A Voter’s Manifesto

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.

I believe:
  • 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.
I do not believe:
  • 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.
And so:
  • 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.

•••

More links:

A Reader Responds to the Voter’s Manifesto

Answering the challenge: a consideration of patriotism, democracy and voting – Part I

On the mis-education of the Bahamian citizen

10 thoughts on “A Voter’s Manifesto”

  1. I agree with your comments Nicolette – well said! We as Bahamians must be more than supporters of coloured t-shirt parties. For too long we have placed the welfare of the Bahamas in the hands of those with personal agendas. I do, however, require my representative to have a deep and abiding love for God because only then can I trust that he will he hold himself to a higher standard for the betterment and advancement of our Nation. Prior community service and residence by the Candidate in the constituency he wishes to represent should be a requirement.

  2. I have yet to see those sentiments articulated better than you have just presented!! It was pure, genuine, and most importantly, honest!

    To often I hear the expression “my vote’s for sale.” We need to stop selling ourselves short and engender the idea that I am my vote! My vote will determine what happens to me and my country for the next 5 years. My vote will be the change this country needs to get on the right foot. My vote contains endless power.

    Sadly, we feel like our vote doesn’t even matter. We need to take the proactive approach! When things aren’t the way they should be, then use your skills and promote what you deem is the way it should be. Whether it’s blogging, updating a daily facebook status, postering, starting groups, getting on a soap box and expressing yourself…DO SOMETHING!

    Don’t wait for change to happen; don’t wait for the revolution; don’t wait for your MP. Get out there and you be the change, you start that revolution, and you soon you’ll be that MP.

    Ms. Bethel, this piece is awe inspiring!! Must share!!!

  3. The reality of politics: Time and Money.

    It takes time — time to plan and campaign, to influence people to garner the votes required. Time in office pushing for the agenda of the day.

    Money buys votes, it makes the politics of the possible to make the probable. Lobbying, whether local or international is greased by money and the influence it buys.

    It would be nice to think that politicians are by nature altruistically inclined to put their country before themselves, but as is often the case politics becomes the sleazy business of influence and monied interests.

    If we are lucky, and there are times when we do get lucky, we get a man (or woman) in the moment to make a positive difference in the cycle of politics, usually at great personal cost.

    But Bahamians cannot deny that international affairs has influence on their behaviour, their economy, and thus also indirectly their government. We need to be cognizant of this fact or we risk being sidelined by them.

    I believe this manifesto is fantastic. It is an ideal view of what our nation could be, but I challenge that it is what it should be. A person’s goals and aims are always under pressure and often are compromised (quite reasonably) in order to gain an advantage in politics and business.

    It is unrealistic to think this does not happen in a vacuum, but I digress. Our government is made up of people in a multi-party system which jockey for time, money and influence in order to impose their collective ‘goals and aims’ on the people.

    In order to make a fundamental change we must change the game, which means changing the system. Every so often we should have a revolution to sweep away the dross of our political imperfections and empower the new.

    Painless? No, but essential.

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