September 16, 2014
The use of the phrase "change agent" has become common in The Bahamas today as individuals emerge from all walks of life claiming this title. The adoption of this self-description by many persons in our country today has become convenient because it suggests that they represent a new breed that is uncomfortable with the status quo.
Questions arise, however: Do we actually have in our midst genuine agents of change? Are these change agents are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices to bring about the changes they desire? Do we have enough of them to not only challenge the status quo but achieve the necessary results for the betterment of our country?
A critical component of this discussion is the magnitude of the changes being pursued and the timing of efforts to change that which in some cases has become a part of our culture.
The convenience of activism
The late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best when he stated that "the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and adversity". In the same vein, it is quite easy and common to take positions that are consistent with the views of the majority; after all this does not ruffle the proverbial feathers of anyone or any establishment. This explains why individuals that are regarded as "yes men or women" are hardly catalysts for change and talk less of a revolution.
It is intriguing to see how many of our political leaders take stances when there are hardly consequences for their positions. Going further, it is not surprising but disappointing to witness how the views of politicians change when they are no longer in power or cannot influence policy in a significant way.
In light of the normal practice described in the preceding sentences, one can understand why, in spite of their shortcomings as human beings, the three prime ministers of The Bahamas since independence would have had to deal with consequences of confronting the status quo. However, one thing they all had in common was the ability to skillfully navigate our parliamentary system of government to arrive at a place where they can bring about the changes they sought.
Conviction, loyalty and politics
While it is often easy for human beings to act and fake for prolonged periods, it is difficult to manufacture conviction. This is why true political leadership is reserved not only for individuals of courage but more importantly persons with deep convictions which govern their service to their people. It is therefore important that we ascertain the philosophies of our current and aspiring political leaders; we ought to ask them what they believe in and obtain their views on a range of issues of national importance.
As a nation we must not equate conviction with betrayal, and an individual's beliefs should not necessarily bring their loyalty to our commonwealth into question. That being said, we all have differing views which make us a stronger country; our diversity should strengthen and unite us in building a better nation, rather than divide us to the detriment of our Bahamaland. Politicians on all sides of the political divide ought to work together for the good of the nation. They must evolve into statesmen and stateswomen looking at the next generation instead of the next election. This writer submits that we are where we are in our country today because we do not have enough statesmen and stateswomen.
Seasonal champions of change
It is often said that our true self is manifested in solitude away from the prying eyes of the public and, in the case of politicians, when the cameras are not rolling or the microphone is not in front of them. Who are our leaders when no one is watching? The Bible states that 'by their fruits you shall know them'; the question is what (if any) seeds have our leaders planted? Are they planting seeds which will produce trees and by extension provide shade for the next generation of Bahamians or are they eating both the fruits and seeds today to the detriment of our future?
Another common occurrence which has become prevalent in recent times is the newfound voices of many on a myriad issues that have plagued our nation for years and, in some cases, decades. Just to be clear, it is good that we finally have people rising up to the plate and seeking changes. This is important for the maturity and deepening of our democracy. The only concern here is that we seem to have settled for years until we found ourselves between the proverbial rock and hard place. It is hoped that the new and emerging champions of change are not only genuine and not driven by selfish ambitions, but also will not quit on the Bahamian people in years to come. We need reliable and consistent change agents, not seasonal champions of change in our nation.
The changes that we seek
We continue to have discussions on a number of issues ranging from gender equality, fiscal reform, gambling, the proposed Junkanoo Carnival, crime and immigration, just to mention a few. It is obvious that different stakeholders and individuals have emerged in support and opposition to the positions taken by the government on these matters. This again bodes well for the development of our country.
The only question here is, if the ultimate objective of these initiatives is to ensure national development, upholding the fundamental human rights of all Bahamians, growth of our economy and enhancing the lives of all Bahamians, why are the true change agents among us only interested in the issues that impact them or their pockets? The Bahamas does not require selective confronters of the status quo.
Liberty and prosperity for all Bahamians should be supported by all of us. While we may disagree on the method being adopted in changing the status quo, we should not take our eyes off the prize in the interest of our people. Real change agents should not limit their pursuit of a better day to the private sector or the confines of their homes but must infiltrate the public sector and their communities if our country is to thrive rather than just survive. That being said, the popular saying that charity begins at home is ever so true. Strong families will always produce a strong and better community and, by extension, a better country.
The change process
"Glass ceiling" is the term often used metaphorically to describe the limitations placed on individuals by a system, ideology, policies, other people or a culture. The objective of our change agents to remove barriers that stand between the Bahamian people and the "Bahamian dream" is generally defined by the shattering of the glass ceiling paving the way for no limits to that which we can achieve.
In confronting the limitations under the status quo, we tend to have the expectation that the change should be instantaneous, effected in full and implemented in the manner that we want. Hence, it is not surprising that change agents are not easily satisfied and will sometimes fail to celebrate the cracks in the glass ceiling.
It is important however, to appreciate the little successes and progress in the quest to eliminate the status quo. The wisdom of going through the right process and the virtue of patience must be combined with perseverance until the desired change is fully actualized. Rome was not built in a day and there is always a process for progress.
It is often said that change is the one constant in life and The Bahamas cannot avoid the winds of change as we journey as a nation. While change is a constant, not all changes are positive and/or in the interest of our commonwealth. It is therefore incumbent upon our leaders and persons in authority to ensure that in seeking to bring about change, they ensure that the changes they propose and support are for the ultimate good of the citizenry.
The judges of the changes that we promote individually and within our stakeholder groups today will not only be the present generation but also generations yet unborn.
Posturing and political expediency grounded in self-preservation or the desire to remain relevant is not only unpatriotic, it is an injustice to the people of this great country. In the final analysis, the Bahamian people will be watching the persons that claim to be agents of change in our country to see whether they will continue to seek positive changes in our country but more importantly whether they will become the change that they seek.
We will also seek to determine whether they are merely old wine in new wineskins or vice versa; do they have the same mentality of the status quo in a rebranded vessel?
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to email@example.com.
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September 15, 2014
"You measure a democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists."
- Abbie Hoffman
This week, we witnessed the commencement of the debate on gambling legislation in Parliament which sought, among other things, to regularize the operation of web shops in The Bahamas. Much of the intense antagonism to the legislation resulted from the outcome of the January 28, 2013 gambling referendum during which the vote in opposition to the proposition of regulating and taxing the web shops prevailed.
Prior to the referendum, the prime minister proclaimed that he would abide by the referendum results. Subsequently, however, he changed his mind, and, notwithstanding the referendum results, introduced legislation that would regulate and tax web shops. Accordingly this week, we would like to Consider this...Are some of the religious pastors who fought and won the referendum poll correct in their accusation that the prime minister's positional reversal and subsequent actions have signaled the death of democracy in The Bahamas?
The state of play
For decades, Bahamians were not allowed to gamble in the country's casinos, although foreigners were not only permitted, but encouraged to do so. Casino gambling in The Bahamas has grown impressively, and tourist gaming has become ensconced in our tourism industry. However, since the enactment of the relevant legislation, Bahamians were prohibited from participating.
During this same period, and for many decades before, Bahamians have actively engaged in the domestic numbers business, paying small amounts of money to bet that the numbers that they chose would "fall" on any given day, resulting in profits far in excess of the cost of the purchase of such numbers. At one point, depending on the gaming house in which one played, a $2 bet could result in winnings of as much as $900, and in some cases slightly more if the number fell in the precise sequence of the daily drawings.
Such games of chance were never legally sanctioned, but for decades the vast majority of Bahamians turned a blind eye to such betting arrangements by local residents. The society as a whole acquiesced to such practices; law enforcement, and civil society, including the church, generally accepted that playing numbers was as much a part of the Bahamian culture as is Junkanoo.
In 2010, when the Ingraham administration decided to regulate the web shops, government representatives met with web shop owners and determined that the annual revenue from this sector was estimated to be in the range of $400 to $600 million. At the time, the Free National Movement (FNM) government realized that it could not allow the industry to continue to operate in an unregulated environment and drafted regulations for it. The FNM did not proceed with its plans to regulate this sector, in part because, at that time, it could not obtain the support of the church.
The 2013 referendum
Shortly after the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) won the general elections on May 7, 2012, Prime Minister Christie aggressively initiated plans to regularize the web shops. Pursuant to that objective, Prime Minister Christie announced that his government would hold a referendum on January 28, 2013 to determine the will of the people on the matter. The two questions on the referendum ballot sought the people's views on regulating and taxing the web shops and the establishment of a national lottery. The referendum results follow:
o The total number of votes cast against regulating and taxing web shops was 51,146, 62 percent of the total;
o The total number of votes cast in favor of regularization was 31,657, 38 percent of the total.
Many people believe that, although a majority of Bahamians who voted in last year's referendum were against the web shops, the outcome is neither persuasive nor conclusive and that the referendum results do not represent the true national sentiment on this issue.
Particularly in light of the low voter turnout of less than 50 percent of eligible voters, it would be erroneous to conclude that a majority of Bahamians are opposed to regulating and taxing web shops or establishing a national lottery.
The regulation imperative
The government recently reported that web shops cumulatively generate gross annual revenue of $600 million. Given this enormously significant cash flow, it is imperative that they be regulated for two important reasons: consumer protection and national security imperatives.
In the absence of completely shutting down the web shops, perhaps an impossibly achievable objective, the government must have also considered the vastly deleterious effects that either shutting them down or allowing them to continue to operate in an unregulated environment would have on our economy. But doing nothing is a wholly untenable proposition.
If we examine the operations of web shops, we will observe that their owners operate two distinctively different businesses. First, they provide online gaming for their customers. From a consumer protection perspective, it is important for persons who participate in web shop activities to be confident that they are protected from undesirable business practices ranging from online machine manipulation to not being able to collect their winnings if they are successful players. Today, in the absence of regulation, the smooth, fair and equitable operation of web shops is wholly based on trust. Regulation will address those and other operational issues.
The second business in which web shops engage comes as close to banking as anything will, without the requirement or benefit of a banking license. There are possibly more automatic teller machines strewn across the length and breadth of this country that are operated by the web shops owners than those of all the commercial banks combined.
Furthermore, the owners of web shops engage in lending money to many Bahamians for similar purposes as our commercial banks. However, in the case of web shops, this is an unregulated activity.
Additionally, we cannot ignore the short and long-term devastating effects on this economy of the nearly 4,000 persons who are employed by the web shops and what their closure would mean to the nation's employment figures.
Finally, it was absolutely necessary to bring this industry into the formal economy, enabling it to be recognized as a legitimate and significant pillar of the Bahamian economy.
Having regard to all of the above, the government is cognizant that regulation of the industry is imperative in order to protect the country from once again being blacklisted by the international agencies of the large industrialized countries, because of the potential threat that an unregulated sector poses for money laundering and terrorist financing, all of which will be minimized through the regulation of the sector.
Accordingly, there cannot be any doubt whatsoever that regulation and taxation of this sector is in the best interests of the country.
The gaming legislation
The gaming legislation that was recently tabled in Parliament, among other things, contains three major provisions that have resulted in varying degrees of intense debate in the public square. Those elements of the bill provide:
That all web shops would be regulated and taxed;
That a national lottery could be established for at some future date to be determined by the government;
That Bahamians would be allowed to gamble in casinos at some future date to be determined by the government.
The government should be commended for its leadership in this matter. Christie has debunked his detractors' derogatory suggestions that he is indecisive and ineffective. He and his Cabinet have taken the bold decision to do the right thing for the economy and the country in the face of excessive opposition and criticism for taking a decision that is incongruent with the expressed will of the people who voiced their views during the last referendum.
Next week we will address those who criticize the government for taking this bold decision in the face of those results, including the official opposition and some church pastors, with a view to determining whether, in light of the prime minister's courageous leadership in this matter, we are witnessing the death of democracy in our country.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic and Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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September 13, 2014
"Bosom friends make distance disappear," said Chinese President Xi Jinping to the president of Trinidad and Tobago during his visit to Latin America and the Caribbean last year. In July, President Xi concluded a successful visit to Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Cuba with fruitful results for further ties, a gesture of China's sincerity and the high value China places on its relations with Latin America and the Caribbean.
During his visit, President Xi attended a China-Latin America and the Caribbean Summit and delivered a keynote speech titled Striving to build a hand-in-hand community of common destiny. His address announced China's proposals and measures for promoting China-Latin America cooperation. It proposed to build a Five-in-One new pattern of China-Latin America and the Caribbean relations: sincerely trust each other in politics; cooperate with each other for a win-win outcome in terms of economy and trade; learn from each other in people-to-people and cultural exchanges; closely cooperate with each other in international affairs; and promote each other in overall cooperation and bilateral relations, so as to forge a hand-in-hand community of common destiny.
China firmly believes that the world tide flows in its mighty power. The cooperation between China and Latin American countries and the Caribbean states serves the practical and long-term interests of both sides. China proposes to jointly build a new "1 + 3 + 6" cooperation framework:
o "1" means "one plan", referring to the establishment of the China-Latin American Countries and Caribbean States Cooperation Plan (2015-2019) with the aim of achieving inclusive growth and sustainable development.
o "3" means "three engines", referring to promoting the comprehensive development of China-Latin America practical cooperation with trade, investment and financial cooperation as the impetus, striving to promote China-Latin America trade to scale up to US$500 billion and the investment stock in Latin America up to $250 billion within 10 years and promote the expansion of local currency settlement and currency swap in bilateral trade.
o "6" means "six fields", referring to boosting China-Latin America industry connections with energy and resources, infrastructure construction, agriculture, manufacturing, scientific and technological innovation, and information technologies as cooperation priorities.
State-to-state relations thrive when there is friendship between the peoples. And such friendship grows out of close interactions between the peoples.
Over the next five years, China will provide Latin American and Caribbean countries with 6,000 government scholarships, 6,000 training opportunities in China and 400 positions of in-house studying for master's degrees.
China will also invite 1,000 political party leaders from Latin American and Caribbean countries to visit China and launch the Future Bridge training program for 1,000 Chinese and Latin American youth leaders in 2015. China proposes to set the year 2016 as China-Latin America Cultural Exchange Year.
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1997,
China-Bahamas bilateral relations have remained on a track of steady development, with deepening cooperation in all fields. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Perry Christie reached an important consensus on furthering our ties during the meeting in Trinidad and Tobago last year. A mutual visa exemption agreement in effect since this February has vastly facilitated exchange between our two peoples. In early May, a Chinese medical team visited The Bahamas and performed free cataract surgeries on 101 Bahamian patients, whose sight was improved or recovered.
This year, three-dozen Bahamian officials have been invited to China for short-term training programs sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. Nine excellent Bahamian students were granted Chinese government scholarships to study in China in the coming years.
There is an old saying in China, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. What our bilateral relations have achieved up to today is the sum of numerous single steps made by our two governments and peoples.
Through the new measures and initiatives for developing relations between China and Latin America and the Caribbean proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, our bilateral relations will be injected with new momentum that will usher in a new era.
Six decades ago, leaders of China, India and Myanmar initiated the Five Principles, including mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.
Sixty years on, China firmly observed and will observe the five principles of peaceful coexistence. China will firmly pursue peaceful development and a win-win strategy of opening-up, which will create new opportunities and space for the development around the world.
In spite of the differences in geographical location, territorial area, per capital GDP and culture between our two nations, we have enormous potential for cooperation. The Bahamas has become an important partner of China in Caribbean region.
Since my assumption of office over a half year ago, I have experienced the friendship between our two peoples and the enthusiasm of Bahamians to develop relations with China.
The Chinese government would like to make every effort to enhance our ties in various spheres based on the Five Principles. We will seek to expand our common interests and ensure our two peoples benefit from the strengthening of our bilateral relations. We firmly believe that it's a good time now for us to work together onward to a better future of our relations.
o Yuan Guisen, Chinese Ambassador to The Bahamas
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September 12, 2014
Beware the ides of August, the ghost month, according to the Chinese, is prone to fatalities. Julius Cesar may have popularized the term of the ides of March since he was assassinated in that month in spite of the warning to avoid Rome at that time. My own empirical observation has indicated that the month of August has its load of bad omens that one should be careful about.
To start with, the tropical hurricanes with their sexy female names and their devastating consequences arrive usually in August. I remember several airplane disasters that fell in August. To name two: the Japan airline flight 123, and the Saudi flight 163. Is it the effect of the hottest time of the year that social upheavals tend to pierce the ordinary daily lot of up and down to erupt and change the canvas of a city or a nation?
Case in point, on August 18, 2014, a young black man, age, 19, named Michael Brown, was shot dead by a white policeman named Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. Commotion arose immediately in the city, followed by outrage in the nation and concern all over the world. United States President Barack Obama dispatched his attorney general, Eric Holder, himself a black man, to attempt to calm spirits. It was refueled by comments, visits and speeches by some black activists, like Al Sharpton, who may have added more fire to the tumult.
Ferguson entered into the hall of infamous cities like Selma, Watts, East St Louis, where social upheaval has stamped the town putting in circulation the issue that black integration is still a work in progress. It started one-and-a-half centuries ago, when Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, made a bold decision to go to war with the southern states, which were bent on maintaining slavery and its social heritage as an accoutrement of the fabric of the society.
Relying less on cotton as an export commodity, the north realized that slavery was not advantageous for building a vibrant economy. It accompanied President Lincoln in pursuing a policy of engaging the United States to pursue war in order to build a land united from sea to sea.
Soon after victory, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, deferring the dream of a United States where the color of the skin would not determine the way one is treated before court and on the street. The black population suffered the Jim Crow laws that perpetuated slavery without the name. Some 100 years later, in 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, with the strategic support of President Lyndon Johnson, rekindled the flame of equality for all.
Several laws were passed to promote the concept so cherished in my essays, to wit the Renan doctrine that a nation-state will agree to push forward those who are left behind. Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination and the demise of President Johnson due to the imbroglio of the Vietnam War put a brake on the flurry of initiatives to render whole the determination that the black citizen will no longer be a second class citizen.
Ferguson is the latest saga of a population tired of the discrepancy between what the United States professes and what it practices. In spite of the fact that a black American in the person of Barack Obama is now occupying the highest honor of leading the United States, the fate of the ordinary black person is still in the hands of the more often white police officer with discretionary authority to inflict harm.
The facts are still murky. Did the white officer Darren Wilson shoot Michael Brown in legitimate defense or did he overreact? A court of law, after reviewing all the facts, will make that decision.
The Ferguson saga
Will there be more Ferguson-like incidents in the future, prompting more social upheavals in the United States? The answer is a qualified yes. Race relations in America since the Moynihan report of 1965 have not been au beau fixe. The commitment to national action has been timid with the exception of the Lyndon Johnson initiatives.
If the United States has not succeeded in integrating its 40 million blacks and other minorities after 50 years of the civil rights agenda, China at the same time has succeeded in ushering some 800 million Chinese citizens from existing in extreme poverty to the bliss of middle class status.
We are going back to the concept promoted so often in this column, whether the entire population will agree to move forward the segment of the nation that is left behind. Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat from the South, could easily rally the troops of the conservative sector to convince them it was in their interest to bring the black population forward.
President Richard Nixon, a Republican, albeit close to impeachment and resignation, was the closest one to Lyndon Johnson in pursuing an aggressive policy of helping the black citizen to feel he is welcome and useful in America.
In conclusion, the end of tumultuous reactions like Ferguson will depend on whether a southern Democrat or a northern Republican gains the seat of power after President Barack Obama and can rally their base and convince America that the 40 million blacks and minorities need not revolt to achieve full emancipation. I have not seen any such candidate on the horizon.
o Jean H. Charles, LLB MSW, JD, is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at: email@example.com and followed at Caribbeannewsnow/Haiti. This is published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.
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September 10, 2014
A tribe is not inherently a bad thing. Subconscious or not, the division of people into any social, economic, political or religious groupings is quite common, maybe even expected.
The problem with tribes occurs when they become a way of life required to survive, and when that way of life, tribalism, undermines the progress of a nation - when everything becomes about who you know or associate with, how much money you have, which church you go to, who you voted for, etc.
Tribalism is a breeding ground for all forms and degrees of corruption and abuse, from carefree non-disclosure to major cover-ups to mass extortion. It is also a breeding ground for blind or misplaced allegiance, idol worship (of people and money), perpetual ignorance and hatred.
"Deference to leaders and intolerance toward outsiders (and toward 'enemies within') are hallmarks of tribalism," said Benjamin Barber, a well-known political theorist.
What this means, in essence, is that people who always yield to their leaders simply because they are the leaders, and people who are greatly opposed to anyone they see as an outsider, including the people within their own group who don't agree with them, are exhibiting tribalism because they think this way.
And the ultimate effect of this is that these people become more loyal to their political parties, social organizations, churches and other groupings than to their country and their country's survival.
People of the tribal mentality include those who say that they were born and will die PLP, FNM, Anglican, Baptist, Liberal, Conservative, etc. They are the people chanting at political rallies, wheezing fashionably on church television and attending every event where they can get free liquor or free food. They are easily manipulated and cheaply satisfied.
These are also the people who will sell their votes in a general election for a t-shirt, a case of rum, $200, a kitchen appliance or some Christmas meat.
These are the people who will never consider one philosophical principle, through ignorance or disobedience, and can't give you one good reason why they vote the way they do. They make up large numbers of voters in The Bahamas. They are easily led to the well and made to drink.
They are also, unfortunately and more often, the people who are downtrodden, suffering, financially deprived, socially and academically underprivileged, and who will do whatever is asked of or told to them because it is asked or told by a political leader they very nearly worship.
People with a "tribal" mindset are the politicians' dream come true.
But tribalism becomes a tribe itself
And the people who comprise the tribe, because of their disadvantaged way of thinking, will eagerly and gladly give their many votes, for example, to support a leader for decades, all the while still releasing their feces into their backyards and bathing in buckets or under a street tap.
Can anyone say people are wrong for living like this, especially if people who live like this simply have no real choice in the matter? The people who have to live like this are usually the people who don't realize they could possibly have another choice, or that maybe there is a more improved, less demoralizing or better way to live, if only they knew what it was or had a way to get it.
In any event, why should tribalism be a concern if it's so commonplace?
Because, if you are patriotic to your country; if you have any hope for positive, national change; if you want better for yourself or for the disadvantaged among us, you must convince a large number of people, who can't understand or rationalize any concept or choose not to understand, that they are pawns in a recurrent scheme to obtain and retain power.
Any leader in charge of a disadvantaged group of people will always be able to say that she or he did something to make that group of people better, because it really doesn't take much to do that. It doesn't take much at all to convince an uneducated or under-educated man that you have given him more than he had before, when he had nothing before.
Let's be clear; being poor or working class restricts no one from obtaining formal education, but it is universally accepted that persons in a lower socioeconomic status receive less formal education, whether it's because they have to drop out of school to take care of their siblings, children, or parents, or because, they have never known or understood the great value of formal education.
That is not to say that informal education, learning by doing or real world experience, is not valuable, because it always is. But without a formal education, it is easier for someone with a formal education to keep that person without an education oppressed and under the oppressor's command.
Not surprisingly, many people believe that formal education is just another way to distinguish the elite from the ordinary. But it is more than that, even if it is also that.
Formal education teaches a way of thinking that has the potential to uplift the poorest persons out of any difficult circumstances in which they find themselves.
A structured education may have the unintended effect of separating people along the lines of academic achievement, but, when it works as it should, organized education really is an effective and lasting way to escape poverty, as compared to the alternative of waiting for handouts and instructions - a point more greatly emphasized by observing the poorest of our Bahamian communities.
Bahamian politicians, admittedly or not, are in the position of keeping the Bahamian people oppressed and under thumb. They have been educated, which usually gives them some qualification to lead and command and convince their followers. Whether they intend to be or not, these politicians become elite by nature of their political positions, and they have a power that is easily wielded especially over people who don't know better or can't do better for themselves.
Because this political ruling class has the people under thumb, they can, by way of their position in the ruling class, convince their otherwise unaware followers that they are acting in their best interests. Those holding political power have blind supporters who can be easily swayed and who are just desperate enough, just needy enough and unknowledgeable enough to see something that looks like love and concern but is really political opportunity. They make the perfect electorate for a power-hungry politician.
As proved in Bahamian politics, in a general election, the uneducated, emotionally charged voter is more valuable than the highly-educated intellectual who plays around with her or his citizenship right and may or may not vote, depending on how she or he feels intellectually about the voting process, with the latter group not realizing that the end result of not voting proves all their intellectual hypothesizing that their votes would not matter anyway.
Votes will not matter when votes are not exercised.
And if the more easily manipulated people are in the majority, then it makes sense for the politicians to keep them malleable enough to believe they will or can help them, even if they actually don't or can't.
To use a gaming analogy, if you don't play the lottery, you won't ever win it. And no one believes this more than a man with $5 to his name, and nothing more to lose than the chance he will take on being lucky enough to win.
Poor people don't ask a lot of questions. They're very trusting of the hand that feeds them, even if they're fed peanuts, because they have to be. Otherwise, they won't eat.
They don't expect much or more out of life and so they don't ask for much.
They're so depressed, they won't agitate.
And they are usually sufficiently brainwashed into accepting whatever their condition is as their fate, something they can never do anything about, so why not sell their votes for a few hundred dollars when that can buy them food or pay their rent while they pray for deliverance?
The flip side of this status quo, though, is that there does (historically speaking, historically proven) and will come a time when the poor will become so trampled upon and will grow into the distinct majority because their living conditions have become the norm after so much time has passed ignoring them, that they will rise against the political elite at any cost, moving beyond tribalism to barbarism, and using any means necessary to get what they want, including the forcible removal of the people in political charge.
And what will the politicians do then?
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September 09, 2014
There is no doubt that these are serious times in our country as we continue to confront challenges to our way of life as manifested in the economy and the scourge of crime. Amidst these issues, we woke up last week to the news that Moody's Investors Service had downgraded The Bahamas' issuer and senior unsecured ratings to Baa2 from Baa1. Moody's however revised The Bahamas' outlook upward from negative to stable.
Regardless of how much we pretend and how long some of us had buried our heads in the proverbial sand, the downgrade came as no surprise and was expected. However, secretly we had hoped for the better, relying on improvements in our economy as well as the government's efforts to defer the inevitable. And so here we are in a valley holding on to the dream of a better future and a Bahamas that will emerge stronger from the adversities that face us.
The day of reckoning
The often referenced quote that the chicken has come home to roost provides an effective description of our current state of affairs. As a people, we have demanded and continue to demand basic services and some from the government over the years. Successive administrations have sought to accommodate this appetite by increasing expenditure from year to year. A major factor here has been the archipelagic nature of our country, which results in duplication of infrastructure and government spending on multiple islands.
It is good to see the demand for more accountability and stewardship from the populace and various interest groups in our nation today. This is because the level of activism in the clamor for transparency and financial discipline seems to have been missing hitherto. We seemed to have failed to make the connection between government spending, taxation and our sovereignty. In essence, even though we placed demands on the government over the years, we ignored the reality that either we or future generations would have to pay some day. That day has come and the moment of truth is upon us.
A revelation of what we know
Moody's indicated that the continued deterioration of the government's balance sheet and sluggish economic growth are the main reasons for our downgrade. To say that this was and has always been obvious would be an understatement. The Bahamas' debt-to-GDP ratio has increased from approximately 32 percent in 2007 to 59.0 percent in 2013. Moody's highlighted the fact that at almost 60 percent, the ratio was 20 percentage points higher than the median for Baa-rated sovereigns which stood at 39.5 percent in 2013.
As can be expected, the rise in sovereign debt increased the financing cost and interest payments by the government to 14 percent of revenues in 2013 from about nine percent in 2007. When considered in conjunction with the level of government revenues during the referenced period and corresponding high government expenditure, it is not surprising that the fiscal deficit had increased up to 2012/13.
Peer review and pressure
The term "peer pressure" is normally used to describe the influence that an individual's (especially a child's) company or associates have on his/her behavior or performance. In the context of the review of our sovereign rating by Moody's, it is clear that the pressure on our rating was driven by the metrics and characteristics of countries with the same Baa1 as The Bahamas.
Unfortunately, The Bahamas did not measure up well with its former peers with the same rating. This can be likened to the grading of an individual or entity in comparison to other classmates by an assessor.
The facts are clear, The Bahamas' debt-to- GDP ratio in 2013 was about 60 percent while our peers had an average of 40 percent and we spent 14 percent of our revenues on interest payments in 2013 in contrast with 8.3 percent on average spent on interest payments by our former peers. It should be noted that, at nine percent in 2007, we were above the peer average prior to the Great Recession albeit this would have been offset by a low debt-to-GDP ratio of 32 percent at that time. Moody's estimated that our deficit narrowed to 5.4 percent in 2013/14 but noted that this reduced figure is more than double the average for our former peers. When we add the reality that The Bahamas averaged an annual economic growth rate of only 1.1 percent from 2010 to 2013, it is apparent that our fate was sealed and it had become difficult for Moody's to justify maintaining our Baa1 rating.
Is there a silver lining?
A number of positives can be extracted from the publication by Moody's announcing its downgrade decision. The assigning of a stable outlook by Moody's reflects the rating agency's expectation that the government's "medium-term fiscal consolidation plan will contain the government's debt burden in fiscal 2015 and afterwards lead to a gradual reduction in the debt-to-GDP ratio".
"The rating outlook also envisages that real GDP growth will strengthen somewhat to 2.0-2.5 percent in 2015, owing in large part to the ongoing recovery in economic growth in the U.S., which is closely correlated with tourist arrivals in The Bahamas". The agency seems to express some optimism and confidence in the government's fiscal consolidation plan citing components of our fiscal reform agenda. This is the silver lining in an otherwise disappointing development in our recovery process. It would be unfortunate and a shame, however, if while external parties have some faith in our proposed course of action, we do not believe in our own plan and/or fail to have the courage and discipline to successfully implement the same.
What do we do now?
Our country is at a juncture that requires the talents and cooperation of all of us as we emerge from this valley. Life is made up of mountains and valleys; in the same manner that individuals experience high points (mountains) and low points (valleys) in their lives, so do nations in their national journeys. We must not forget that a valley is only but a depression between two mountains and in our voyage as a nation, we are headed to another mountain top.
In the interim, we must exude fortitude, discipline, unity and transparency to emerge successfully from our current predicament. It is interesting to note from the statistics highlighted by Moody's that the deterioration in our fiscal condition spanned over administrations led by the Free National Movement (FNM) and Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). While it can be argued and perhaps proved that one administration played a bigger role in the current state of our finances, it would still be hypocritical and disingenuous to point fingers. As is often said, he who lives in a glass house should not throw stones.
The actualization of the Bahamian dream may be a challenge for many at this time but the dream will never die but will come to pass with our emergence from this minor setback. We must continue to strive and thrive as we build a nation of fighters that are no strangers to perseverance and overcoming adversity.
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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September 08, 2014
Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.
- Kofi Annan
For the past two years, the Constitutional Commission has held public meetings throughout the country to determine whether the July 10, 1973 constitution should be amended and, if so, how. Since tabling the report of the Constitutional Commission, the government announced that it will hold a series of referenda as prescribed in the constitution in order to obtain the public's permission to make the commission's proposed changes to the constitution.
The first four bills for constitutional reform were tabled on July 23, 2014 and, at that time, the prime minister (Perry Christie) announced that a referendum will be held on those four bills on November 6, 2014. The debate on the contents of some of the bills, especially bill number four, has been acrimonious and there is a general view that if the referendum is held as scheduled on November 6, the proposed constitutional amendments will be defeated. Therefore, this week we would like to Consider this...Should the government postpone the referendum to sometime next year?
The four constitutional amendment bills are quite straightforward. As the prime minister stated in his communication on July 23, bill number one "seeks to achieve gender equality in a very important respect: it seeks to give a child born outside The Bahamas to a Bahamian-born mother and non-Bahamian father the same automatic right to Bahamian citizenship that the constitution already gives to a child born outside The Bahamas to a Bahamian-born father and a non-Bahamian mother. The bill is therefore simply equalizing the sexes and, in so doing, eliminating an area of discrimination against women that has persisted for the past 41 years."
The prime minister explained that bill number two "seeks to enable a Bahamian woman who marries a foreign man to secure for him the same access to Bahamian citizenship that a Bahamian man has always enjoyed under the constitution in relation to his foreign spouse." In short, the bill seeks to achieve gender equality in this regard.
The prime minister also explained that "bill number three seeks to remediate the one area of the constitution that discriminates against men". At present, an unwed Bahamian father cannot pass his citizenship to a child born to a foreign woman. This bill seeks to change that. It will give an unwed Bahamian father the same right to pass citizenship to his child that a Bahamian woman has always had under the constitution in relation to a child born to her out of wedlock.
Bill number four seeks to end discrimination based on sex. This involves the insertion of the word "sex" into article 26 of the constitution so as to make it unconstitutional to discriminate based on whether someone is male or female.
Reaction to the proposed changes
Public reaction to the proposed constitutional changes has alternated from acquiescent to antagonistic, with vacillating volumes of vociferous opposition to bill numbers three and four, where the temperature of the discourse has risen to a fever pitch. The principal objection to bill number four is that some persons believe that it potentially opens the door for same-sex marriages in The Bahamas, which is akin to the perversions of the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The government and the official opposition seem to be at one on the proposed changes. This despite a very short period where it appeared that the united position might fracture, but the amendments to the bills, most notably the definition of the word "sex", has allayed the opposition's concerns that could have derailed the united positions of opposing parties in Parliament.
Delaying the referendum
Because of the acrimoniously ferocious debate that has ensued in the public square, some persons have suggested that the referendum should be deferred to a later date. We believe that a compelling case can be made for such a delay.
First, we believe that more time is needed for public education about the bills, which simply cannot be effectively completed within the timeframe for an early November poll. It is vital to appreciate that this is a national campaign that requires national coverage on all the major islands in the archipelago.
Secondly, a postponement of the referendum will provide sufficient time for persons to filter out a lot of the noise in the public square and enable the proponents of the proposed changes to surgically focus in on the elemental issues at hand, which in the final analysis can be boiled down to one, and only one issue: equality for Bahamian women.
Third, this is the first time in 12 years since the last constitutional referendum and only the second in 41 years of independence that serious public consideration has been given to amending our constitution. We cannot afford a second failed effort this time because it will prolong the march to full equality for Bahamian women. Neither should we lose sight of the fact that there are few countries that remain in the dark ages on these fundamental issues of equality for women: North Korea, Syria, Iraq, Iran and several other fundamentalist Muslim countries... and The Bahamas.
Fourth, we believe that there needs to be a "cooling off" period in the wake of other controversial legislation such as value-added tax (VAT) and the gaming legislation that was recently introduced in Parliament. It is quite likely that if the referendum is held too close to the passage and enactment of those pieces of legislation, the public will use their vote to more pointedly speak against the government's other legislative priorities and not for the constitutional amendments.
Fifth, the ostensibly irreconcilably divergent positions relative to equality for Bahamian women and the inherent inequality of enabling Bahamians to gamble in our casinos as foreigners are allowed to do will be fresh in the electorate's minds and could obfuscate the issues relative to the constitutional amendments.
Sixth, there is an urgent need to include certain key stakeholders, such as the church, unions, The College of The Bahamas, and other relevant groupings such as Kiwanis, Rotary, Zonta, Links and others to more fully engage in the public discourse and to assist in developing considered positions so those groups are better able to enlighten their members and the public about the importance of a "yes" vote.
The government and the country will only have one chance to get this right. When a similar attempt was made in 2002, the entire process became too politicized to be evaluated on the merits of the case for equality for Bahamian women. A negative referendum outcome now will have severely negative implications and it could easily be another generation before such constitutional reforms will again be attempted. It is noteworthy that there is general agreement among the competing political parties to make the proposed constitutional changes. However, considerable work remains to be done and no one should underestimate the resolve of a misguided minority of persons in our society to undermine this effort.
Bahamians must clearly understand what they are being asked to approve, free from the obfuscation and confusion that some forces are attempting to insert into the public debate. They must fully understand the importance of the level playing field they are being asked to create for all Bahamians, making the realization of a fully successful life attainable to all, without limitations or obstacles other than those of our own making. These amendments must be decided by an electorate with a complete understanding and appreciation for how they will establish access with no impediments so that, finally, the only thing that can hold each of us back from achieving our goals and realizing our dreams is us.
As Frances Wright, the Scottish-born lecturer, writer, freethinker, feminist, abolitionist and social reformer observed, "Equality is the soul of liberty; there is, in fact, no liberty without it."
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to email@example.com.
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September 06, 2014
"Invisible Children's entire campaign smacks of little more than a feel-good PR stunt (perhaps even a misleading ploy to raise funds for administrative rather than charitable purposes). In fact, I would wager a fair amount of my pride that if you were to ask Rihanna and any of her followers a week from today who Joseph Kony is, they would react as if you asked what the Higgs Boson is..." - Anthony L. Hall, March 8, 2012
The same, of course, can be said for the vast majority of those now dumping buckets of ice water over their heads. In other words, ask them what "ALS" stands for, and they'll probably think you're referring to some new sports league.
The point is that we live in a "selfie" age, when even acts of charity are more about looking/feeling good than doing good.
More to the point, even though this latest viral craze generated a spike in donations for ALS research, I would wager an even greater amount of my pride that 90 percent of those who accepted the bucket challenge did not donate one red cent. After all, for them, this was just another selfie opportunity to say to the world, "Hey, look at me!"
Some women clearly saw it as a challenge to compete in a wet T-shirt contest, and gleefully affirmed the uplifting effect ice water has on you-know-what.
No doubt it's hard to imagine notorious bad boy Charlie Sheen setting an example for anyone to follow. Yet he did just that when, instead of a bucket of ice water, he dumped a bucket of cold hard cash over his head, and then announced that it amounted to the $10,000 he's donating to the ALS Association.
At least nobody expected those participating in the "#invisible children" and "#bring back our girls" viral campaigns to do anything except become aware of the plight of the victims involved. Mind you, as indicated in my quote above, for 90 percent of them, that awareness probably only lasted about as long as Chinese food satiates hunger.
Incidentally, Boko Haram has not only ignored all viral pleas to "bring back our girls"; its genocidal thugs have mocked the fecklessness of those pleas by kidnapping more girls.
On the other hand, the ALS bucket challenge is really predicated on people not just dumping water but donating cash. And, yes, it does matter that you participate not just by doing the former, but the latter even more so.
Not to mention that all that wasted water could clearly be put to much better use - not just in perennially drought-stricken places like Ethiopia, but even in places like California.
For the record, "Forbes" reports in its August 29 edition that, since this challenge went viral four weeks ago, it has raised just over $100 million. This is truly commendable, especially when compared with the $2.8 million the ALS Association raised during this same period last year.
Except that, by contrast even more instructive than the example Charlie set, the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) has raised an average of almost $60 million annually over the past 50 years. And it has done so by simply holding a 24-hour Labor Day telethon on TV (i.e., without the viral benefit of social media).
What's more, even after losing its superstar pitchman Jerry Lewis four years ago and reducing the broadcast to only two hours, the telethon still raised over $50 million annually, including $56.9 million from this year's "MDA Show of Strength" last weekend.
Which raises the question: What challenge is the ALS Association going to rely on next year to raise comparable donations - given that the ice bucket challenge is already melting away into cyber oblivion, like "#invisible children"?
All the same, I feel constrained to note that, despite the billions the MDA has raised, we seem no closer to a cure today than we were 50 years ago. Not to mention the tens of billions raised over the years to find a cure for cancer. The reason for this, of course, is that most researchers work for big pharmaceutical companies whose corporate mission is to develop expensive treatments, not to find cures. After all, a cure for them would be tantamount to killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
Nonetheless, we are clearly obliged to concede that there is as much merit in funding treatments for ALS as there is in funding them for cancer.
o Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian who descends from the Turks and Caicos Islands. He is an international lawyer and political consultant headquartered in Washington DC. This article is published with permission of Caribbean News Now.
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September 05, 2014
I had the suspicion that Cape Haitian was one of the most beautiful cities in the world. That suspicion was confirmed by the American ambassador to Haiti, Pamela White, who made the same observation in a speech recently.
Built by the French colonists along perpendicular lines going from one to 26 and horizontally from the letter A to M, Cape Haitian is a truly attractive city, with colonial houses lining the streets that are reminiscent of old San Juan in Puerto Rico, Santiago de Caballeros in the Dominican Republic or Santiago de Chile.
Cape Haitian has been surviving without running water for the past 14 years, due to the governmental upheaval in the country in the past 50 years. That inconvenience did not affect the population that much, because each house has a well that provides ample water for daily use.
For the first time in the last 500 years, (300 years of colonial rule and 200 years of self-rule) the wells are dry, with no water. There has not been sufficient rain in the past year to maintain the balance of reserve water that can be pumped out for daily use.
Cape Haitian, a city of some one million people, has been dangerously managing itself without water for the past two years. I used to buy my water from a smart citizen who built an artesian well as he was constructing his home. On my last trip to Cape Haitian he stopped selling water because the electric company is charging him so much money for running the pump to bring up the water that his business is not sustainable.
There is nonchalance in the air, DINEPA, the water company funded by Spain's Ministry of Foreign Development, is delaying repairing the pipes while the private water companies are making so much money selling and distributing water that they can dictate the policy and the rule.
The predatory nature of the past governments have been so crude that a water tank that held 1.86 million gallons of water, built by the Magloire government in the 1950s, has been dismantled and sold as scrap to Turkey via the Dominican Republic without investigation of why it could not be repaired as some German experts had suggested.
Water, I have written in one my essays, is the salt of the earth. I have observed this in the past year in my home in Port au Prince, when I could not prevent my trees and my flowers from dying as we were enduring a severe dry season.
I have to admit that I was not correct when I predicted that Haiti has two seasons: a rainy season from April to November, when it rains every night; and a dry season from November to April. This year the rain came in May, sporadically, and stopped until this August when we started again to have some rain.
In another essay, I warned that Haiti cannot continue to play Russian roulette with its environment; I stated that bad policy leads to catastrophic results. Traveling the country and taking the National Highway 3 to Cape Haitian, I observed that Haiti is a country that could be defined as 90 percent not inhabited and 90 percent not cultivated. You will see vast plains with few trees as far as the horizon, and very few houses; this is the vista for a full four-hour drive from the capital, Port au Prince, to the city of Cape Haitian via the center state on the road still under construction donated by the European Union.
Yet Haiti could become the place where fine construction material comes. The cedars of Lebanon, the mahogany of Indonesia, the ebony of Nigeria would do well in those vast plateaus, interlaced with golf courses for those aficionados who love nature and sports, providing Haiti with a perpetual endowment fund that would make each citizen "rich like a Creole".
The rain does not come magically; it is a natural operation of the condensation of the leaves of the trees that send moisture into the air, forming the clouds that send back the rain on earth. When there are not trees, there will be no rain.
Haiti is eating its seeds, neglecting to plant trees. I have seen during my different trips how a giant mango tree on the side of the road has been gently cut until it falls down, to be burned for charcoal. It is a true commodity that will bring safe money when wealth creation is not part of the equation.
I met with the mayor of Cape Haitian, an old gentleman who reminds me of the good old manner that characterized the Haitian citizen before the country went into its democratization revolution. I shared with him my apprehension about a city without water.
I enjoy my stays in Cape Haitian, where I try to come back as often as I can. A delightful city where the market is in the center of the town; early in the morning you can pick up your own fresh fruits and vegetables from the farmer who comes from neighboring towns. You are woken up by itinerant singing merchants trying to sell their wares from door to door.
Cape Haitian is safe at night and during the day. Its potential as a tourist city is beyond imagination, as its international airport will open this October.
It is closed to some of the major world events that destroyed slavery for the entire humanity. Its charm is contagious, as it is a homely town with the pretension of a sophisticated city
My morning run leads me to the Rival beach where I play like a child in a warm sea that engulfs you like the womb of a mother. How long will this jewel remain an innocent setting as the quest for water becomes more intolerable?
Maybe I am just a Cassandra! Without running water, with the wells running dry in Cape Haitian, the disaster is what feeds the helpers. Poor Haiti, will you ever know a normal life?
o Jean H. Charles, LLB MSW, JD, is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org and followed at Caribbeannewsnow/Haiti. This is published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.
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September 04, 2014
In a wild-eyed jeremiad cum response to an event for gays and lesbians set for Grand Bahama last weekend, Dr. Myles Munroe delivered his latest panic attack assailing gays and lesbians.
It was an overreaction steeped in a morass of fear and disdain for fellow-citizens. Increasingly, Munroe is sounding profoundly anti-democratic and theocratic, more committed to his version of a religious state.
He decried a private event by Bahamian citizens as a "defiant social act". How undemocratic and uncivil. Islamic and other fundamentalists might find a kindred spirit in Theocrat Munroe. If Munroe had his way, perhaps he would have sent in the religious police.
What he labelled as insanity, and what others, including a certain talk show host were offended by was other citizens exercising their rights of freedom of association and free speech - the very rights certain bigots are happy to exercise while condemning others for the same exercise of these rights.
There is an amazing number of self-aggrandizing leaders and their cheerleaders who refuse to take to heart Abraham Lincoln's admonition: "Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt."
Had Munroe, whose doctorate seems to be honorary rather than earned, submitted his screed as a paper to a professor in a reputable undergraduate theology class it would earn a failing grade.
One example: Munroe invokes natural law - or at least his uninformed version - to support his prejudice. The complexities and nuances of natural law theory seem to elude him.
There are so many errors of thought that a paper he submitted would be returned drowning in red ink correcting a plethora of poor thinking, including logical fallacies and general illogic. He began one sentence with what he claimed as a matter of fact, but which is his biased opinion.
The document would horrify undergraduate professors in biology and genetics, various social sciences such as anthropology and sociology, as well as history, political theory and other disciplines. Indeed, his screed may have been used in a pamphlet, "How Not to Write a Paper!"
Munroe offered this scare tactic and fear-mongering: "Is it civil, right, reasonable, logical, sane to promote a cause, lifestyle or practice of a behavior that could in its ultimate conclusion cause the extinction of the human race." (Curiously the sentence did not end with a question mark.)
How desperate and disingenuous can one get in making a bogus argument? This sentence is the height of hyperbolic nonsense bordering on stupidity. It is wrong in its conclusion, unreasonable, illogical and hardly sane.
Perhaps we should alert the demographers and population experts that, according to Munroe, humanity is headed toward extinction because of a conspiracy by gays and lesbians and unwitting heterosexuals.
Are we to believe that there will be a mass conversion of billions of heterosexuals as homosexuals? Fret not thyself: Heterosexuals will be just fine and will go on making plenty of babies. With gays and lesbians having children of their own, the real fear of human sustainability has to do with environmental degradation.
Worryingly, Munroe's document is filled with grammatical and other errors which would not pass muster in an undergraduate English class.
Before releasing his screed Munroe should have had an editor correct basic mistakes which would be unacceptable in a high school essay. In terms of reasoned thinking and proper writing, the public deserves considerably better from religious leaders than this pathetically slipshod dribble.
Perhaps other more capable religious leaders might advise Munroe in crafting public statements.
To label the meandering document incoherent would be charitable. It begins and ends in error. The very title of Munroe's rambling, "Homosexuality - Phobia or Principle", is a false choice.
Munroe's antipathy to science is captured in the title. While biologists and geneticists generally view homosexuality as a biological reality, Munroe seemingly resides mostly in a prescientific era where evolution is denied and climate change is not mostly the result of human activity.
One imagines that he must at least believe that the Earth is not flat and that the sun does not revolve around Earth, though what he and certain religionists might have believed back then is open to question.
A scientist titling a paper "Heterosexuality (or Gender or Ethnicity) - Phobia or Principle" would be laughed out of the academy.
Munroe says he has watched with horror over the years as people have "hijacked" and "raped" the meaning of the civil rights movement in an effort to fight for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
"I have, with all my logic, sought to understand, but still cannot equate the philosophy, ideology or purpose for the civil rights movement with the agenda of the homosexual LGBT community..."
Clearly, Munroe's logic is quite limited and easily exhausted. And he is not only annoyed with gays and lesbians.
He must also be angry with moral giants like Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, who championed the civil rights of black people as well as those of gays and lesbians, linking the struggles for equality.
Did Mandela and Tutu "rape" and "hijack" the civil rights movement? In Munroe's blinkered illogic they did. What an affront to the legacies of these great men in whose footsteps and witness Munroe could never stand.
In the Rainbow Nation that he celebrated and for which he spent a quarter of a century in prison, Mandela pushed for one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, which proclaims (emphasis added): "The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, sexual orientation... " et al.
Munroe doubled-down on his seemingly breathtaking capacity for making inane statements: "I think the attempt to equate the historical civil rights movement with the demands for the right to dignify, glorify and accept as normal the practice of a lifestyle that could render the human race, for which they sacrificed, extinct is illogical, dishonest, and is the abuse of the blood and imprisonment of many. It's a hijacking of the gains paid for by the blood of honorable men and women for an unnatural, human-destroying behavior."
His words are an affront to civil rights heroes and heroines who spent their lives in the struggle for human rights and who equated that struggle with that of the struggle for equality by gays and lesbians.
They are an affront to Coretta Scott King, the widow of Dr. Martin L. King Jr., a civil rights champion in her own right, who had to bury her assassinated husband, and then continue his struggle. Her statement at a 2000 conference on equality is a stern rebuff to the limited moral and intellectual imaginations of the likes of Munroe: "My husband, Martin Luther King Jr., once said, 'We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny... an inescapable network of mutuality, ... I can never be what I ought to be until you are allowed to be what you ought to be.' Therefore, I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.
"Gays and lesbians stood up for civil rights in Montgomery, Selma, in Albany, Ga., and St. Augustine, Fla., and many other campaigns of the civil rights movement. Many of these courageous men and women were fighting for my freedom at a time when they could find few voices for their own, and I salute their contributions."
The Chicago Defender of April 1, 1998, reported that Mrs. King declared: "Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood."
Munroe's arrogance and ignorance would be an affront to the likes of the brilliant civil rights leader, former politician and intellectual Julian Bond, who was reportedly known for his ability to read a book in one evening.
In a 2005 speech, Bond, who is not gay, stated: "African Americans... were the only Americans who were enslaved for two centuries, but we were far from the only Americans suffering discrimination then and now... Sexual disposition parallels race. I was born this way. I have no choice... Sexuality is unchangeable."
A report in The Huffington Post reported: "'Science has demonstrated conclusively,' he [Bond] says, 'that sexual disposition is inherent in some; it's not an option or alternate they've selected. In that regard it exactly parallels race... Like race, our sexuality isn't a preference. It's immutable, unchangeable... '
"And what about Dr. King? 'I believe in my heart of hearts,' Bond says, 'that were King alive today, he would be a supporter of gay rights... He would make no distinction between this fight [for gay rights] and the fight he became famous for.'"
With whom will increasing numbers of Bahamians and history side: the collective wisdom and witness of Mandela, Tutu, Scott King, Bond, Congressman John Lewis, the leaders of the NAACP, President Barack Obama, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and many others notables - or with Myles Munroe?
Admittedly, it is not a fair contest. Still, at home, we may be nearing the end of the beginning of much of the struggle on various fronts.
o email@example.com, www.bahamapundit.com.
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September 03, 2014
Article 15 of The Bahamas constitution establishes the right of Bahamians to choose whatever religion or religious faith they so desire, and Article 26 establishes freedom of religion as an inherent Bahamian right, such that no Bahamian should be discriminated against on the basis of religion.
But, the constitution itself, in its preamble, discriminates on the basis of religion.
Given that this preamble is being used now by many Bahamians for their arguments in defense of Christian principles as the foundation for a continued and justifiable inequality between Bahamian women and men, it too should be examined more closely.
Ironically, the same preamble also makes a point that the labor of Bahamians ought not to be exploited, nor their lives frustrated by deprivation. Why aren't the people who are fighting to uphold Christian values also fighting to save their brothers and sisters from exploitation and deprivation? Must one not wonder?
The constitution doesn't specifically name Christianity as the national religion, but it does say that the freedom of Bahamians "will be guaranteed by a national commitment to self-discipline, industry, loyalty, unity and an abiding respect for Christian values..."
This being the case, then the reverse suggests that if you possess any other religion or faith outside of the named Christianity, then your freedoms, as a Bahamian, cannot or will not be guaranteed. So you can choose whatever creed you like, but if it ain't Christian, 'we' ain't really hearing it?
The fact that one religion has been chosen for a country and embedded in its constitution creates a discriminatory country - a country of people who are automatically and subconsciously taught to and will discriminate against anyone whose religious beliefs differ from theirs, in spite of the fact that religious discrimination is outlawed in the same document.
And it follows that any discriminatory principles within the constitution, being that they are upheld only by the one religion, will never falter when challenged.
Because the constitution is based on Christianity, the Bible will always be the point of deference by the people who want to defend the Christian church as the one true religion of The Bahamas, and who defend certain discriminations which are entrenched in Christianity.
It is no accident or anomaly that scores of Bahamian men sincerely believe themselves to be superior to women, whether they recognize it or not.
The very choice of religion that filters through the people via every denomination of Christianity in the country instructs women to be submissive, subservient and subjected, and men to be the opposite.
It instructs Bahamian women to yield to (Bahamian) men as leaders and in positions of power, and, with this as the ultimate law of the land, the Bahamian men's mindsets are not soon to change, after 41-plus years of practicing philosophies which exalt men and belittle women.
I've heard many Bahamians say, lately, in the turmoil of equal rights discussions, that women are not discriminated against in The Bahamas, but the mere fact that the persons saying this cannot see any one such circumstance at all tells me they choose not to; because they choose not to, they make their belief their reality, as opposed to the actual reality.
But blatant discrimination is one thing; latent discrimination is entirely another.
Any black or poor Bahamian knows this.
The discriminations against women in this country lie just beneath the surface of everyday life; throughout the church and within many families, it is obvious, but Bahamians just don't see it. They see it as something else, or they simply refuse to acknowledge it.
Even if, or when, they do see it or acknowledge it, their Bible, their religion, their Christian faith tells them it should be that way, that men should be superior to women. And you're back at square one again.
The argument and push for the complete, itemized, unambiguous, equality of women and men in The Bahamas constitution won't find success until The Bahamas is brought to its knees economically, socially and politically - when it realizes it can no longer rely on prejudices while at the same time relying on foreign tourism, international banking and commerce, and other foreign relations or assistance, without first reconditioning the Bahamian national psyche with respect to its religiosity and the separatist nature of the religious principles that cause Bahamian women and men to view themselves as unequally different in the first instance.
The overarching impact of a new method of taxation in 2015 and the compromising economic position it will place many Bahamians in will be the first occasion in which this truth of unfortunate reliance will be manifested.
And there will be a host of many other such occasions to follow.
Because of our forebears/constitutional framers, the reputedly brilliant men who came before us and created a philosophically-crippled country that is now hobbling along on crutches, The Bahamas is nowhere near possessing the level of independence necessary to exist without relying heavily, in countless ways, on the international community.
And discriminatory principles don't fit anywhere in a global family portrait.
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September 02, 2014
As the summer break comes to a close and the advent of a new academic year is upon us, children and adults alike are either already back in school or going back to school. Over the summer, parents across our archipelago of islands would have invested in getting their children ready for the 2014/15 school year.
It is customary during this period for Bahamian parents to take time off to experience their children's first day in school, and we often memorialize this event with pictures and videos. The proud and satisfying look on the faces of parents as they drop their offspring off is always beautiful to behold.
In true Bahamian fashion, relatives and friends are often not left out of the major event that is the first day of school; grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents and well-wishers also participate in this joyous occasion.
The vital task of teachers
We salute the teachers of our country and recognize that we will forever be indebted to them. No country, including The Bahamas, will ever be able to adequately or fully compensate these valuable gems for their toil and sweat in helping to mold our sons and daughters and by extension preparing the next generation for the future.
The reality that our children and full time students spend a great deal of their time with teachers, tutors and lecturers cannot be denied. It follows therefore that teachers are positioned by virtue of their role and presence to have a unique opportunity to impart knowledge and exert influence.
Teachers have the distinct privilege to shape the future of our country through their verbal teachings and the level of discipline they exercise. More importantly, their actions and inactions in key moments in the lives of their students will leave lasting impressions.
They must also remember that the emerging generations do not subscribe to the philosophy of "Do as I say and not as I do". Hence, teachers should try to exemplify and practice what they teach by being good role models. Going into the new school year, our teachers must not forget the charge they have to keep, even as we have entrusted to them our nation's darlings.
Outsourcing parental duties
A quick look at the social landscape and fabric of our country will show that the family structure is challenged and, it can be argued, is at risk. We seem to have intentionally or unintentionally neglected or outsourced our responsibilities as parents to others. The others in this regard includes the government, religious establishments, civic groups, teachers, sport coaches and in some cases the society as a whole with no specific delegation. The end result has been the decline in our educational grades, moral values, spiritual beliefs and our communities.
The new school year should be embraced by us all as a chance to go back to the basics and commit to greater involvement in the lives of our children. Individuals without children in school should consider adopting a relative or unrelated student to support during this academic year. The saying that it takes a village to raise a child must be put into practice and all hands must be on deck.
Our country needs us all to prepare the next generation to whom the torch must be passed in future. It must be noted that while teachers, religious leaders and others will play different roles in the lives of children, parents are ultimately responsible for their upbringing.
Outside the classroom
There is a lot of emphasis placed on the information provided and lessons learned in the classroom setting. This is expected seeing that we send our children to school to obtain a formal education and develop skills that will make them productive as good citizens of The Bahamas. In the midst of this formal training, the importance of having the fear of God, the wonders of good attitude and necessity of respect for one's self and others must not be forgotten or overlooked. Students ought to be constantly reminded of the famous quote that "Your attitude determines your altitude".
There is so much to be learned outside the formal classroom and it is vital that we do not forget that there is much learning for our children as they observe us and the leaders of our country. Do we inspire them to be great or mediocre? Are they aware that sacrifices are required to achieve greatness but the prize is worth the price?
How much do we emphasize the dignity of labor and invaluable nature of the sweat from one's toil? Has it become old-fashioned to have verbal conversations with our children without being distracted by social media or technology? How well are we doing with educating the new generation outside the formal classroom?
In the final analysis, how well do we know our children and how much do they know about us? The answers to these questions will be unique but will determine our grades in the raising of our children.
Going back to another school
As I began to conclude this article, the thought crossed my mind that perhaps not only our children and adults returning to school for formal education require a return to the classroom. The current challenges facing our dear country and the current social climate in our Bahamaland suggests that we all need to go back to school; back to the school of fundamentals for lessons of life that have brought us as far as we have come. For as we march on and look to the future, we must not forget that the path we traveled has brought us to this point.
This writer submits that we must return to the simple and basic values that made us the envy of many nations. We must reintroduce the common courtesies and manners that were taught by our forefathers and foremothers. To paraphrase the words of a popular Chinese proverb, we enjoy the shade today because they planted the tree several years ago. The question arises as to what trees if any are we planting for future generations.
Have we become so selfish and self-absorbed in our own ambitions and comforts that we no longer care about the future of our nation? A return to the school of life, our spiritual convictions and a reflection on the fundamental lessons of yesteryear is essential if the glory of the latter house is to supersede that of the former. We pray God's blessings upon our children and students during this academic year.
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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September 01, 2014
RELIGIOUS leader Dr Myles Munroe has fiercely condemned homosexuality in the wake of a recent gay pride celebration in Grand Bahama, referring to it as a "massive deception...dismantling the very core of the natural existence of humanity..."
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August 31, 2014
As we observed in this column earlier this month, summer marks the travel period, with many Bahamians visiting near and far-flung venues, although recently more Bahamians are traveling to the Family Islands. In the first two installments of this series on the islands of The Bahamas, we featured the islands of Andros and Abaco. This week, we would like to continue to Consider This... what is the lure for Bahamians to explore our Family Islands?
Geography and demographics
The Exuma islands are a 150-mile-long chain with over 365 islands and cays scattered in a long line extending north toward New Providence from Great Exuma. The Exuma Cays, with approximately 100 square miles of land and, according to the 2010 census, a population of 7,314, are some of the most exotic of the Bahamian Family Islands, a collection of tiny jewels set in the aquamarine and sapphire of the most beautiful water imaginable.
The capital and largest town, George Town, located on Great Exuma, was founded in 1793. Great Exuma, which is 37 miles in length, is joined to Little Exuma by a small bridge, and has an area of 61 square miles while Little Exuma has an area of 11 square miles.
The area is so unique and its reefs and island environments so pristine that The Bahamas government set aside a 176-square-mile section as the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, the world's first and most successfully preserved marine park.
Exuma was settled around 1783 by American Loyalists following the Revolutionary War. They brought a cotton plantation economy to the islands and named George Town in honor of King George III, to whom they remained loyal.
Lucayan natives made Great and Little Exuma their historic home until they were taken away as slaves in the 16th century, leaving the islands uninhabited until the 18th century. In the intervening period, Exuma provided many hideouts for pirates. Elizabeth Harbour was a favorite lair of Captain Kidd and the Exuma Cays were a favorite hangout for Captain Norman, hence Norman's Cay.
John Rolle, the first Baron Rolle, a major figure in the islands' history, was an absentee land-owner. At his death in 1842, he left his significant Exuma land-holdings for the exclusive use of his slaves. As a result, two settlements on Great Exuma were named after him, Rolleville and Rolle Town.
Exuma is also well-known for the slave revolt led by Pompey which started in early 1830 when, with only three days' notice, a group of 77 of Lord Rolle's slaves were told that they would be sent to Cat Island. With Pompey leading them, many of the slaves involved hid in the bush for five weeks until exhausting their provisions. At that point, 44 of them, representing nine families and three single slaves, stole Lord Rolle's salt boat and sailed to Nassau in an effort to personally put their case to the Governor, Sir James Carmichael Smyth.
Sadly, the slaves were taken into custody and thrown into the workhouse before seeing the governor. The adult slaves were tried immediately as runaways and most of them, including five women - two of whom were nursing babies - were sentenced to be flogged.
When the governor, known for his sympathy towards slaves, found out, he was furious, immediately firing the police magistrate and the two justices of the peace involved in the case. He also ordered Pompey and his group of rebels to be returned to Exuma.
Pompey's rebellion created the precedent that Bahamian slaves could not be moved without their consent, a major achievement in beginning to establish that slaves should be regarded as people who had some civil rights.
Exuma, with a wide variety of resorts and hotels that range from five-star resorts such as the Grand Isle Resort & Spa and the luxuriously elegant all-inclusive Sandals Resort, to condo-resorts and locally-owned fishing lodges, offers an amazing assortment of vacation possibilities. Tourism is important to the Exuma chain which is full of dream destinations for boaters, fishermen (flats, reef and offshore), divers, snorkelers and kayakers. The private islands and cays are custom-designed for those seeking the ultimate escape, and the new levels of luxury available offer perfect spots for an island wedding or honeymoon.
The islands are a popular spot for yachting, sailing, diving, and coral reef and cave exploring. Some of the islands on which there are permanent residents and resorts include Norman's Cay, Wax Cay, Fowl Cay, Staniel Cay, Black Point, Farmer's Cay, Musha Cay and Barraterre. Thunderball Grotto, located just a few hundred yards from Staniel Cay, is where the James Bond movie "Thunderball" was filmed. Sandy Cay, just a short boat ride from Little Exuma, was the location used for "The Pirates of the Caribbean". The novel Wind from the Carolinas was set in Great Exuma, and featured the ancestors of today's prominent Exumians.
The anchor of the Exuma archipelago is Great Exuma, where one can enjoy a great selection of casual Bahamian restaurants and iconic resorts such as the Peace & Plenty Hotel, which was named after a ship bringing Loyalists and slaves to Exuma that was shipwrecked in George Town in 1818. Today it is a meeting place for friends of old, especially at the annual Exuma Regatta, where they cheer on the keen competition between sloops in Elizabeth Harbour.
Stocking Island features spectacular views from atop its high bluff and a series of idyllic beaches separated by limestone promontories. On the leeward side, the Chat & Chill is a classic beach bar which attracts boaters from near and far.
Exuma International Airport serves George Town directly from Nassau, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Atlanta and Toronto. Norman's Cay, Staniel Cay, Black Point and Farmer's Cay have government approved and operated airstrips.
Sandals at Emerald Bay
We recently stayed at Sandals at Emerald Bay in Exuma and were immensely impressed by the tremendous contribution that this resort makes to the Exuma economy. Its 250 ocean-view and ocean-front suites, some with exclusive butler service, its championship 18-hole golf course and a 150-slip deep-water marina have propelled Sandals to become the superlative resort on Great Exuma. The full-time employment of 600 persons has enormously and positively impacted Exuma's economy, as has the greatly enhanced and revitalized airlift resulting from direct jet service from Canada, a project initiated by Sandals' owner and chairman, Gordon "Butch" Stewart.
Sandals also has a substantial community outreach program, having established five computer centers on the island and is working on its sixth. In addition, there are many community activities to which Sandals contributes, like the Exuma Regatta, which exemplifies its robust commitment and astounding corporate citizenship to the island's community and future development.
The main island has been a haven for celebrities for years. Until recently, the tourist population on the island was minimal, allowing anonymity for anyone wanting to escape the spotlight. Frequent visitors included Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, who has stayed at Goat Cay, the late Jackie Onassis, and Jessica Tandy.
In light of the relatively reasonable cost and the relatively attractive Bahamian tax regime for non-Bahamians, a number of celebrities own luxuriously exclusive private islands and cays and palatial homes or resorts in the Exuma chain. These celebrities include the Aga Khan, Nicolas Cage, David Copperfield, Johnny Depp, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Ali Karimi, Eddie Murphy, Eddie Irvine, Butch Stewart and Tyler Perry.
The hub of the Exuma Cays is Staniel Cay, where boaters congregate at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club's bar and restaurant, and where a landing strip serves as the gateway to many of the other cays.
There are several urgent infrastructural enhancements required, principally on Great Exuma if the island is to continue on its successful trajectory. The Exuma International Airport is in urgent need of modernization and there is an equally urgent necessity to construct a new shipping port, which some have suggested should be erected at Barraterre, as much for revitalizing that and other surrounding communities as for being the most appropriate location because of its deep-water and sheltered harbour.
Exuma remains one of the best kept secrets of The Bahamas and will continue to emerge as one of the more sustained successes of the nation, as its prospects for continued growth and development are extremely bright. In the words of George A. Smith, who represented Exuma for 29 years in Parliament: "Over these islands and cays, the winds whisper endlessly; and the seas and beaches are of almost unbelievable colours of aquamarine and whiteness and of beauty."
We will continue our tour of other Islands of The Bahamas later in the year.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in parliament. Please send your comments to email@example.com.
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August 29, 2014
Since the killing of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, and despite a few editorials that describe the scope of the problem as if it was an isolated incident, it has re-calibrated several nerve cells.
Why are we here again? August 9 was not a rare occurrence. It was the fourth killing of an unarmed black person by a white officer in five weeks. Many believed this was just another virus outbreak in another region.
This is an ongoing question surrounding many police departments' treatment of poor people, especially in black communities. Like the Ebola virus, many have been seeking to reverse a DNA code to cure an over-200-year affliction since slavery. Michael Brown's death has revisited a hazardous dark chapter that consistently tests our invariability
These toxic cells are: racism, prejudice, economic deprivation, education inequality, polarization, among many other things that often unexpectedly surface. I hope, when the streets are cleared, these issues do not become dormant and life goes on as normal while many continue to struggle with: (1) protection vs. freedom; (2) the correctional system; (3) police brutality; (4) tactics; (5) race; (6) culture; (7) abuse of authority; (8) demographics vs. representation; and (9) priority and government role.
The lack of uniformity in several uneven communities only shows us the struggle between pluralism and elitism. One, the police should help the people, and the people should help themselves; and two, the perception that officers protect the rich, and suppress the poor creates doubts.
The demonstrations that followed were not all infected by thugs or gangsters and only black people. Other races voiced their concerns about what appeared to be a public department with a closed system. Few individuals arrived with infected tissues in an attempt to disrupt good organs. However, the focus was to determine which lives are more valuable between blacks and whites, and stopping undiagnosed infection that has been killing healthy cells.
As the world watched, Ferguson's law enforcement struggled to maintain order, and their handling of the protestors made front pages globally, particularly the tactics used - rubber bullets, tear gas and multiple arrests, including of journalists.
Sadly, the U.S. is not alone facing scrutiny when it comes to police brutality and excessive use of force that has devastated many lives. In the Caribbean, across from the white sand and blue waters, many of us are struggling. However, racism tends to be muted, as it is often between the haves vs. have-nots and concerns of limited accountability by government officials for the have-nots.
For decades, several poor communities have been injected with a frustration virus. Although few individuals might have been exposed and already processed, just a simple drive or walk to one's favorite candy store can be a reason to be quarantined. Even when an individual has not been exposed or engaged in any toxicity, consistently restrictive masks are issued. Furthermore, sometimes during an encounter in an unmarked quarantined space with law enforcement, any negative gesture out of frustration can dictate if one lives or dies, simply for refusing to accept a surgical mask.
One writer argued, just do what you are told. It is extremely important to comply with an officer's order. However, for many young black men and other minorities in their reality, accepting a command often only reduces the number of bullies from perhaps from 10 to six, as a decision had already been made.
Even when authorities have solid evidence, gaining compliance requires good tactics. For example, despite much-needed treatment to halt the spread of the Ebola virus in Monrovia, Liberia, the recent government approach after the world has taken notice only created additional problems, as reported.
Several predominantly black, poor communities have been plagued with crime, cultural and socio-economic issues and are in need of an antibiotic. According to Rebecca Klein, writing in the Huffington Post, there was only 50 percent graduation rate in 2013 in Michael Brown's high school, compared to 86 percent in the state.If these symptoms were found in predominately white schools, a vaccine would have been developed and or an operation undertaken, complete with blood transfusions. This issue requires investments and interactions.
Most of the officers do not reside in the communities they serve, unable to relate to or recognize a single black healthy cell. It seems only when an epidemic erupts do doctors who usually sit in isolated gated communities take notice, while the problem has been around for decades. These labs are only treating symptoms, and not the root cause of the problems.
The lack of medicine and limited treatment often creates more delusions and long-term side effects. Although traces of bad cells need to be isolated and incapacitated, an entire community should not be treated as if it is all infected.
It is problematic being viewed as the only affected people while knowing that more affluent towns have also been exposed but overlooked. These communities need an economic medication to prevent outbreaks, but priority seems to be invested in equipment, in anticipation of those moments of turmoil and division.
The broken window theory that is based on zero tolerance and swift action solutions seems to have switched to target everyone in the community and not just the criminal elements. Not all medicines work on the ebola virus and these community labs must seek new treatments.
Modern policing is not a new concept in our society. It has been around since the early 1800s, created in Great Britain. As a few scholars noted, it was used to keep slaves in check from running away from their masters. Maybe that mindset still exists in some departments today.
George Kelling and Mark More analyzed the U.S. evolution for a Department of Justice study.
They found that the period from the 1840s to the 1930s saw close ties between the police and politicians, with the emphasis on making politicians happy. The reform era (1930s-1970s) focused on arrests and professional crime fighting. The community policing era (1970 to present) has seen the community and police working more closely together.
According to several studies, community policing has been successful when implemented correctly. However, in some areas this theory seems only to be on paper. Furthermore, it appears that most of today's operations are stuck in the two eras, like an apartheid system where one is free to move, but mentally trapped.
In a recent CNN panel, a Florida police chief stated that not all officers believe in community policing. This is not to say these officers do not uphold the law and should not be part of the institution. However, forcing such officers inside communities to work with those of different racial and socio-economic backgrounds could result in more "hands-up - don't-shoot" cases, as one can easily default back to one's training, like muscle memory.
Perception vs. reality
It is not an easy task being a police officer. Law enforcement wears multiple hats; they need as much support as we can afford them. Sometimes it seems they struggle to meet society's demands in fighting crime while balancing human rights. Even in cases where an officer is outgunned, the expectation society places on the officer often puts law enforcement in a tight spot, balancing perceptions and reality.
Many of today's police officers are extremely well educated and can almost become social workers when dealing with domestic violence or child abuse issues. Many are adept at plotting a crime scene on computer models or predicting trouble spots, yet some still cannot diffuse an incident without pulling a weapon.
Bureaucratization can create a set of norms that often leads to social problems. A system can be well-organized, but unable to adjust to current and changing reality. How can several decades of "them vs. us" change in a few hours?
Ferguson prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, came under fire for how he handled previous criminal cases and for the perceived favoritism for law enforcement that led to mistrust in the community. He was elected several times and has close ties to the police. Often when community policing fails, there are repeated calls for tolerance and inclusion - or else for someone to resign or be fired.
The department seems to have an operation stuck in the two previous political and reform eras. Many officers were making journalist arrests and restricting media traffic during the protest.
However, on paper, not all white officers involved in the killing of young black men are racists. Nevertheless, we cannot use disciplinary records as the only guide because people often keep their true feelings hidden behind closed doors.
One can be anti-gay, black, white, Jew, female, immigrant, and still function on the job. Institutional racism is just as dangerous. Moreover, we cannot ignore a few bad apples in disguise - for example, the two officers tied to the Ku Klux Klan recently in Florida.
It seems our society has become immune to these shootings. What is more troubling - if an individual confirmed as mentally disturbed is not able to comprehend the danger of approaching an officer with a deadly weapon, it can easily be justified. Society must ensure that when it eliminates a virus, this is only because it threatens the life of an entire community and not because of its label.
During a CNN interview, a young man revealed he wrote two poems, one for the good police officers, and one for the bad ones. This is a sign of hope - despite the bad virus, there are still some good cells.
o Derrick Miller is a trained U.S. federal law enforcement officer and been a part of criminal justice field for over 14 years. This article was published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.
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