Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bec's Bahamas Nightmare

It's been a while, I know, and I beg your forgiveness. Turns out, finding a topic to write about when all hell breaks loose at work, isn't always easy. However, this one, I personally find most interesting. Less for the article it was inspired by, but rather for the Bahamian reaction to it.

Apparently, Lleyton and Bec Hewitt bought a mansion in the Old Fort Bay gated community and have taken up residence in New Providence. Great. I *have* heard of Lleyton Hewitt, because some of my family are really into professional tennis (I'm not), and he is an Australian tennis star. Bec Hewitt is his wife, the article tells me. The article also suggests that she is a celebrity in her own right. Great. Bec who? Ah, Bec from "Home and Away." Home and what? Ah, an Australian soap opera. I repeat: Bec who? Home and what?

Let's look at some of the statements made in the article:

"... in reality, the 197-hectare "village" is a gilded cage, surrounded by spiked fences and barbed wire." Check. Old Fort Bay and similar gateed communities are gilded cages. (Though the residents' captivity is chosen and thus voluntary.)

"Just 25 minutes drive away, locals live in abject poverty in the slums of Nassau..." Check. 25 minutes driving will (if it's not rush hour) take you anywhere on New Providence, and there are areas we could justifiably call slums, where people do live in abject poverty.

"... neighbours warn that it's is a dangerous place blighted by crime, poverty and high unemployment." Check, check and check. Our crime rate per capita is shamefully high, and currently, unemployment is also high, caused not only by the current economic crisis, but also by the poor educational standards in the country.

"Armed robberies are commonplace, and last week a 34-year-old mother of three became the country's 53rd murder victim this year when she was gunned down metres from a church. A few days later two more people were killed." I didn't check the numbers, but do you seriously want to contest them? You may find out that we've gone way past 55 since August 28, when the article was published.

"... most of the residents are retired bankers and businessmen." Also true. How many 28-year-olds can afford a mansion in a gated community out West?

"Adding to her loneliness is the fact that while Lleyton is instantly recognised by the sports crazy locals, no-one has any idea who former Home And Away star Bec is." I repeat: Bec who? Home and what?

No, what's really disconcerting are the reactions that many Bahamians put as comments under the article, which have forced Lleyton and Bec Hewitt to declare in "The Tribune" that they never said any of this. They may not have, you will notice that the only direct quote in the article is from their gardener. But that's beside the point. Annette Witheridge got it quite right.

Bahamians are jumping to the defense of their country, claiming that the Hewitts and/or this article are "dissing" the Bahamas. Bahamians are either in active denial of the fact that we have a high crime rate, or they are delusional when they think that other countries with similarly high GDPs experience similarly high crime rates.

Bahamian reality is that everyone I know in Nassau has burglar bars. Bahamian reality is that everyone I know in Nassau either had their house broken into or knows somebody whose house was broken into. Bahamian reality is that everybody I know in Nassau knows at least one murder victim. Bahamian reality is that, even in the downtown area, women don't walk from a club to their car by themselves at night.

I sent out an e-mail to friends in the United States, Canada, Australia, and a number of European countries. Nobody has burglar bars. Nobody had their house broken into. Ever. (One person knew somebody who did though.) Nobody personally knew a murder victim. Everybody said, "Of course I walk to my car alone, and no, I am not scared when I do so."

Bahamians, wake up! Our country *does* have some serious problems, and no, this is *not* normal in the 21st-century (semi-)developed world!!

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