The search for moral courage
I can vividly recall in the days of yore when moral courage was worn like a badge of honour.
Men and women, who had and practiced moral courage, wore and displayed the battle scars that were obtained from acquiring their badges of honor.
Do not get me wrong; in the days of yore, all was not perfect. It was far from perfect because, like in any undertaking, in the pursuit of any cause, there were those who eventually strayed from the principles of the cause.
However, immense credit must be given to those who stayed the course and endured until victory was won.
Of course, human nature being what it is, many stayed on beyond the initial victiory. In truth and in fact, some stayed on far too long. Power, once tasted and experienced, becomes an all-consuming mistress.
Based on what is unfolding in The Bahamas’ present social and political milieu, it becomes abundantly clear that the beneficiaries of the moral courage displayed by the men and women in the days of yore, have squandered their inheritance.
This inheritance was gained from the blood, sweat and tears of those who preceded them.
The days of yore bespeaks of a golden age, though not perfect, when the human nature of the leaders of the cause, on behalf of Black majority, was at its finest. What was the cause? The cause was the freedom of the majority population, and by extension, it was the freedom of the minority (oligarchy) population.
Indeed, it was a time pregnant with hope and expectation, hope and expectation of change and a better and brighter future; it was a time pregnant with courage, steadfastness and belief in a just cause. Hope, expectation, steadfastness and courage were aplenty. Yes, there was a time in The Bahamas when there were Bahamian men and women who were blessed with moral courage.
Their moral courage was so obvious because it was clear that they believed in the course of action that was to be taken in support of the cause for which they were fighting. In the modern Bahamas, however, it appears that the kind of moral courage that was displayed by some of our Black leaders only exists as a memory of what occurred in a bygone era.
Indeed, what is now needed is an infusion of the stimulus that would prod the present generation to cause rebirth to the hope, expectation, courage, steadfastness and belief in just causes.
Today, more than ever, Bahamians are yearning for men and women of this generation who would stand in the breach for justice, honesty, integrity, commitment to the rebirth of moral courage undergirded by a foundation built on steadfastness, love for humankind, dedication to the cause, fidelity, love of country and respect and value of the humanhood of all persons.
Those men and women who stood up for justice, righteousness and change in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and the early 1970s, are of an era that is long past. Sadly, it seems that we will never see the likes of those men and women again. But, where there is life, there is always hope.
What transpired in The Bahamas in June 2018 when four young members of parliament — Vaughn Miller, Travis Robinson, Frederick McAlpine and Reece Chipman — defied the governing Free National Movement by voting against the increase of the value-added tax from 7.5 percent to 12 percent, was reminiscent of the days of yore.
These men were labelled as rebels without a cause.
Chipman and Miller became the masters of their fate when they rendered their resignations from the Free National Movement. Both by their actions became independent members of parliament.
Robinson has become eerily silent. It would appear that he has been convinced to be silent. I hope that this young man finds his moral footing and regains the moral ground that he may have lost.
McAlpine seems to have decided to be the proverbial thorn in the flesh of the Free National Movement from within. When all is said and done, each one of the young men, at some point in time, displayed varying degrees of moral courage
For those who saw them as rebels without a cause, this writer begs to differ.
They were rebels; nay, they were patriots in the making with a cause.
Their cause, according to them, was the welfare of the constituents who elected them to represent them in parliament. Indeed, if history is kind to them, they could be called young men of moral courage and patriots in the making if they stay the course.
If you have never had to exhibit and take the path of moral courage, you would never be able to appreciate what it takes to do so.
Let us for a moment stop hiding behind the almost absolute power of the prime minister under the Westminster system, which has been bastardized in The Bahamas and the postcolonial Caribbean wherever British rule was dominant.
In the system of governance in The Bahamas and the wider Caribbean, for them to challenge the prime minister, his governing party and Bahamians who support the government of the day is considered political suicide, and a sentence to the political graveyard. The political life of many aspiring politicians came to an abrupt halt under the Pindling, Ingraham and Christie administrations.
At its most fundamental level, according to Rushworth M. Kidder, moral courage comes into play when one faces moral dilemmas head-on – knowing the stakes before you act and living your values with integrity.
Having said that, moral courage, which is at the foundation of morality throughout the literature on courage, tells us that the greatest courage may, in fact, arise in moments of the greatest fear.
John Wayne once said, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”
— Dr. Donald M. McCartney