Saturday, Aug 24, 2019
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The pen is stronger than great armies

Dear Editor,

There are no known borders to restrict words or impregnable city fortresses to which books cannot lay siege. Yet, in this dilemma of third-world misrule syndrome, with its paradox of saint to tyrant manifestations that weave a tangled web of deception, many with aspirations to govern continue to commit the cardinal offense of drawing legislative sword against the fourth estate.

We in The Bahamas are no less victims to these primitive intimidations, where political giants with puerile ambitions, lord it over a captive and naive electorate who pay an undue debt of acclaim to these luminaries smeared by the indelible taint of corruption; while an emerging atmosphere of financial vertigo throws our banking into a dizzy spin and law-makers breach protocol with insolent behavior on viral display.

But who will speak for those afraid to lose a government job or upset one’s pastor or bishop? Those afraid to be alienated from society or worse, brought before the courts on trumped-up charges due to spurious allegations? Is it not the journalist who stands shoulder to shoulder with us when seeking redress or some other form of due process, they entrusted with the honor of duty, whose primary passion is to create a fair and unbiased story in the crucible of truth, with the distilling fire of principle refining the properties of factual information?

There is a strange phenomenon gripping this nation: a delinquent desire to run red-lights, to litter or pilfer by reason of employment, to use profanity in acts of road rage in the presence of children. Now it has become fashionable for politicians to insult reporters and push their microphones away in moments of shameless disregard for the respect of another’s profession. It is with the highest accolades that I commend former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, who embraced journalists, knowing full well the importance of the media as mediator between various branches of government, and those they serve.

In the interest of fools, this administration refuses to swallow history’s bitter pill, quite content to manipulate tax regimes that hurt those most vulnerable and draw lines of division that push youthful dreams into margins of dementia while our cultural currency is under the vilest attacks of “reverse plagiarism”. Speech, the first and chief-most offspring of thought, is derived from the mind of God. None should seek to infringe upon such without grave consequences. But, with heavy hearts we navigate the recent demise of Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey that incites memories trembling through time as we recall the horrifying death experience of Daniel Pearl many years ago in Pakistan.

We are in a mad season of narcissism where men in high office chase fortune and fame at the nation’s expense, and we who write find shelter in words when under vehement threat by those whose “healing oil has become a trap for flies” in a country with a vast disparity for objective reasoning brought on by its leaders, who seem allergic to the medicine of common sense. Valiantly espousing this “those who commit injustice bear the greatest burden”, Hosea Ballou pinches the tender end of a bruised conscience.

Too many of us live in the basement of reality while journalists articulate voices of the masses. But “liberty can never be enjoyed until it is shared”, and no human spirit is broken by they whose merit is measured with scandal and lies.

Sadly, upon what premise is erected the maxim “a people get the kind of government they deserve”? Will we endure, as did Socrates, to outlive the stubborn fallacies of the established order? Can we change a failed bureaucracy that yields more questions than answers and presents problems instead of solutions? Bound to no master, at peace with all mankind, we are the guardians of a future for generations to come, with a natural desire to excel this country’s aim and scope of destiny.

This one-dimensional thrust of the executive echelon to pursue progress in a vacuum with cross-thread systems, without reciprocal participation of its people, is indicative of a government in the throes of a mood disorder, swinging from one extreme to the other, exhibiting an inferiority complex one minute, then cracking the plantation whip the very next. Who will register these anomalies highlighting gross psychological disconnect? Just like brash rookies, they wildly swing at curve balls and miss, with silly excuses being an imploding financial imbroglio left simmering by the previous government. Just fix it and stop complaining.

We are a peaceful people who have long enjoyed taking this beautiful climate of freedom for granted. Napoleon Bonaparte advises that “journalists are a regent to sovereigns and a tutor to the nations” while holding up a mirror to reflect the ambiguities and successes of the world, relentless in the pursuit of definitive attributes that multiply in news transcending the natural, moral order of humankind.

We are in a precarious position amidst these troubling times, and in gentle rebuke I forewarn, if writing declines, speech will cease. There is no abbreviation to our story of potential achievement, through mutual benefit and shared rewards. Without fail, an empire of words will defeat great armies bearing weapons of fear and doubt. Beyond comprehension, it is said “if you want to keep something from most Bahamians, hide it in a book”. We can change that acutely correct aphorism by reading our daily newspapers, exemplified by the courage and fairness of a noble cadre of law-abiding and hard-working reporters guided by respect of and for all people.

– Gregory Neely

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