Imagine my surprise upon reading the
first line of the Tribune article entitled, “Call for Ban on Porn,”
which appeared in last Friday’s paper. I was especially taken aback
by the report that members of the Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) sat
through 12 X-rated films. Comforted by the fact that they were doing
this for a purpose, to confirm that pornography was un-Christian and
should be banned, I was still left with a few questions which I hope
to work through publicly in the piece.
Why is it that at this moment pornography
should be banned? What purpose does banning pornography serve? Did I
miss something; was Bishop Randy out on bail? And, why did
it take 12 X-rated movies to come to this conclusion (because most people
who watch that much porn come to a very different conclusion, if you
catch my drift)?
Innuendo aside, and in keeping with
Biblical tradition, let’s start with the last question first and answer
the first question last.
That the BCC could sit through 12 graphic,
uncensored X-rated films highlights, perhaps, what is an obvious fact:
members of the BCC are not like most people. Indeed, they are the protectors
of the faith, sentinels of decency and guardians of our nation’s morality.
Members of the council are imbued with a greater tolerance for temptation
and necessarily so. They stand between us and the perils of modernity,
holding back a global tide of immorality that could, at any moment,
sweep away our culture and Christian tradition.
So yes, our ever-vigilant spiritual
watchmen are now advocating for the banning of pornography after their
experience in an elderly woman’s home who happened to be unable to
operate the cable box. And, always thinking about the big-picture,
instead of simply assisting her in setting parental controls, the BCC
is attempting to take a single experience in one among hundreds of thousands
of homes in the Bahamas and impose their conclusions on all of us. How
could we ever doubt their value to our democratic society? I know I
Always a beacon of reason, such a proposal
is not without its well thought out rationale. They fear that the nation’s
standards of decency are being eroded by the media and implicate “Hollywood
culture” in the rise of violent crimes over the last few years. Particularly
important is the protection minors who are, the BCC argues, alone more
often and staying up later. This, they assert, should be reason enough
to implement “television down time” when explicit content may be
on or even go so far as to remove illegal DirectTV installations.
Now, let’s dispense with the sarcasm
and get to the heart of the matter. Obviously no one wants children
watching porn, but banning it isn’t the answer.
Because you can’t! This is, in effect,
an attempt to plug a major societal laceration with a cotton swab.
Porn is everywhere. Perhaps, most recently
it could be found on television at that poor elderly woman’s house,
but any other day you can find it on newsstands, computer screens, in
mailboxes, under beds and at teenage sleepovers across the Bahamas.
Will we ban it in all of those places as well?
Instead, why doesn’t the BCC make
itself useful and organize workshops to teach parents, and old women
too, how to set parental controls on web browsers and cable boxes?
And, why don’t we encourage parents to talk to minors in a mature
way about sex?
Zap the intrigue out of sex and teach
young people how to protect themselves, encourage them to wait until
they meet someone special—that they love—and explain to them that
sex is a natural part of the human life cycle. The alternative is turning
it into the juiciest of forbidden fruits, which they will eventually
get their hands on anyway.
Dr. Timothy McCartney, in 1976, warned
the religious and educational establishment in his book, “Bahamian
Sexuality,” that there needed to be a more open dialogue about sex
between adults and young people. Without these necessary conversations,
McCartney argued that teenage pregnancy and the other difficulties that
accompany teenage sex would increase because of the changing social
context. In 2012, we’re still blushing embarrassingly at the thought
of talking to our young people about sex and we are reaping the rewards
of that hesitancy every day.
As far as a universal ban goes, I happen
to believe that adult Bahamians should be allowed to watch whatever
they want. It’s called freewill. God gave it to us and despite their
consistent butchering of Gospel teachings (especially concerning capital
punishment), the BCC should respect that. Besides, if you want to see
crime go up, take a single person’s porn away from them. I promise
you, frustration will abound.
As a student of sociology, I understand
the effects that media can have on the individual and perhaps the BCC
is right to fear the invasion of “Hollywood culture.” This
Anglo-American cultural imperialism has indeed been blamed for the erosion
of traditional cultural values partly due to its hyper-sexuality and
excessive violence. But this so called “Hollywood culture” also
brings with it a hyper-materialism and particular bourgeois class aspirations
that is a pillar of its successful cultural imperialism.
If we can agree on that last point
then all that is left to say is, “What’s good for the goose is good
for the gander.” What is more “Hollywood” than the Trinity
Broadcasting Network with its gilded sets, bejeweled first ladies and
well tailored pastors? TBN is but a taste of the profane material excess
of the pastoral class. Private jets, swanky cars, expensive shopping
trips; in the Bahamas the preachers are often the one’s living like
Hollywood stars. That unabashed, unfettered materialism is symptomatic
of the very same “Hollywood culture” that the BCC would have as
war against. To hear some tell it, Bahamian preachers are more concerned
with building their mansions in West Ridge than in heaven, but I’m
not one to spread rumors.
The final question is why, at this
moment, is it imperative for the BCC that pornography be banned?
I believe that this is the most important
question because it forces a larger political discussion. I want to
argue that it is no coincidence that at this particular moment the BCC
has offered a ban on pornography as a possible solution to our current
societal dilemma, despite the futility of such an action. I want to
suggest that this proposed ban is indicative of a dearth of novel ideas
and the absence of any valuable solutions to address growing social
ills. And finally, I want to propose that this dearth, this absence,
is the natural by-product of the conservative political agenda which
the BCC has chosen to adopt over the years.
This particular moment in our nationhood
is important because of its difficulty. Bahamians are quite literally
suffering. Widespread unemployment—especially among young men—increases
in violent crime, a crumbling education system, empty party politics
and a whole host of growing socio-cultural issues present a real challenge
to the quality of life for Bahamians. And it is at this particular moment,
that Bahamians have choice to continue to believe in a politics driven
by a conservative agenda or to take a more progressive approach. The
BCC has given you a ban on porn in the face of these troublesome times.
If that doesn’t exemplify how utterly disconnected they are from the
present then by all means, ban porn until you’re satisfied.
Like their right-wing, Christian fundamentalist,
Republican counterparts in the United States, the conservative BCC is
reading from the same play book they’ve been using since the Regan
era. I’m not talking about the Bible either; at least that book has
had a couple of version over the last 2,000 years.
Conservative politics is essentially
about keeping things the same—it offers no new ideas and is exceedingly
predictable. In the place of something original it concerns itself with
presenting an imaginary and innocent past when we never had to worry
about things like porn. The goal is to go back to that imaginary, ahistorical
past, not to move forward. According to Dr. McCartney’s book, if that
past ever did exist, it’s been gone for quite some time.
As an alternative, a more progressive
politics remains flexible. The goal is not to return to the past, but
learn from it while being acutely aware of the contemporary context.
Armed with the lessons of the past and an understanding of the realities
of the present, it is only then we can hope to approach the future in
a critical way. That is what this particular moment in the Bahamas requires
because it makes clear that the social and political solutions of the
past are not working.
The truth is, anytime attention shifts
from social to economic concerns, when conservative politics can no
longer play on people’s fears and prejudices to consolidate its power,
it finds itself grasping at straws. What becomes immediately apparent
is that in times when people need new solutions and fresh ideas to confront
the problems of the day, stalwart conservative institutions like the
BCC can offer little of value.
I am reminded of Hans Christian Andersen’s
children’s classic, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” In it,
a vain emperor hires two tailors to make him garments fit for a king.
Instead they trick him into believing that the new garments are invisible
to those who are incompetent or stupid. Although he can’t see it himself,
he goes along with the charade so as not appear unfit for his position.
When he finally parades his new garments before his subjects, a child,
unable to keep up pretenses shouts, “But he isn’t wearing anything
at all!” Alas, out of the mouths of babes.
After all these years of weaving
what seemed to be a messianic garment of righteousness and morality
around what is really an anachronistic, secondhand, conservative attempt
to rehash Sadducean authority, in this moment we are seeing the Bahamas
Christian Council for what it truly is: naked.
I’m not a child but I think
it’s time we dropped the pretense. If prayer breakfasts, and the well-worn,
well-rehearsed conservative ideological deadweights like banning porn,
capital punishment, homophobia and patriarchal sexism are all the Bahamas
Christian Council have to offer; if the ponzi scheme of “prosperity
ministry” is the extent of what the pastoral class in the Bahamas
can give us as we teeter on the brink, then someone has to point out
that, in actuality, the emperor has no clothes!
Joey Gaskins is
a graduate of Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY with a BA in Politics. He was
born in Grand Bahama Island and is currently studying at the London
School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) where he has attained
his MSc in Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies and has begun a
Doctoral Degree in Sociology. Joey also writes for
and the Tribune
. You can reach him at