Nowadays, there is no problem catching the news. It comes at you whether you want it or not—from car radio, radio on cable, television, on your Smart phone, social media, network news, shows commenting on the news, news from the United States, Europe, Britain, Al-Jazeera. And it’s nearly all bad and then some. There are those friends who take suspicious pleasure in giving you a full brief on the latest bloody car accordion, or the latest nunc demittis from a particularly virulent disease. (If you don’t know the meaning of that strange phrase, you shoulda been listening in Ms Davis’ class!)
I read and listen to the news like a child with one eye completely shut and peering out from under the blankets with the other squinting. What’s going on in the world at large and in The Bahamas is so unprecedented in the ability to change what has existed for millions of years in a day, by putting nuclear triggers in the all too strong and steady hands of people with shaky brains. It does not help to hear of “earthquakes in divers places”, melting icecaps and nature in need of a good ol’ swig of Bacardi’s best or a daily dose of Prozac. There’s some good news—take the cure for yourself. It won’t calm the shaking out there, but it might soothe ours.
Now, along with “Now I lay me down to sleep”, we add “Lord, please give us one piece of good news tomorrow and I pray you not to allow the crazies to wake.” Don’t feel bad, if you, like some of us check our house doors twice and under our beds three times. The truth is, there are too many boogeymen—we call them “sperrits”—floating around, waiting for a chance to alter your mind, your body and your future and none in a good way.
“Sperrits” walkin’—somebody forgot to sprinkle benne in some coffins to make sure the dead do the decent and lay still to wait for the last trump—no not that one. That’s just what I think when I learned of the kerfuffle going on in our little islands: Dominicans stealing the future of Bahamian fisheries by taking undersized product; government ministries shredding documents to hide fraud; MP in civil trial for non-payment of just bills. Let’s pause a moment here—13 years of unpaid bills? Was the company’s accountant in a coma? This is so common among Bahamians. Where do you think the money is coming from to run the country, if you don’t pay your bills? How many times do I have to say that the country’s bank is us—A least the ones who pay what we owe. Then there are those former high-ranking members who spend their days pleading the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, straight through to the 100th. Nevermind that they dug a hole of infamy so deep because they paid little attention to holding tight the reins of government that the whole stable-full of Bahamian horses ran away—namely those from the stables of government ministries.
We have been deep in Wonderland ever since the 2017 election campaigning and during the post-season post mortems, which seem to be endless, but have not uncovered enough to reveal the cause of the death of integrity among so many public servants or the cancer that put the Public Treasury and the national budget into hospice care. Can I call on the forensic pathologists to use a sharper scalpel? The people want to know who else stole our cheese and left behind the rat trap unsprung to ensnare us.
In the meantime, there have arisen a matter that boggles the mind. A certain fabled emperor, who enjoyed the sad disgrace of many supposed leaders genuflecting before him to merit his favour. Now out of sight but not out of mind, the mogul is confident enough to thumb his august nose at The Bahamas justice system, which has imposed a hefty fine. Since I see a good few members of the judiciary showing a stiff backbone—I don’t think the attempts to escape payment will avoid a dust up. I have a recommendation for the money, if ever seized—do something about Accident & Emergency, which is nearly as old as the hospital’s namesake would be if she still lived.
But all of this is child’s play in the light of the World War Eleuthera over the Lighthouse Point peninsula. It’s like a bunch of hyenas going after a carcass—wild and snarling. Disney is behaving like the post-Civil War carpetbaggers in the South. The second tribe of combatants are the environmentalists and the third, the Lighthouse Point Partnership (LPP). These two groups treat the South Eleuthera residents either like ailing or fractious children—the first to be treated as feeble-minded and in need of protection and the others to be given a long time out. What we’re seeing is external and internal imperialism—Disney threatening to take its marbles from the ring and go—never back home—but in search of a destination that is even more desperate than South Eleuthera, where the administration will roll out the red carpet–No sticky questions asked.
In the middle of it all, the residents of South Eleuthera have been forced to take the role of the flesh in contention. That these people believe that nothing will be left for them or of them ring clearly through the heartfelt cry of the delegation who travelled to Nassau recently to appeal to Prime Minister Hubert Minnis to sign with Disney. Reverend Philip McPhee asked, “Ever hear about Bannerman Town? …In Bannerman Town, it seemed like a curse was on us for a long time. And now it seems like the good Lord has lifted this course off of us to bring a company like Disney in. The people can’t wait.”
My question to the Disney-deniers is this? How many of you have been to Bannerman Town? I have more than once. There is indeed tranquillity, but there are also little or no sounds of industry that buys the bread and clothes families.
The teams are playing for control of reality in Eleuthera and there will be little chance of a do-over when the last innings are over. It has all made me recall the 1999 science fiction The Matrix. As the central element of the plot, Morpheus, one of the main characters in the film, asks the hero, “Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you weren’t able to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference from the real world and the dream world?”
Morpheus offers the hero a choice between a red pill that will show him the truth about the Matrix, and a blue pill that will return him to his former life. After swallowing the red pill, Neo’s reality disintegrates. My dear Bahamians, there is no red or blue pill for us. We do have our brains, however. We just have to use them with fortitude, transparency and honesty towards the people, whose future is in play. First, let me declare that I will always fall on the side of the environment. With borders slamming shut around the world, where do we flee to when we have destroyed that which is our own. I declare further that I’m always on the side of equity for my people. This is no contradiction. There is a solution that can bring equity and better times for all concerned and I include the environment of Lighthouse Point as the chief shareholder. On the subject of the land in contention, “Louise P” wrote a letter to the editor on this subject, which appeared in The Tribune of October 19. With the commonsense, she displays, she has become my new best friend in spirit. Start by asking the right questions—all the ones that Louise proposes.
Secondly, I say, demand to be shown the money—Don’t be dazzled by the $55 billion in earnings that Disney declared in 2017. I don’t mean cash only, either on the table or under the table. Hold out to construct and sign a Heads of Agreement with backbone and the backing of astute and enforceable legislation; money in terms of major, tested environmental conservation and protection programmes; money in terms of contingencies for damages, money in terms of real jobs. Be fair to all parties, including LPP, but don’t favour any cronies who desire to own a mega yacht, thanks to Disney’s occult largesse.
Note that I have loved Mickey Mouse all my life (I would have been a Mouseketeer if I could), but don’t put old MM in charge of deciding what kinds of jobs with dignity Bahamians will get or what vending opportunities will be made available to locals. However, let him take part in dreaming up unique entrepreneurial partnerships between Disney and Bahamians. Mickey has proven the inventiveness of his mind over long decades.
A word to LPP. Here’s a window of opportunity. Don’t throw in the towel. You flash your cash, too—build something, get something moving. I don’t mean a here-today, gone-tomorrow Potemkin Village. You too have inventive minds; get Eleuthera people to trust your word by your bankable deeds.
Then the government should use the power it has. Make very certain that Minnie Mouse—Bless her tender heart—is not advising you on the toughness of your legislation. Bolster up those aspects of government that usually prove weak in rough economic and politically charged times—vigilance, monitoring, enforcing, renegotiating.
Lastly, a word to the people of the Lighthouse Point area. You have a role to play—build skills and knowledge to be able to ask the right questions, to take advantage of the best opportunities, to invent and present opportunities, to play fair, and to work hard—no slunking, no “Bahamian time”.
I say, God bless Eleuthera and, as Tiny Tim of Christmas Carol fame cherubically intones each year: God bless us everyone.