By Patricia Glinton-Meicholas
Evolution, transition, conversion, transformation, revision, alteration, adaptation, modification—all these are words that speak of change—changing from one situation, form, state, system, method to another. We do so by an infinite variety of ways—making new laws, amending existing ones, effecting a revolution in mindset for the most part. If we break it down to bare bones, however, change generally involves addition or subtraction that improves or worsens our situation.
The title of this essay, “Changing the Current”, is borrowed with admiration from an ongoing promotional campaign of Florida Power and Light (FPL). The choice was practically forced on me by two occurrences in the past few days. For one, the electricity outages of the past week that have afflicted the area I live in. Imagine that, in two instances, I was working on a time-sensitive document and was about to forward it over the internet, when the power was cut without any prior notification.
The second instance demanding change came out of a ship-naming ceremony at Nassau’s Prince George Wharf, at which I had the good fortune to be present. The ship was a huge fuel tanker, which represents the latest expansion of a Bahamian-owned and run company. By adding this vessel, the enterprise promises to relieve the worries about fuel shortages, especially when major hurricanes pass through the archipelago. We have no reason to doubt this claim because the same company, in the wake of Hurricane Matthew in 2016, delivered 700,000 gallons of fuel to Clifton Pier, saving us from escalating chaos at the gas pumps and worse.
Yet, to my astonishment, I did not see the Minister responsible for energy or the Minister of Transport at the signal tanker-naming event. Even more reason for an appearance was a fact I learned on the occasion–this Bahamian oil company has 1400 Bahamian shareholders from across the social and economic spectrum. What was the reason for the spurning? If the said Ministers had more pressing engagements, where were their parliamentary secretaries or, at the very least, a permanent secretary or two? This egregious absence and the Bahamas Power and Light woes have called forth another of my now almost constant reflections on why meaningful development on the national level happens so slowly and often with unsatisfactory results.
My take on the matter is that “change” in my homeland is often a rerun of the same film with actors who may be different in physical characteristics, but who have doubtless been given roles for no better reason than service to partisan politics and are expected to give greater allegiance to party rather than to country or the common good.
Change must come to the thinking on both sides of the political fence. If there is true love of country, nothing should disparage or endanger any contribution that stands to serve urgent national needs.
One thing is certain. Whether we are willing to contribute, change is inevitable. It will come. Whether we take action and enter the flux of life, there will be movement and we will be carried along by the tide. That could be for the good. We have all benefited from conceptions that once drew laughter or even scorn for those who proposed the ideas. Consider the visions of human flight and wireless communication.
On the other hand, unless we engage planned, purposeful participation with the common good as driver, we could be imprisoned in someone else’s toxic vision. Another scenario for tragedy is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different and improved result. That repetition, without altering some aspect of your original premise, failed plan is a formula for failure. It has even been called insanity. Yet, this madness has become the textbook strategy for Bahamians in search of beneficial change—from the so-called “small man” to the grandest. It is because the canker of basing every action on politics or the “all for me” syndrome has become the prime motivation of the average Bahamian soul. Few will accept responsibility—It’s always someone else’s fault.
Consider what is often the situation of workers who have been passed over for promotion year after; they number in the hundreds, maybe thousands, particularly in the public service. All too often the reaction to the disappointment is either increasing despondence, belligerence and/or frequent trips to the Labour Board with accusations of spite on the part of supervisor or political victimization.
In many such cases, the lack of promotion might well be rooted in spite, but how many of the disappointed take an inward look at their attitudes, quality of performance or question overall life strategies, rather than blaming another person or bad karma? How many research what knowledge and skills are needed for the job and compare the descriptions to their own capabilities? If they somehow internalize that they don’t have what the desired position demands, how many take action to acquire the necessary profile? How many invest time and energy into building the necessary competence?
Change must begin in the political realm. Partisan politics is a vicious cancer eating out the very heart of Bahamian society and economy. Change must come to the way we make appointments to key positions. Loyalty to The Bahamas and ability to drive progress must be evidenced by more than the appointee’s love of junkanoo or a love of a cracked conch lunch at the fish fry or membership in the winning political party. How competent is the person to effect high quality, positive change—Shouldn’t this be the deciding factor for elevation to high office?
Lasting change will require the rooting out of the national conspiracy to retain the old, harmful ways of thinking. Personal gain for the few too often outweighs the well-being of the many. That is why we have dragged the national feet on enforcing accountability by means of legislation and the practical strategies of digitization and redundancies in accounting systems to ensnare those whose fingers unzip the public purse without authorization or entitlement.
Then there is the widespread love of power. Why else would this country retain the unwieldy, decrepit, self-defeating bureaucracy inherited from the colonial past, it’s weight increasing every year, despite its costly deficiencies? An enduring pillar of this system is the refusal to develop a proper meritocracy and government action is too often one and same as continuing the electioneering from one election to the next.
We must change to bring about greater resilience in energy. Why do I speak of admiration for FPL? It has to do with how I interpret the vast solar power array shown in the company’s advertisements. It demonstrates that the leaders understand that, no matter how hard certain vested interest fight to retain the prominence of fossil fuels such as oil and coal, their day will pass sooner than human existence on this planet and our need for power to illuminate, to warm and to cook. The images reflecting a highly digitized management environment speaks to an understanding that such technology is not a futuristic fad, but is an essential building block for a future of any quality.
Here we are in The Bahamas, irradiated in sun for at least 300 days of the year, yet fail to empower legislation, proven expertise and, yes, purposeful change to make use of an asset that could revolutionize electricity generation and make national advancement more cost effective and stable.
We must urgently bring about essential change in the way we educate our children. To create citizens who can compete successfully in the fast-paced, ever-evolving and global demands of the 21st century, we must nurture analytical ability and self-drive from their earliest days.
We need true, beneficial change.