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Columns : Letters to The Editor Last Updated: Sep 2, 2018 - 12:29:34 AM

Pamela Burnside: Are we ready to ‘be who we is’?
By Pamela Burnside
Sep 2, 2018 - 12:13:35 AM

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September 1, 2018

Dear Editor,

As I sit here at the beginning of a new month and reflect on the newspaper articles of the past several weeks, I can but shake my head in frustration and ‘bogglement’ as our country appears to be settling into the same ol, same ol formula of leading us nowhere fast!

A dearth of inactivity is descending upon the new government, blanketing the promise of change and hope that accompanied them on their arrival into office.  It appears sadly that this government is on its way to also turning into a ‘gubment’ - thus leading me to take pen to paper once again to try, and try hard, to ask them to please ‘see what dey lookin’ at’. We have answers to some of these challenges staring us right in the face, but they still ain’ getting it!

Credit ratings continue to loom dark and threateningly on our horizon, requiring the country to show significant progress in economic activity. But the same ol’ formula persists of waiting with beholden hands thrust forward towards foreign direct investment to solve the problems of the nation. Same story, different day….which leads to the conclusion that slavery will remain alive and well as long as we retain our role as colonial dependants relying on any outside master to save our souls!

This came into stark realization recently during a conversation with a learned friend as he adamantly bemoaned the fact that government suffers because not enough ‘good’ people are offering for political office. I promptly refuted this premise by saying that one did not need to be in political office in order to promote positive change.  In fact it is my firm belief that a strong, passionate and committed civil society can offer and contribute so much more to their country by remaining out of political office with the freedom to contribute more effectively, unfettered by the constraints and red tape of ‘politricks’.

In addition, governments are saddled with a huge civil service, the majority of whom are deeply and historically entrenched in a silo-like mentality that they guard and protect relentlessly, resisting change, and throwing up whatever blocking mechanisms are needed to ensure that their way remains the only way. Thus the wheels of the government train continue to turn ever so slowly (and often grind to a halt), as the various cars go sluggishly on their inefficient way in all sorts of directions, ne’er to meet as one in order to work together effectively……and meanwhile the people suffer.

Yes, governments might be elected to make and affect policy, but how is that policy arrived at, and how is it put into action? Talk is cheap and though it can be made to sound so exciting - it is, in essence, hot air….talk does not execute – actions execute, and actions speak louder than words! The essential element that is needed for progress and development is creativity. Creatives and civil society should be sitting around every policy table because they are the ones on the ground, and they are the ‘thinkers outside the box’ needed to identify a challenge and offer suggestions and solutions to address it and promote positive change! By working together, creatives and civil society are the essential links that strengthen the chain of government.

The government’s plans to offer affordable lots to the uniformed forces have hit a roadblock apparently because their applicants cannot qualify for a mortgage. So why aren’t we offering beautifully designed clapboard houses for affordable housing purposes? The clapboard house is a unique gift from our ancestors and an important part of our heritage as Bahamians. We have completely ignored this resource because of the misguided shame and stigma attached to the clapboard house as being a house of the poor Bahamian from ‘over–the-hill’. What an utterly stupid notion! We must recognize what an important resource the clapboard house is, as the Forestry Unit in the Ministry of Environment and Housing prepares to protect our important native pine forests - a resource that is literally growing in our backyard. The milling of the pine trees is in itself an industry which can provide the materials for the clapboard homes – yet, at our peril, we ignore this obvious source of industry and economic independence!


In the same vein, we are losing our Bahamian straw industry resources in the persons of our amazingly talented straw weavers, and thereby failing to pass on this intangible heritage skill to the next generations of Bahamians – something that was unheard of a few decades ago when I was growing up.


I was aghast to hear a young Bahamian student from UB state that ‘ain nobody checking for no straw job – dat finish!’ Who can blame him for this attitude when we ourselves have failed to tell our own success stories from yesteryear, and we have failed to celebrate with pride those straw pioneers who have turned generations of Bahamians into white collar professionals by sending them to study at university from the monies placed in the coffers from a highly profitable straw industry. So staring right at us, is yet another vibrant industry that can be revived with the proper technology to service our modern society – which will entail training a new generation of entrepreneurs to embrace a mass production/industrial mindset - and provide much needed economic empowerment to thousands of Bahamians throughout our entire archipelago!

Are we going to sit idly by and lose this important part of our culture as well? Do we feel so ashamed of our heritage that we will refuse to embrace these opportunities, and instead cut off our nose to spite our face! How stupid is this!
The Bahamas needs to assess its strengths, re-examine its vision, determine its future course, and execute it. We have to be ready to compete in a 21st century global marketplace. The longer we take to start, the longer it will take for us to implement this change.

Efficiency and effectiveness are sadly and badly lacking in this society from the top down – and this insidious lethargy continues to pervade our progress since mediocrity is the norm, and meritocracy is MIA…it is no small wonder that our brain drain is so real and frightening!

When will we direct our resources to correct these shortfalls? When are we going to implement viable forms of economic activity to anchor our country’s stability? I submit that the straw and clapboard house industries can provide what we need for economic activity – it is ours to own since the raw materials are right here; we can implement it right away using our own skilled technicians to train others; it can provide profitable employment throughout the archipelago for generations of Bahamians; it is sustainable and not harmful to the environment; it is a win-win enterprise that is staring us right in the face.
Are we ready to ‘be who we is’?
Yours sincerely,
Pam Burnside

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