A new decade in our nationhood is upon us and during this decade The Bahamas will celebrate a half century of independence; a seminal marker that beckons reflection on who we are as a people.
A new year typically brings with it renewed and spirited desire for change.
When change is contemplated on a national level, attention often centers on change at the political level and though we are not in an anticipated election year, Bahamians are already ringing their own proverbial bell borne out of frustration, disaffection and angst.
Many are doing so without appreciating that elections are but one tool of change in a democracy, and that political change without a change in the mindsets, knowledge base and civic involvement of the citizenry can ultimately yield few lasting gains.
Successful nations discern the tides and seasons and adjust their sails accordingly.
Ours is not a season of finding a savior archetype who will deliver our country from peril, but is rather one wherein each individual must usher in an era of Bahamians taking the personal initiative to become more informed and socially active citizens who can deliver themselves and consequently, their nation.
Bahamians are said to be emotional voters, and while elections are emotive facets of one’s democracy, a responsible vote is one cast by a Bahamian whose emotions are girded by knowledge.
Sitting back in one’s democracy and waiting patiently for revenge at election time is a losing cycle no matter who wins.
Be it the party now in power or any party the Bahamian people might choose to elect in the future, we are not likely to have a government that will do right by the people unless the people educate themselves about what right is, and are willing to live up to their responsibilities as citizens to hold their representatives accountable.
To wit, we must be willing to put love of country and our fellow man above love of politics and political parties.
The Bahamas has one of the highest penetrations of internet usage per capita in the Caribbean, and regardless of what one might have gleaned from high school civics, there is nothing that prevents us as adults from accessing information online about our system of government, our constitution and our laws.
Though a fully enacted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is long overdue, we do not need such legislation to access information already freely available to Bahamians who want to empower themselves by knowing how their government should function and how elected and appointed officials ought to function therein.
After all, without a fundamental grasp of one’s system of government and how to influence it, a Bahamian might access information through an FOIA but would likely not know what to do with it or how to effectively agitate for change.
Ours is a culture where personal responsibility often takes a backseat to an insistence that it is the job of others — politicians most especially — to give us a better life.
While governments do have duties and responsibilities that must be met in order to ensure an orderly and functioning society, in 2020 and beyond all Bahamians must become more willing to accept ownership for their part in the nation’s problems.
We do not need our MP to fix the relational problems in our homes that are at the heart of social ills plaguing our nation.
We do not need our MP to get to know our neighbors and get involved in building our communities so that our immediate environment and the wider society can be safer and more nurturing.
We do not need our MP to apply ourselves to personal growth, study and skills enhancement so as to better equip ourselves for a changing domestic and global environment.
We do not need our MP to cause us to see that the longer we continue to hinder or harm one another on the basis of politics is the longer we delay the better life we all say we want to experience.
May this decade be one where Bahamians fully embrace the reality that if politics and governance in this country are to truly change, the change must begin in those who cast the votes.
Bahamians must rise and take their place as our democracy’s leader so that those who desire political power will approach the seat with fear, knowing the people will give them no rest until they govern, and govern well.
Happy new year, Bahamas.