Honors awards should be deserved
It has been a tradition that “worthy” Bahamians are acknowledged for contributions they may have made to nation building by being placed on the queen’s new year’s list. For years, Father Sebastian Campbell has made it a personal mission to voice his utter contempt for this practice, even going so far as to have spearheaded a drive to have a national hero award as a substitute.
This year’s list stirred the ire of Campbell, who considers the queen’s list inferior to the honorific title of a national hero. I find the reasoning used to justify his statements both questionable and sad. His acerbic, self-righteous remarks reflect those of a person with an ax to grind with our former colonial masters.
Political correctness is often the enemy of truth. I am of the view that whenever Bahamians excel at home or abroad in a way that brings praise from international sources, we should all share in the acknowledgement of the accomplishment. Only a bitter, spoilsport would do otherwise. It matters not the country or system from which the honor originates, once the person has earned the privilege of being acknowledged by his or her own merits.
Therein lies the problem, any award that originates from within this country is seldom based on one’s personal merits! This culture is not one that understands or respects the concept of meritocracy. Very little acknowledgement is given to those who work altruistically, diligently and honestly, and when they are honored it is usually in the setting of churches or small civic organizations away from the public eye.
Now consider Campbell’s so-called national heroes. In reality, this nation has few if any national heroes. We have fought no wars as an independent nation. We have had no men spill their blood in violent opposition to invasion or oppression. After weighing the pros and cons of the contributions of those in public life in the past, I am hard pressed to think of the names of 10 people who would epitomize what a hero truly is for this country, and by misusing the word hero we strip it of the dignity it should have.
We have had men and women who were oppressed by our former colonial masters who through peaceful protest were able to gain independence and then establish oligarchies in the aftermath. We have had leaders who have run this country into the ground while the ignorant masses idolize them – but these are not heroes. One can’t help but wonder in retrospect if we would not have been better off remaining a colony of Great Britain!
The persons who find themselves on the queen’s list of honorees were recommended through a system endorsed by the government that invariably use them as political rewards, rather than for actual contributions made to the country. I have observed over the years that many who have found themselves on the queen’s new year’s list have received far more from this country than any benefit the country may have derived from their “contributions”. In a country this size, where who you know is more important than what you know or do, it is easy to believe that any honor that is the product of government influence or intervention is invariably influenced by politics. The petty tribalism that controls and corrupts everything strips any so-called honor of its luster and significance.
We certainly need an objective way to reward deserving citizens, but these honorific titles that are not rooted in true meritocracy have had their time and serve no purpose other than to distort history, inflate egos and ingratiate recipients to the powers who award them. This is true of both awards, the one Campbell reviles and the other he propagates.