How do you get people, generations in fact, to believe something that is patently untrue. A lie. A bold faced, untruth of such proportions that, it scarcely seems reasonable, anyone would take the progenitors of such fables seriously.
In politics, it’s easy. In Bahamian politics, it’s even easier.
“Our islands are among the poorest in this part of the world. We have no natural resources – no basic wealth– on which to draw“
The power that stands behind elected office, especially in the dark days of economic ignorance, made the peddling of nonsense, in The Bahamas, a cottage industry.
Unfortunately, those dark days, not so far behind us, have laid the foundations of what we see today – the continued peddling of nonsense, even under the bright light of free information.
1967 – THE BIGGEST LONGEST LIE IN BAHAMIAN HISTORY – Paternalism, Altruism and Hero Worship
1967 exposed a Bahamas still caught in the glare of infantilised political altruism. Politics, by then, had become almost formulaic, like 2 plus 2. Those seeking to renew their place at the high table of the Assembly, would simply show up around election time, go make their money in the intervening (seven reduced to five) years, then gallop up breathlessly, as if one just rushed in from fox hunting, around election time. The country was told that these were selfless men. Angelic even, in their quest, to see the country right.
For this, politicians became demigods in the minds of Bahamians. Aloof. Rich. Untouchable. Conceited. Financially connected. Few dared to question them.
And, if one of these demigods, happened to brush past your settlement or your street corner, on their way to cajole some party general who would bring in lots of votes or while making haste to some business meeting, to casually sign away a generations worth of Bahamian birthrights, it was as if a spiritual blessing had occurred.
In the waning hours before the historic 10th January 1967 elections, there came the desperate appeals to remember the hallowed gallantry of these selfless men, who drew no salary, only hard sweat, in the House of Assembly.
“In most parliaments in the world – and especially the Cabinet – members are paid a salary and they are obliged to make politics a career. Not so in the Bahamas. Here public men are not paid and so they are able to carry on their businesses while serving the country.”
Bahamians actually bought this guff.
Political Demigods Save The Bahamas While The Natives Carry Baskets On Their Heads
A sad socioeconomic picture of the Bahamas, was painted in the international press. It resembled that of a triangular prism. Tens of thousands, the masses, the natives at the bottom, versus the elites, who formed the sharp edge at the top.
Natives carried baskets on their heads and looked pregnant when they weren’t.
The English were apparently a clueless foreign power obsessed with tea time.
And then, then, there were the pilgrim Loyalist lineages, who emerged to set the Island nation on the right path to prosperity. They did it all, for decades, two centuries really, coveting power and prestige for themselves and kin, without gallantly drawing a single penny in salary. Such was the bile filled bag of nonsense peddled to Bahamians.
People actually bought into this guff.
The LIE of the Voluntary, Selfless Politician
Manufactured paternalistic altruism, in true Bahamian style, over two centuries, turned politicians into heroes. Heroes became demigods.
It is little wonder then, that in 1967, a critical part of the battle of political ideologies, centred around this notion of voluntary, selfless politicians. Men who supposedly gave of their precious time, for decades some of them, to see the basket on the native’s head, tilted just right.
They were men of enough personal wealth to have no need of such a grubby pretence of a monthly salary.
Salaries were for lesser men who would be held accountable for doing their jobs and what they failed to do. Such tawdry details were not for Bahamian politicians. Oh no! They were loftier than that.
This ideology helped to create a 50/50 split of the constituency seating, leading to the dramatic cliffhanger results of January 10th 1967.
Editorial comments 1967
“Sir Roland is fortunate. He has a government that has a long Parliamentary history and background of experience in government. And he is surrounded by a Cabinet composed of some of the ablest men the colony has produced. This is made possible by the fact that politics is not yet a career job in this colony.
The Premier, his Cabinet and members of the Legislature are not paid for their services. They give their time – and ability – free to the country. And because these are not career posts the people can call on the colonies ablest men to serve them.”
In most parliaments in the world – and especially the Cabinet – members are paid a salary and they are obliged to make politics a career. Not so in the Bahamas. Here public men are not paid and so they are able to carry on their businesses while serving the country.
When public men are paid they make politics a full-time job. They are obliged to give up their businesses so as to avoid any suggestion of anyone in government serving their own interests. This rule may work out well in countries where men have enough private wealth to be able to give up their own business activities to serve the country or where the salary is large enough to make a political career adequate for men of ability.
After 10th January 1967 – Bahamians create a new demigod out of Moses
Premier Lynden Pindling became Moses to the people. He led the masses out of bondage into the promise land.
Premier Pindling and the Progressive Liberal Party promised an end to the UBP practice of raping the nation in broad daylight, all the while claiming to be selfless angels of mercy to basket headed natives. The media was livid.
UBP supporters of the media continued to peddle the idea of the paternalistic, altruistic, old boy politician that shouldn’t be forgotten in the hearts of Bahamians.
“Let it be remembered, too, that the UBP leaders accomplished this record of economic success without going to the Bahamian taxpayers to provide them with salaries. And yet they accomplished it without accepting charity from other countries. Call it by whatever name you choose, a handout is a handout, and under the UBP the country always paid its own way.”
New Demigods Replaced The Old – 200 Years, then 25 Years, then 15 Years… Today, a revolving door. ‘If you buck your toe, you gone.’
The UBP ideology was so pervasive and so ingrained. Even after a new government came to power, it would take another 25 years after 1967, for the Bahamian to begin to slowly unbridle himself and herself of a burning need, based really on a Stockholm Syndrome type history, to continue to create political demigods.
When Sir Lynden Pindling was defeated at the polls, in 1992, after 25 years in political power, for many Bahamians, it was the most profound psychological adjustment of a generation. Pindling was loved. Prayed for. Adored beyond measure.
Bahamians created another demigod in Sir Lynden, after dispatching Sir Stafford and Sir Roland to the history books.
But once a Bahamian political demigod is created, like Stafford and Roland and Lynden, it would take a major psychological about turn, a Herculean effort, to remove them, in order that the nation may move on.
Today, Bahamian politics is a revolving door. ‘If they buck their toe, they gone.’
An uncle of mine, who lives in James Cistern, Eleuthera commented , on the 16th September 2021, win of the Progressive Liberal Party. He say something to the effect that ‘If they buck their toe, they gone.’ That’s island shorthand for, if they screw up, they will get voted out IMMEDIATELY. It seems to be A prevailing sentiment across the country.
In the modern Bahamas, after the double economic whammy of Hurricane Dorian and Covid lockdowns, the patience of the Bahamian electorate has worn thin.
Pedestals have been cut down to eye to eye height.
After two successive slap back elections, PLP (2017), FNM (2021) and now PLP again, it remains to be seen if any demigods will emerge, or indeed, be created in the imaginations of the electorate.
Have Bahamians grown up and out of their historical malaise or their need to create heroes or elevated super beings? Only time will tell… only time will tell.