Sunday, August 5, 2012

The slave mentality in The Bahamas is alive and well...

Bahamians have a slave mentality


Crime is out of control; it’s the master’s fault, aka the government. Illegal immigration is out of control; it is the master’s fault, aka the government. The economy is bad; it’s the master’s fault, aka the government. The master will fix the problem. He knows best.

But what are “you” doing about it? We should know by now that the change starts with us. During the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Africans were illegally sold as slaves. Many of these Africans ended up in the Caribbean and thus were forced into a new way of life.

The indoctrination of Africans (Blacks) into mental slavery and European culture continues even today. The celebration of Guy Fawkes Day, Halloween and that “foreign is better” are just a few examples of the former in The Bahamas. We as Black Bahamians are mentally enslaved and even though we are free physically, we face some of the most dangerous times in our history. One hundred and seventy-seven years after the proclamation was read to free slaves in the British colonies, Bahamians still continue to have a slave mentality.

Slaves in The Bahamas worked on small plantations when compared to other Caribbean islands, and the treatment of Bahamian slaves was much better than their Caribbean counterparts. James Stephen, an abolitionist wrote, “the provisions and stock raised on the plantations did not provide the remuneration received by planters in other colonies, ‘but to slaves the effects were ease, plenty, health and the preservation and increase of their numbers, all in a degree, quite beyond example in any other part of the West Indies”. (Source from The Story of The Bahamas by Paul Albury, chapter 14, p126). In my view, this explains the basis of the way that we act toward our “Master” today.

Bahamian slaves accepted their master as a good person and viewed him favorably. Our Caribbean counterparts were treated more harshly than us and as a result they had a fundamental distrust of their master. Could this explain why they are more aggressive than us and the fact that our attitude is more laissez-faire?

Since 1967, in The Bahamas, the black master (government) replaced the white master (government). There was a changing of the guard, but most Bahamians have not seen the kind of progress that is to be expected. Black Bahamians in particular still do not possess the majority of the land; we still do not own a major hotel and we are still second-class citizens in our own country. We now have Black masters as our gatekeepers but they are continuing the historical trend of our demise, albeit in the same subtle nature. Yet we elect the same people over and over. When will the cerebral revolution come?

Look at the way that our country is run with little or no objection from Bahamians. The government sold BTC and there were only about 1,000 marchers on Bay Street. In fact, Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes literally squawked when asked about the effectiveness of the march for BTC. Lawyers illegally sold land owned by Arawak Homes to unsuspecting Bahamians. Due to the large scale of Bahamians who were defrauded, there should have been major campaigns initiated by Bahamians in protest of this. The government refuses to do all it can to help curb our crime and immigration problems and its policies have failed miserably, specifically over the last two decades. Additionally, government policies have caused the price of land in The Bahamas to soar so high that the average Bahamian can no longer afford to buy land (except for those in Mackey Yard); and yet Bahamians sit back and do nothing. Sadly, we still believe in the old slave adage that “Master (aka the government) knows best”.

Listening to the talk shows daily, concerns by Bahamians appear to be on the rise. They call in and seem to expect more accountability from the government representatives. This is a good thing and this type of activity on a wide scale can certainly help break this slave mentality that we continue to be suffering from. I feel proud as a Bahamian when callers suggest that the issues affecting us should be looked at for what they are worth. Forget party lines. For too long, we have been using our party biases and not looking at issues from a nationalistic point of view. We must realize that when our ancestors were enslaved, the underlying tone would have been to regain freedom for all in the British colonies and this bode well for all involved.

Bahamians by heart are not a fighting people when it comes to challenging “the master”. In fact, the only time I can say with certainty that Bahamians would come together and fight the master is when he “messes with their pay”. From the Burma Road Riot on June 1st, 1942 to the teacher’s general strike in the mid 80s, Bahamians came together in solidarity to protest wage disputes. In fact, before the Burma Road Riot, even the American workers who were earning higher wages were agitating for the Bahamian workers’ wages to be increased. Foreigners were given preferential treatment even back then. Does this sound familiar? In the case of the general teachers’ strike, the government of the day said that the Treasury was broke. Yet, after the teachers’ salary was increased, then Prime Minister Sir Lynden Pindling and his Cabinet increased the salary of all members of Parliament.

If the government had told BTC workers that they would be receiving pay cuts you would have seen a different outcome from the employees. Contract after contract can be given to foreign contractors without a whimper of dissatisfaction from Bahamians. Let me go on record as saying that I was utterly surprised that the present government was able to take overtime pay away from customs and immigration officers with virtually very little opposition from the Bahamas Public Service Union membership.

The recent debacle of the government in the Mackey Yard sub-division speaks again to our slave mentality. Here we are as Bahamians are just sitting back and allowing the government to do what it wants to. Let the “master” handle it is the conclusion of many Bahamians. There are Bahamians though, whose minds have bypassed this slave mentality, but these numbers are infinitesimal.

Just as the slave trade was supported by Africans themselves, who helped capture their own countryman for a few dollars, more we have replication going on in The Bahamas in 2011. Many in the remaining middle class in The Bahamas are utterly quiet as to the state of affairs because they are still getting their hefty salaries. They are still able to live their lives, buy what they want and travel when they want. In their eyes because they are not directly affected by these adverse policies, they choose to turn a blind eye. They are not speaking out and are allowing their “brothers” to be further humiliated and defrauded. In the same vain, thousands of people turned a blind eye to the slave master during the slave trade because they were thinking about self and not country.

The slave mentality in The Bahamas is alive and well and the time has come for Bahamians to open their eyes. We cannot just leave it in the hands of “the master” and hope and pray that the correct decisions will be made, and take for granted that we will always have bread to eat. Bahamians, we need to change our sorry, lethargic and lackadaisical attitude towards the myriad policy decisions that affect us. We will continue to suffer as a people in our own country if we don’t.

As Disraeli, the great English statesman said, “Nurture your mind with great thoughts for you will never go any higher than you think”.

Jul 20, 2011