less perverse way of trying to hold on to relevance.
Now for the second case of Mad Hatterdom. It isn’t worth more than a single sentence, it is so far off the cliff of sanity. A goodly gentleman who thought the people’s hard-earned savings should be his personal disposable income is now proposing to sue the government who have at long last called a halt to the insane free-for-all. Nuff said!