Op-Ed

Consider This | The dogged doldrums of disquiet

What is far worse than professing a lie is a complete obliviousness to the truth.

On any given day, when speaking to the man on the street, it is virtually impossible to escape a determined and definitive sense of disquiet, a profound impression of uneasiness, foreboding and uncertainty about so many aspects of everyday life.

Individuals frequently express the perception that somewhere along the way, we have, individually and as a community, lost a sense of direction, determination and vision about what awaits us in the foreseeable future.

Therefore, this week, we would like to consider this — what accounts for the dogged doldrums of disquiet which so many people persistently experience in their daily lives?

This dogged, indomitable disquiet has also left so many of the planet’s occupants with a sense of despair and despondence that is characterized by a level of apprehension, agitation and anxiousness.

International disquiet

For the entire month of January, millions watched, in real-time, and in shockingly awesome and total disbelief, the protracted impeachment of U.S. President Donald J. Trump.

This “sham” trial has created a constitutional crisis regarding the limits of presidential power.

This exercise in futility has hijacked the grand American experiment which, for centuries, purported to represent the democratic template for the world to emulate.

Never again will the U.S. Senate be able to boast of being the world’s greatest deliberative body.

The Senate lost that distinction, resulting in a crisis of confidence that has propelled many political observers and citizens deep into the doldrums of disquiet.

The best description of this charade was aptly portrayed by a cable news contributor who painted the impeachment proceedings as “a trial that wasn’t really a trial, before a jury that wasn’t really a jury delivered to an audience that didn’t really want to hear”.

Objective observers the world over now realize that, given the Senate’s refusal to hear from witnesses regarding the Trump/Ukrainian quid pro quo affair, what is far worse than professing a lie is a complete obliviousness to the truth.

On Friday past, the United Kingdom finally left the European Union (EU) through its Brexit initiative.

In addition, the world recently observed the announcement of a new Israeli peace plan which excluded a major stakeholder, the Palestinians, from the negotiations, albeit those negotiations made very definite plans for a new Palestinian state.

 The decades-long hot wars in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan and the North Korean cold war continue unabated, with scant prospects of a near-term resolution.

Simultaneously, the world continues to witness the unrelenting rise of nationalistic fervor and fascism in Turkey, the Philippines and other European democracies. The entire world appears to be ensconced in unrelenting dogged doldrums of disquiet.

In the meantime, the world continues to experience horrific natural disasters: fires in Australia and California, hurricanes and earthquakes in the Caribbean and the potentially catastrophic pandemic of the coronavirus that has completely ignored and disrespected national boundaries and rapidly threatens the health of millions of the planet’s inhabitants.

We seem to be resolutely oblivious to the potentially destructive disruptions that threaten us, as evidenced by the persistent denials of the effects of global warming from very high places.

Domestic disquiet

Closer to home, we are no less immune to the dogged doldrums of disquiet. Several recent developments have contributed to this.

Perhaps the most obvious reasons are financially oriented.

The 60 percent increase in value-added tax (VAT) during the early days of the current administration’s term has heavily taxed and adversely stressed household and business resources.

The recent increase by Bahamas Power and Light (BPL), according to the oxymoronically-titled Rate Reduction Act, will further reduce of the prospects of consumers, preventing them even more from getting their ends to meet.

This has left many in the doldrums of disquiet.

Then there are juvenile political actions that have eroded the public trust in some of our elected leaders even further.

The political prosecutions of three former parliamentarians have greatly contributed to the loss of public confidence in the government’s ability to rise above deeply divided political partisanship.

To add insult to injury, the prime minister’s recent announcement that “the general election train has left the station”, foreshadowing the commencement of the 2022 general election season, was not only misplaced; it was completely inappropriate given that, in its normal cycle, the general election is more than two years away.

This premature announcement will likely foreshadow only negative implications for a country that is already bitterly and deeply divided politically.

It will certainly exacerbate the level of disquiet that will deepen in the months ahead. This is because everything that the government does from this point forward will be viewed through the eyes of a political campaign, solely incentivized to win the next election, national unity be damned.

The recent enactment of the single-use plastic ban has further propelled Bahamians into the doldrums of disquiet, particularly in light of the cost associated with that law’s implementation.

Last week’s announcement of a dramatically deepening budget deficit and incessant borrowings to assuage the appetite of the fiscal leviathan has done little to decelerate the dogged doldrums of disquiet.

The often unspoken, but lucidly clear reality, is that, in the final analysis, the citizens will have to repay such borrowings, representing a further tax on already overburdened taxpayers.

Just before the government’s latest confirmation of its insatiable borrowing appetite, Bahamians were informed that they will not only have to foot the bill for increased ministerial travel costs, but now travel allowances will also include the cost of ministers’ spouses, complete with newly established per diems.

In unison, Bahamians from all walks of life have publicly and privately observed: “We did not elect ministers’ spouses, so why are they now entitled to public largess for travel with their duly appointed ministerial spouses?”

Sadly, many of our Cabinet ministers, and even more of their spouses, are completely unfamiliar and totally uninformed regarding matters of state, so why are we now footing ministerial spouses’ travel costs?

And those who are familiar and informed regarding matters related to their spouses’ portfolio have no legal standing to conduct business on our behalf as members of the government.

As with most matters regarding public policy, timing is everything.

How can the government justify travel per diems for spouses when the average citizen is faced with an ever-expanding cost of living, largely of the government’s making?

Bahamians are further deluged by the doldrums of disquiet when they learn about some of the dubious decisions taken by their government.

For example, on the one hand, we were advised about the wonderful deal that the government executed with Carnival Cruise Line regarding its Grand Bahama project.

On the other hand, we also learned that this same cruise line has dumped its garbage into our pristine territorial waters, yet again.

This is not the first time and is not likely to be the last.

We hear about the offense perpetrated on us, but what are the penalties imposed on such corporate entities for their total disregard and disrespect for our patrimony?

Then there is the $67 million purchase of the Our Lucaya resort in Freeport, a purchase, we were assured, which would be turned around at a profit in very short order.

And, just as a reminder, we were told that purchase was made to save 150 Bahamian jobs. Not only is that resort still owned by the Bahamian people with no imminent buyer on the horizon, those jobs are now just a memory.

These examples only serve to explain why there is a growing level of disgust, disappointment and disillusionment in a government that came to office promising to be different from its predecessors in office but has fallen far short of the mark in so many ways.

These matters have greatly contributed to the dogged doldrums of disquiet.

Conclusion

However, all is not lost.

We can overcome the individual discord, dissonance and disquiet that so many of us confront in our daily lives.

We cannot allow the sense of uneasiness, hopelessness and futility to continue to adversely affect our lives if we expect to successfully emerge from the doldrums.

We believe that, like so many countries around the world, we remain drowning in the doldrums of disquiet because our leadership, on both sides of the political divide, has opted for purely politically pragmatic and utilitarian approaches to our challenges.

We no longer embrace the big ideas to inform and inspire us to new heights of national development.

Our leaders have failed to encourage and adopt a spirit of idealism in our development, undergirded by big ideas that would inspire and propel us toward a renewed trajectory of long-term national development.

We have failed to take full advantage of the brain trust that we have amassed over the years to inform public policy.

Until we reassess our challenges and develop a sound philosophical foundation of where we want the country to go and articulate cogent public policies that are rooted in such philosophical tenets, we will continue to be entombed in the dogged doldrums of disquiet.

• Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to pgalanis@gmail.com.

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