Tuesday, September 19, 2006

What follows was inspired by Bahamian teams competing recently in the 11th Caribbean Volley Ball Games in Kendal Isaac’s Gym. What I know of the team which is Bahamian life, which is our Bahamian nation, left me embarrassed watching our team of men and our team of women players, struggling to win but instead not doing very well, losing to nearly every country they went up against.

I did not find either team very impressive. Though performing at home, they did not seem very confident. Knowing the country I live in, knowing how it functions daily, being a functioning part of it myself, though embarrassed, disappointed, I was not surprised.

Their performing here at home provided this writer vision. I was able to look at one or the other of our teams upon the court on television, on TV 13, performing and shifting my eyes ever so slightly, have a view of the wider Bahamian community which I am constantly observing.

The team upon the court was our community of 300, 000 in miniature. The larger team, the real team, the team which is without end playing, is Bahamian life. It is at once practice and reality and forever ongoing. The game which is national life is not played for points. It is played for survival, a life and death matter. At once at stake is the survival of nation as well as each individual citizen. All for one, one for all, all in one, one in all, which is as it should be.

This ideal though, in the daily equation of Bahamian life, seems to be an idea realized not even by those in leadership in our country. That it is foreign to the population generally is therefore not surprising.

My observation and my disappointment is that Bahamian life, from day to day, though it should be, is not as a team’s works. What we have are individuals grabbing whatever, anyway they can: cliques, factions, races, classes, denominations competing, undoing, undermining in every, in any way possible.

Who, I am constantly left to wonder, is looking out for the one group, for the one team to which we all belong? I find it a wonder that it somehow holds together – find it a wonder that it does not rip apart, rip into ever-so-many pieces, no piece large enough for anyone to float upon.

In spite of how horribly we get along, in spite of our extremely poor team spirit, our extremely poor team ethics, we dare put a sample, a drop as it were, of this Bahamian team upon a court to compete and expect it to do wonders, expect them to win.

To me it seemed to be asking much, quite a bit too much. It seems artificial, false, to assemble these teams. It seems like an attempt to lie about who we are and about how we are, to expect a team to represent or rather to misrepresent us as a country.

For them to work together like clock work would be a misrepresentation, a lie and a mystery as well, when the country they are a piece of, a bit of, functions like a clock that’s broken, out-a-date and out-a-time. I want the truth not some forced, false image. I want the nation fixed, the nation functioning, the nation without end, practicing to be the best team possible. It is this which such games are intended to reflect and to measure ideally.

Of what use and what truth is a gold medal team if the nation it represents is not worth a rusty nickel. Sports results can in this way be misleading, misguiding but when our accomplishments in sports reflect truly, the national dynamic, as I think it did in these recent games, we see clearly what we need to work on, what moves we need to practice, how integrated must be the efforts of the team of 300,000 if we are to triumph, if we are to gain every possible advantage with every move, every thought, every action - sealing ourselves against infiltration of any harmful, foreign substance or agent.

Keeping to an absolute minimum, the production of toxins within the body politic is another imperative. The team cannot work against itself and expect to win. It couldn’t work against itself and even expect to survive.

Let me leave you with one disturbing example of how the team which is our nation works to undermine, to undo itself while at the same time suggesting that it loves itself and desires to survive, succeed and to excel.

Let us examine what a politician does on the one hand and what a government pretends to be doing on the other hand. Both of these, note, are hands of the same body or body politic.

It was revealed recently on Steve McKinney’s Immediate Response, according to the Dillon Report, produced by consultants from Canada, that successive governments have issued 790 public bus franchises. Two hundred, eighty of these alone are in operation, 35.48% of the number issued and these produce chaos. Were all 790 to attempt to operate, the report points out, the system would collapse which seems too obvious to require stating.

These 790 plates have been granted over time by successive governments. What this situation indicates too clearly to be overlooked, too clearly to avoid using to pinpoint, not necessarily a weakness of our democratic system but rather the exploitation of our democracy.

In office, the elected official must assume the posture of a statesman. To attempt to guarantee his return to office though, we see or rather, we do not see what he hands out or receives beneath the table.

In office, we see the politician, after having undermined extremely, the health of the body politic, the health of the nation, crippling it even to get himself re-elected. We observe him in office, in parliament, attempting to exemplify total commitment to fixing, to preserving the nation in his hand. The nation in his hand is the volley ball in his hand and it is his turn to serve for the good of all.

Though I direct focus to government, my aim is not the game of blame the politician. Responsible for this writer’s broken heart and disenchantment, is the entire Bahamian population, the way we serve and assist each other, the deliberate inefficiency, the lack of law enforcement, how undisciplined we are as a people, our wanting to outdo, to do in rather than to do for one another. This is not team work. This is not how a team wins.

Instead of on the national team, too many assume they’re on the FNM team, the PLP team, the Methodist team, the Baptist team, the Valley Boys team, the Saxons team, the black team, the white team, the rich team, the poor team, when we are ultimately on the human race team, the team of one species, one planet, one creation, our captain, one God.

© Obediah Michael Smith, 2006
4:54 a.m. 31/august/06
What of a Quality of Bahamian Life Minister, Ministry?

I’d wish to suggest that its chief function be to over-see, to insure that we are not inundated by the gadgets, by the garbage of modernity. One of its chief jobs: to prevent or to regulate the things the uneducated, barely educated or poorly educated among us are so easily seduced to clothe themselves in or climb into even to their discomfort and ours. Whatever suggest they’re it or they’re with it they want. When they know what’s most modern, when they own what’s the latest they’re on top of the world even if the rest of us are under their feet.

What of all these cars in our capital for example? Is this glamorous and modern or is it stupid? Is it commerce run amok: out of hand and out of control? What of all the alarms going off in vehicles and elsewhere, false alarms and a constant nuisance? What of loud music in vehicles, night and day, booming, often setting off these false alarms? Is this modern, is it up to date or are such persons apes?

Should we not have a minister, a ministry to prevent such things getting out of hand? We have anybody importing whatever into our midst, whether it fits or not, to create discomfort for all, to chafe us all?

There are so many discomforts, so many traumas to undergo for the local Bahamian, which are overlooked, which are not addressed. What of the crime and culture of littering which I’ve come to realize is closely related psychologically, with illegitimate birth.

Who is expected to become a proper citizen, falls upon the earth as freely as I see male and female, young and old, let whatever is in their hand and is empty or unwanted, fall to the ground or is thrown as they pass.

Our poor, misguided, overworked police force, its members themselves insufficiently cultivated, insufficiently refined to be offended, to address such issues. Their attitude is that [or seems that] one has to be a sissy or think themselves white to object to or to be annoyed by what rolls off their thick hides.

What is the psychology behind the remark: “You t’ink you white!”? This has to be explored and exploded. Too many quality of life issues and concerns are disqualified by this convenient or rather inconvenient remark.

I do think that the quality of local Bahamian life should be safeguarded with just as much care as the tourist experience is protected or even more. This is our country. We live here and must continue to.

Thinking you’re white is not the issue. Instead it’s thinking you’re divine, human and not animal or beast. But even animals in zoos are pampered like guests in hotels and are carefully protected. I remember a goat at a zoo in Florida, which was fed popcorn by persons who came by to pet it, being quickly carried off to have its stomach pumped.

Toughness for me, involves, not rubbing and being rubbed the wrong way without protestation. Toughness has far more to do with the ability to survive, to endure - the ability to persevere physically, but especially mentally and spiritually.

To be tough is to withstand the times between Christmases, between Easters, between Sundays, between birthdays, holidays, between paydays - to abide all these, always, with grace.

It is important to know that living in society, with and among other people, it just would not do to bludgeon, to annoy, to traumatize your neighbor or your neighborhood to delight or to entertain yourself. This is selfish. This is criminal.

To be tough is to know that we are called by Christ every moment to love our God and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. A functional society or family is impossible otherwise.

The good citizen does not assault, insult or annoy his neighbor. The good citizen instead is a custodian of the good life, of balance, of what is best for all with whom s/he shares community. Without this living contract among all members of a society or family, dog-eat-dog remains and society is reduced to jungle.

Could a ministry be established to oversee these issues? If our tourists have a ministry, should Bahamian people not have one to oversee, to safeguard our quality of life? One might argue that every single government ministry exists for this purpose. In response to which I say: in spite of all these, these issues, these concerns I raise, all fall through the cracks and are overlooked.

This is what culture needs to be about. As Robin Roberts insists, culture has to do with cultivation. This idea and this actually, needs to be insisted upon and safeguarded.

By Obediah Michael Smith, 2006
3:50 a.m. 21/july/06