With elections around the corner and three political parties, none of which appear to have formulated, much less articulated, any new or credible plan for Bahamian development or growth in twenty-first century (and no, planning to beg more rich people for more money to buy up more of our precious archipelago does not count), I think it’s time for the average Bahamian, the voter, to exercise her democratic right and put down in pixels what will or will not get her vote.
I am a Bahamian who has never been represented by any party that has held power in The Bahamas to date. I am a woman, middle class, neither black nor white, a cultural worker and intellectual, a citizen and a voter, an ordinary Bahamian who does not campaign, carry a voters’ card, attend rallies, or otherwise show her face during the silly season that surrounds politics.
I pay my taxes in every way they are presented to me. I have never sat in a politician’s office to beg for anything when doing so was not part of my job as a civil servant. I have been eligible to vote in the past 6 general elections but in that time I have only once been visited by a prospective MP, who believed that he was making a social call on old friends, my parents. I have never, in my civilian position, called any sitting politician for a job, for a handout, for a favour, for any sort of help. I do not work in the tourism industry, real estate, the construction industry, or any other other area that figures in political discussions of “jobs” and “economics” or anything else.
I am one of thousands of productive, independent, patriotic Bahamians who make this country run on a daily basis. I took the opportunities offered to my by the first independent government of The Bahamas and went off and earned a college degree. I came home because I wanted to serve and build my country. To date, my country has not put in place anything to serve and build me; to every politician who has served in parliament in the time I have been voting, people like me have been invisible. In our democracy, we do not count.
And so: a voter’s manifesto.
- that Bahamians are as intelligent, as resourceful, as industrious, as talented and as deserving as any other group of people on the planet;
- that Bahamian innovation, creativity and adaptability carved this nation out of these scattered rocks in the sea, and that that innovation, creativity and adaptability will make flourish in the twenty-first century;
- that Bahamians are full human beings, with needs that go beyond the merely material;
- that The Bahamas is as important as any other nation in the world, and should be treated as such;
- that our human capital — the ingenuity, intelligence, talent and independent spirit of the Bahamian people — is the most important resource that our nation has.
- that Bahamians need help, time, or training to deepen and strengthen the democratic project;
- that Bahamians need help, time, or training to address those problems that our country is struggling with now;
- that Bahamians need help, time, or training to make our country better.
- I, the voter, do not care what colour T-shirt you offer me or what three letters you cast before my face.
- I believe in democracy.
- I do not care nearly as much about the history of your particular party (or of your opponents) as you think I do.
- I do not care about how good (or bad) you look in a suit, how well you speak off the cuff, or whether your leader is God incarnate or the Devil himself.
- I care about this country we all share.
- I care what you and your party are planning The Bahamas will look like tomorrow.
- I want to know the details.
- I believe that it is the right of a people to elect a government who will represent them and not the foreign interests who come offering the latest wads of cash or promises grander than the grandest Prime Minister’s.
- I believe that is the obligation of a government to seek out and hear the needs of the people whom it represents. All the people, not just the vocal few at the bottom who have depended thus far on their crippledness to coerce their representatives into enact ill-thought and hurried acts of bribery-in-return-for-votes, or the fatcats at the top who enact coercive acts of bribery of their own.
- I believe in governments who represent and serve the people who vote for them, not the people who pay them, or bully them, or frighten them.
- I believe in equality. That is not to say that I believe that all people are universally idiots, or that we must make all decisions according to the lowest possible common denominator. Rather, it is to say that I believe that all citizens—and, indeed, in a truly civilized nation, all people within our borders—should be equal under our laws and treated as such. No better, and no worse.
- I believe that our ideals should be more important than individual exceptions.
- I believe that a nation should be founded on ideals. Tell me yours.
If you want my vote:
- Don’t come waving flags or t-shirts or offering promises of more jobs laying cement, gathering laundry or taking orders for rich white people from abroad.
- Don’t come not debating policy.
- Don’t come bad-talking the other politicians around you.
- Don’t come not knowing basic things about this country, about governance, about policy, or the world of the twenty-first century.
- Don’t come expecting my political philosophy to do the trick and make me vote for you party because it happens to be the next best thing to the ideals I hold.
- Don’t come expecting your track record to move me.
- Don’t come expecting my colour, my family name, my friends, my profession, or any other attribute to influence the way I vote.
- Don’t come trusting in your personal political arrogance and my continued political passive stupidity.
- Come talking to me about the Bahamas you will create the day after Election Day, and come telling me in detail how we are going to create it together.
It had better be a different Bahamas from the one I live in today.