Tuesday, July 21, 2009

On Social Envy

This petition below can be found on Bahamas Issues, one of the liveliest online communities of the Bahamian web. It is copied and pasted, so any spelling mistakes in it are the petitioner's, not mine. ;-)

While I myself am not a huge fan of gated communities, I believe this particular petition needs to be addressed critically, as it is based on ill-informed social envy, rather than sound argument. In fact, social envy seems to poison our society on many levels. Not only does it just turn originally argument-based debates on Bahamas Issues into opinionated quarrels, it also, to a degree, is responsible for a shift in priorities our society has seen over the past few generations, when Bahamians have become overly materialistic.

Petition for a Moratorium on Gated Communities

We are requesting a moratorium to be placed on Gated Communities in the New Providence. If not an outright ban for future communities from developing.

Gated communities promote social classism.
It says to the lower communities. we have a right to drive through your community at will. But because you are poor you have absolutely no right to drive through our community.

Gated communities often take prime properties and block access to Beaches,lakes and natural waterways.

Proliferation of gated communities will eventually cause a traffic
dilemma. for example San Sousi was threatening to become gated for some time now. if this happens this will force more commuters to cut through Elizabeth Estate and to utilize to already overly congested Prince Charles drive!!!!

Gated communities will promote a system of unfairness!! Why?
Because a license for a gated community cannot be granted to everyone.Everyone can own a Business but everyone cannot be a part of a Gated community. For example lets go straight down the Eastern strip. Suppose Elizabeth Estates residents want to become gated,then Colony Village and then Nassau East, Winton San Souci and all along that strip wanted to become gated.

Can you imagine the traffic disaster that would be incurred.
furthermore some request must be denied!! and How can we ever establish a fair system of granting and denying request for gated communities.

the hidden General rule will be higher class Communities will be allowed gated communities. lower class Communities denied!!
That can never be viewed as a fair system by a discriminatory one!!!

A road tax of $5 daily should be imposed on all commuters of Gated communities upon exit. Why? a Lyford Cay resident can drive through Bain town but a Bain town resident cannot drive through Lyford Cay. and most of the lyford Cay Residents are foreign!! Why shouldn't they have to pay for the right to drive on our public roads. while they in turn deny us access to miles and miles of Beaches,lakes and land on and island only 21 by 7!!!

Gated communities provide very little jobs for Bahamians!1 they hire mostly foreign workers with low skill level and the government does not seem to be concerned!!

Please join us in our quest to control this silent problem before it spirals out of control. Sign this petition!

The biggest problem, however, is that the petitioner does not understand what a gated community is. He compares Bain Town and Lyford Cay, and is obviously concerned about the fact that a Bain Town resident cannot take his car for a tour of Lyford Cay, whereas a Lyford Cay resident can easily drive through Bain Town. That is correct, but the petitioner needs to understand why. Lyford Cay is a private piece of real estate where many people came together and divided the large chunk of land into smaller plots where they built houses, and in between the houses these private individuals, coming together in the Lyford Cay Property Owners Association (POA), built roads - private roads. And a marina. And a golf course. And tennis courts. Then, they built a fence around it.

I have a fence around my lot. The street in front of my house may be publically accessible, but a resident of Bain Town (or of Lyford Cay, or of my subdivision for that matter) cannot take their car and drive up and down my driveway. We need to understand that the roads of Lyford Cay are in reality just that: over-sized, but private driveways that connect the public road, which ends at the roundabout, to the entrances of private homes. For this privilege, Lyford Cay residents pay a small fortune annually in real property taxes, which happen to be a little higher than those in Bain Town. For this privilege, Lyford Cay residents also pay a small fortune in fees to the POA, which uses these private funds to maintain the roads in Lyford Cay.

On top of that, Lyford Cay residents pay the same taxes and government fees and customs duties as the Bain Town residents, and the government then uses these funds to maintain (not terribly well) the roads in Bain Town. That is why every Bahamian (citizen, resident, tourist) can legally use these roads.

Other concerns the petitioner has: "Gated communities often take prime properties and block access to Beaches,lakes [sic!] and natural waterways."

Prime properties are usually taken (as in "sold to" or "bought by") by the person who can write the largest cheque, gated or not. Beach access is a valid concern indeed, though as far as I remember, none of the gated communities on New Providence block access to any beaches that once upon a time were easily accessible to the public. I may be too young to remember what Lyford Cay was like before it was Lyford Cay, but I remember that, in order to get to Old Fort Beach, you basically always needed a boat (or take a day-long hike through the bush). However, protecting beach access early in the planning stages of any new gated communities, should there be any planned, is a valid concern, but it does not warrant a moratorium.

Natural waterways. What natural waterways? The canals of Lyford Cay are man-made. Natural waterways? Lakes. Yes, there are a few on this island. The largest two, Lake Cunningham and Lake Killarney, are still publically accessible, and I see no current threat to this situation.

"Gated communities provide very little jobs for Bahamians!1 [sic!] they [sic!] hire mostly foreign workers with low skill level [sic!] and the government does not seem to be concerned!!"

Residential areas in general are not really the engine of employment in this nation, but I am not sure that gated communities hire mostly foreigners. Indeed, Lyford Cay has seen an increase in, especially, Filipino housekeepers and Haitian gardeners. However, there are still plenty Bahamian housekeepers, Bahamian pool, generator and air conditioning maintenance people, etc. employed in Lyford Cay. Is the petitioner seriously suggesting that a Bahamian housekeeper or gardener (if you can find one) possesses any more skills than their foreign counterpart? If so, why? And what for? And why is the wealthy person in Lyford Cay who employs the foreigner stupid enough to do so when they could have a Bahamian who is so much more qualified? Sorry, but this argument makes no sense.

No the whole petition is written from a position of envy. I can understand the envy. I would also rather live a more comfortable life in a nicer, bigger house. However, we cannot blame those who have achieved this level for enjoying this. What we can however, blame (some of) these folks for, is that through their grip on our nation's economic system, they continue to exploit the masses and hold them down, to ensure that most Bahamians will never be able to achieve even reasonable comfort and economic security. Honest work in this country, on all levels, is often too poorly paid.

The problem with social envy is the consequences one draws. Many Bahamians have decided to take the easiest approach: if I can't buy it myself, I take it without asking. The level of property crimes has steadily increased during my lifetime. Then, and this is the category this petition falls into, there are those who fight the "symptoms": if I can't have it good, I don't want nobody else to have it good either. Not very constructive, is it. Finally, and this is the discussion I hope to provoke with this blog, there is the approach that seeks to identify and remove the causes of social ills.

This is not an easy task. I do not pretend I have the answers ready. However, if we really want to move this country forward, if we believe that a better future is at all possible, then we must begin to ask the right questions, and stop being so bloody selfish.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Congratulations, Mark!

And congratulations, Anna-Lena, too! A Bahamian-German duo won this year's mixed doubles event at Wimbledon, the world's most prestigious tennis tournament. While doubles, generally speaking, do not attract as much attention as singles tennis (why that is, is beyond me), I have compiled a few news clippings for you to browse on this accomplishment of our fellow Bahamian, Mark Knowles: Associated Press, BBC, Bahama Islands Info, and an interview with Mark Knowles and Anna-Lena Groenefeld after the match can be found on the official Wimbledon website.

The triumph at Wimbledon means that Mark Knowles has now won every Grand Slam tournament on the professional tour (Australia 2002, US 2004, France 2007, Wimbledon 2009), and comes several years after a major Nassau daily (it wasn't the Guardian) has called him as "has been." Do they know the recipe for humble pie down on Shirley Street?

Mark Knowles, however, is not only a great athlete who puts the Bahamas on the map in the tennis world, Mark Knowles is also a model citizen. Every year in December, when the professional tennis tour takes a break, Mark Knowles brings a dozen or so of his friends from the tour to Nassau to play in a charitable, "for fun" tournament, which sadly receives very little attention and support from the general Bahamian public. Nonetheless, Mark Knowles raises considerable funds for a variety of local charities this way, and offers us the opportunity to see professional tennis live, instead of on TV only.

Mark Knowles' Wimbledon triumph came a week before our Independence weekend, which saw a Davis Cup tie played in Nassau between the Bahamas and Guatemala. It is sad to see that the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association (BLTA) clearly still treats our country's best current tennis player in a fashion that made him cite prior responsibilities as an excuse not to play for his country. I do not claim to know what happened this time around, but just to give you one example: several years ago - Davis Cup-wise we were ranked very low indeed - the BLTA would insist that Mark Knowles, then ranked #1 in the world, skip a major tournament to come home and try out for the team... Maybe the BLTA wasn't following international tennis and had just read in the local paper that he's a "has been"? Anyway, this past weekend, the Bahamas lost the Davis Cup tie against Guatemala 2-3; the doubles event was a close call, we lost in five sets. Having a Wimbledon champion may very well have made all the difference in the world. This was, we will play in Zone III next year.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Miracle Whip

And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables...
John 2:15

In my cutting-edge research I now discovered the end of this tale, and the true identity of "he": "And then Bishop Murphy got on his knees and picked up the money, and greedily stuffed it in his garments. Only fools believed that kneeling he prayed to god, for Bishop Murphy only hid his contemptuous grin."

And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
Matthew 15:36

You may think the time of miracles is over, but "Bishop" Murphy procured a 2005 Bentley Arnage for $68,000. Hallelujah! (Fire up Google, try to match the price. I want a Bentley, too, but I seem to be unable to find a 2005 model for under 100k, in fact, most are well above that.)

A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back.
Proverbs 26:3

And a Bentley is for the Bishop's ass.
Proverbs 2009:6-7

What a duper!!!