COVID-19 cognitive dissonance

Dear Editor,

Please allow me a space in your valued chronicle to share my thoughts (from a sociological perspective), on what appears to be blatant pushback by the masses on state orders to remain at home unless absolutely necessary during this bio attack that we call novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Despite state orders for all to remain at home unless necessary (essential needs), and much to the annoyance and confusion of the compliant — the masses still frolic and even defy good sense or logic to peel themselves away to group against the penalty of severe illness or even death.

To understand human beings is to understand and predict their behavior, triggers and motivation – this is the goal of psychology as a discipline.

Some points below are an attempt to appreciate why a complete lockdown for my people may be qualified over time and if we are to survive the COVID-19 threat.

*House vs. home

Many Bahamians have not created sacred spaces of their houses (not homes) opting instead to spend thousands on their latest iPhones or Japanese luxury cars complete with rims, etc.

Whether single or shared space, for many, the house is a place to “crash” at the end of the day as opposed to being an escape from the world and a safe haven.

Homemade meals are replaced by “chicken in the bag” and upscale eatery takeout; family dining room tables are the equivalent of dustbins; China cabinets are museum display cases – never used.

“Front” rooms are just that — home spaces where nobody dares step foot; that space for visitors to see, or a reception area for those to remain until received by house occupants upon visit – all just a “front” room.

Over the years, I have visited houses that operate as a dormitory. You know, key access only to bedrooms with toilet paper, toothpaste and soap that make their appearance in the main house, only to be secured after each use in shared bathroom.

Not to mention, makeshift mom and pop grocery shops that double as closets! Yes, somewhere along the line, we have lost it.

Who would be at ease spending days on end in curfew and in such an environment?

*The visiting environment/dens of iniquity

Perhaps the most interesting book I’ve ever read is a Caribbean-based sociology classic written in 1957 by Jamaican author Edith Clarke, “My Mother Who Fathered Me” — a study of kinship organization in three communities in Jamaica.

In one of the communities studied in her book, Clarke describes the “visiting relationship” as one in which there is no tradition marital union sharing, but one in which participants meet for sexual intercourse on a consistent basis. Often across multiple similar arrangements, many of which are extra-marital or before age of consent by law.

Many Bahamians move at hours when the social radar is not as intense as the day provides, and when the radar retires to factory settings.

Well into the wee hours of the morning, our streets are busy with speeding vehicles with some hotel shift workers, all the visiting relationships traveling to and from their dens of iniquities or persons on the prowl for paid sex.

In all instances, the activity takes both parties away from the house, on to the streets and to a safe spot or seedy lodge.

Clarke’s classification could easily be cut and pasted into the Bahamian society – yet another reason we must move about regardless.

*Homeless and unaware

“Papa was a rolling stone”: Some of “we” simply have no one resting place.

The truth is, for those who are classified as such, there is a change of clothing at every place of frequent – a place to lay head and bounce at cock crow; a temporary nest.

Gifts of a free ride somewhere, Kentucky Fried Chicken, libations in brown paper bags or Bamboo for all is sufficient for the settee or floor bed. In times of state declared shutdown, where do the rolling stones go?

* Social creatures meet cognitive dissonance – cognitive dissonance meet social creatures

Social distancing is the antithesis of the Bahamian way! We are gregarious by nature and heavily value our social positions by who and how we know in the social sense.

It is very odd for us not to be in person to exchange, debate, display attention and affection. We live for it!

Our cognitive dissonance and steeped oral tradition may, sometimes, manifest in the way we revert to non-reliable information sources to guide our decisions and movement, even when proven incredible at times.

Local establishment news houses compete with randomly and maliciously generated WhatsApp and Facebook news pages.

A quest to be first and a source validated by many.

These daily blasts of lies and misinformation cheapen the integrity of information provided by official sources to the person who dumps it all into one pot.

*Happily never after

For many empty nesters and marital shared space, the logistic reality is that there are two beds per couple. Financial dependence, social posturing, “save face” and “for the children” are common reasons Bahamian married couples still couple.

Truth is, although under the same roof, they retire to different beds. Or commonly, one returns to house just in time to pass out at day’s end.

The once-juicy Bahamian fruit is old and dry and spoils under the tree shade of eager, low hanging options, to which the sweet mouth partner stops to pluck.

In this instance, alternate plans equal leaving home to shake the tree.

To get to the tree – the sweetheart must hit the streets before the mandatory curfew at 9!

*Biggety bad

Certainly, one brush doesn’t paint. We could be li’l biggety. We are accustomed to a comparative keen lifestyle compared to our regional neighbors and enjoy ownership of one of the most powerful unsanctioned passports in the world. We travel overseas for dinner or to see a movie.

It is the freedom that we are accustomed to.

The 24-hour shutdown is a thing of newness and is, frankly, met with defiance and disregard by many.

For many, this is the first time keeping still proper, since ordered to by parents in church.

So I on da road cus I wan be — what??

None of this to excuse careless behavior but plenty people up and down because of boredom, but more are knockin’ about because their reality doesn’t provide them with a homestead to bunker down at for all of the reasons (and perhaps more) that I’ve shared; none of which is scientific but is more so social observation.

Possible research topic: “Traversing the Bahamian Homestead Threat: Social Anecdotes for Rebuilding Community” would be an excellent thesis for a sociology final year student at The University of The Bahamas and post-COVID-19 threat. #shortwall


Kirkland H. Pratt


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