Monday, June 8, 2020

Decolonisation of the Bahamian Mind


By Gilbert Morris

I began this year with a post-called: “Decolonisation of the Bahamian Mind”. It was the result of conversations with friends and Caribbean colleagues over the holiday....who concluded with me that ideas, concepts, vision and strategies mean nothing if our people’s thoughts were aligned against their own interests. 

First amongst these interests is to remove from their minds a thinking inferiority. Second, to remove the feverish orientation toward and prioritisation of what is foreign. Third, to remove markings, signs and monuments on the Bahamian landscape that prioritises enslaver and colonial personages, hovering over our daily lives, infecting our children with their pride-of-place paramountcy.

As is typical, we leapt over the thinking part straight to the monument removal; essentially because the thinking part is hard work and one finds soon enough, we are hideously poor at disciplined conceptualisation, rooted context or discerning relevance. Now so many delight in removing doubt inspired by events in America and elsewhere!

Well, its simple...requires no thinking...and one gains an adrenaline rush to have achieved something in a country where Turtle’s achieve more in a day! Unfortunately, that’s a short term “feeling good” neuro-stimulant that does nothing to change our situation or to cultivate a resolve to create or own a Bahamian future.

Had we taken time to think, we’d know that removal of statutes from a place of prominence is not - can’t and shouldn’t be imagined as - elimination from history: Christopher Columbus is part of our history, without whom any discussion of that history would amount to idiot babbling. This is a crucial understanding that demands we locate him - with scholarly discipline - in the structure of a Bahamian historical narrative that is intellectually honest, and not the product of flailing gum-clicking, Jungaliss analysis.

Had we taken time to think, we’d notice that our lazy, reactionary approach to national pride - which is so impotent it hasn’t prevented D Grade national averages, elephantine Debts, Criminal Slaughter of our own, Skullduggery and backward tribal politics - such that we’ve done far more damage to our heritage than Columbus ever could. This admission and a reflective national conversation would have shown us that we never bothered to think how to de-prioritise Christopher Columbus and what he symbolises, yet claim or monetise the motherhood of the Americas for our direct benefit, whilst locating Columbus at a level of our cultural meaning that removes him as the hood ornament of our history driving toward a Bahamian future.

What a thinking deliberative period would have confirm to us additionally, is the ahistorical manner in which we speak of Christopher Columbus as if he knew us. He didn’t. He couldn’t!

When we speak of him we speak of an aboriginal atrocity he initiated, informed by a reform of Dr, Martin Luther King jr.’s clarion that: ‘Injustice in any period is a threat to justice in any period’. This “period” break in the colonial hegemony in the Bahamas - between the aboriginals of these islands and ourselves - inhabits ‘enigmas of arrivals’, thousands of historical wedges, cultural drips, slippages and anthropological bleeding points, as these islands magnetised then metastasised a myriad of cultural nuances from the surrounding near abroad.

This Bahamas was a way station, a pastoral colony, a private haven (still), and was crucial to the economic establishment of the Carolinas and was a direct contributor to the American Revolution as a nexus of risks and allegiances, and so a geostrategic default territory...yet also - lest we forget and forget ourselves - a direct beneficiary of the Haitian revolution, and a contributor to the rise of Canada in the salt, Cod and Molasses trades; amongst many other things.

What is the true and proper psychology of a people of this rambunctuous history, and how do they de-colonise their minds, in a manner and by a method that does not corrupt their history, whilst reprioritising their historical personalities appropriately, by some disciplined measure?

Let us note for good measure, that every demand peters out to conundrums, which undermines the demand itself: So, does the demand to remove monuments, apply to lawyer’s wigs, to knighthoods, to QCs, to The Commonwealth, Anglican Church and the Queen?

Or does our voices of defiance trail off to shameful silence when the true implications of what we demand comes into view?

Moreover, how would such a people (Bahamians) - now rightly, if only lately enthused - employ this moment of nascent awareness to plow into a future that corrects the terrors of failure they inflicted on themselves?

That is a question that should be answered before we rush out in our typical unthinking bossiness - being as our grandparents say: “too fast” - and so constrain ourselves to contemplate organically what it means to de-colonise our minds from our over-churchified plantation thinking; to repriortisation of Columbus’ and other egregious monuments; to the plastic culture we sell in our plantation tourism model; to our vapid reprobate politics; our education, economic and strategic failures; to our obsession with what is foreign; to our slavish devotion to other people’s things...which permits foreigners to find one skullduggerer, who freely sells the country out for second hand BMWs, trips to Walmart and grinning selfies!