REV KEITH RUSSELL’S PERSPECTIVE | 22 August 2020

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On imagination

It is obvious to most persons in this country now that this government administration is failing miserably. The only ones left who still think otherwise are those benefiting from an unholy alliance with this incompetent, callous crew; and, of course, those who have a residual amount of that conscience searing, retina contaminating red, toxic Kool-Aid still flowing through their frosty veins.

We have witnessed, in full display, their shameless and habitual lying; their brutal lack of compassion; their consistent rudeness and belligerence; their glaring deficit of a coherent vision; their blatant and unapologetic favouritism; their inexplicable neglect of Grand Bahama; their despotic display of power and their persistent arrogance and condescension towards the Bahamian people. 

Still, this administration’s most troubling and devastating deficiency is their lack of imagination. They remind me of some of my students at the University of the Bahamas, who have perfected the art of cutting and pasting in the writing of their research papers. They seem not to possess the capacity to muster an original thought. Their papers are peppered with long quotes from the minds of others, which are employed as mere fillers. The quality of their work seems not to matter, as long as they produce something to fulfill the minimum requirement of sitting in the classroom. 

The competent authority keeps locking us down because he (they) can’t imagine an alternative. He is innately trapped in a prose flattened world and does not have the poetic sensibilities to visualize his way out. He absolutely refuses to do mass testing, because the intricacies of such an enterprise requires imaginative energy beyond his capacity. The PM seems not even able to imagine that he is the leader of an archipelago. In such a case ones imaginative analysis must be particular in the case of each island. 

Lockdowns are debilitating, untenable and unsustainable; notwithstanding the 

disagreement among leading jurists regarding their constitutionality. And the jury is still out on their effectiveness. Still, the heartless way in which the competent authority enacts lockdowns is not only unimaginative it is vicious and insensitive, revealing just how far removed he is from the pain and deprivation of a significant number of the nation’s population. What is the good, our wise ancestors would say, of cutting of your nose to spite your face? Imaginative deliberation allows one to conceive alternatives, which permit the preservation of nose and face.

Covid-19, like the common cold or flu, is here with us for always. We should not be afraid of Covid and persons in authority should not be exaggerating its effects in this particular jurisdiction, in order to justify their dictatorial overreach. Rather, we should be considering how do we imagine ourselves living in peaceful coexistence with this virus? Contrary to what seems to be the philosophy of lockdowns, we are not going to kill it.

When the twin towers were attacked on 9/11, the world changed. Leadership around the world had to imagine how to live with this new reality. New protocols were set. Travel changed. Everyone was affected. Under these circumstances one can’t bluff or bully or that other ‘B’ word one’s way out or through. It requires imagination; and imagination requires deep thought, uncommon thought; in the case of governance: collective, uncommon thought.

We have to imagine that a place like the Bahamas, which relies heavily on tourism, needs new travel protocols. Every tourist coming into the Bahamas and every returning Bahamian or resident must be tested at the airport, until there is a vaccine people are willing to take. Add this as another required protocol, along with Customs checking our identification and our navigating 9/11 security checks at airports and borders. 

We need rapid, reliable tests, where the results will be back in an hour or two. If a person is negative, go home or go have your vacation. If positive, you go into quarantine, at a government secured facility. Yes, it will require more time at the airport, just like after 9/11. Yes, it may require us building more waiting areas. Yes, it will require more human resources. Consider it the new cost of doing business in the company of Covid, just as it cost us more in the company of terrorist. Again, we must imagine our way into a peaceful coexistence with the Coronavirus. What is not helpful in this moment is leadership that lacks imagination. 

I contend that it is not the Coronavirus that has us in the awful state that we are in; it is uninspired leadership, making lacklustre decisions. That is why we still don’t have an economic plan for the nation going forward, after five wrenching months. The persons we need to be electing in this country are not rich men, poor men, beggar men or thieves; doctors, lawyers or Indian chiefs; we need to be electing persons with moral and political imaginations, creative people, who can inspire us, who can achieve an original thought, people who feel us and care about us. 

So given this administration’s deficiency in this regard, and given the weariness of this battered and beleaguered nation, the only moral and decent thing for the PM to do is to ring the bell. The ringing is pedestrian; it doesn’t require imagination. Let’s start again. He should not continue to prolong our or his agony.

I write; you decide