by Sir Arthur Foulkes
Two friends – one Bahamian, one foreign – worked together for a while in a downtown office. At the end of every work day the Bahamian noticed that his friend cleared his desk and put everything into his briefcase. Nothing was left on the desk and nothing in the drawers.
The curious Bahamian questioned his friend, a peripatetic Jew, about this daily ritual, and he replied something like this:
“Perhaps it’s my genes or my cultural orientation, or maybe it’s just me. I don’t know. I do know that when I leave this place I may not be welcomed back the next day, and that will not be a problem for me. There’s nothing I have to come back for. I can easily walk away and never look back.”
Indeed, he was able to do just that. Despite his passionate involvement in certain aspects of Bahamian life, he would frequently over the years unceremoniously absent himself and, with equal lack of notice, simply re-appear months later.
Although he was very much in the world, he had somehow created around him a sort of monkish detachment from it all. Perhaps he was a kind of soul brother of the great Thomas Merton who wrote so brilliantly to and about the world from the confines of a contemplative monastic order.
The Bahamian thought that his Jewish friend was rather extreme but he fully appreciated the message. He had himself already experienced a rather sudden and traumatic expulsion from an office he had become rather fond of and had to take to heart Rudyard Kipling’s advice about those twin imposters Triumph and Disaster.
They are to be found everywhere in human affairs, of course, but they are particularly and perpetually busy in the political arena where they seem to work their frequent mischief with fiendish delight.
It is not at all easy to treat these two imposters just the same, but all those entering the arena should fully expect to experience both of them and should be prepared for these encounters.
Triumph comes with a strong dose of euphoria that can send weak heads spinning out of control, seduced by power and inflated with ego; and it can become dangerously addictive.
Disaster, with its bitter brew of disappointment, frustration and depression is not easily accommodated. However, it seems that those who manage to keep their feet on the ground while in the seductive embrace of triumph, and who sip only lightly from the cup of euphoria, are better able to maintain their balance when this other imposter strikes.
That is the time when character is put to the test, when previous protestations of nobleness of spirit ring either true or false.
It is reasonable to expect that the older ones in the arena would be less susceptible to the ravages of disaster, more level-headed, more firmly grounded and more able to handle the bitter brew.
But that has not been so in the case of the PLP. Six weeks after their defeat at the polls, most of the leaders of that party are still behaving badly and displaying the classic symptoms of denial and anger, much to the distress of the nation and the shame of many of their supporters.
PLP leaders have always had an attitude of entitlement and had great difficulty accepting their first defeat since 1967 when the people got tired of their antics and turned them out of office in 1992.
Their leader at the time said the FNM Government that replaced them was only “interim”. He was wrong, of course, but in his case the frustration was understandable.
After all, he enjoyed a privileged place in the history of the country and following 25 years of triumph, he had become rather accustomed to power. After a second defeat he apparently managed to reconcile himself to his new status and made a graceful exit from the political arena.
The present lot, after only five years of power, seems frustrated beyond redemption. They seem to think that their successors in office are not just “interim” but have no right to govern at all! So they are lashing out in a most unseemly manner and making a spectacle of themselves.
What they do not seem to realize is that they are hurting no one but themselves, their party and their supporters -- and their future. What they are doing today will almost certainly come back to haunt them later on.
Some of the vitriol and abuse appearing on websites controlled by them has been downright disgraceful and the public behaviour of some of them has been pathetic.
Particularly disturbing are the angry and threatening remarks directed at the press by one who had hitherto been highly regarded by everybody, including people on both sides of the political divide.
All of this will be recalled in vivid detail at some future date, but they seem quite incapable of thinking about that now.
One in particular has been reminded repeatedly by this newspaper, much to his chagrin, of words he uttered and positions he took years ago, now that he is attempting to sing a different tune and do an unfamiliar dance. He should know that old journalists are like old elephants: they never forget.
Some of the others have, in recent years, refused to reflect on the story told in this column previously about Sammy Haven. They should think about it now.
Back in the 1950s, when younger members of The Tribune staff made Mr. Haven the butt of their cruel tricks, he would simply say: “I hope you recognize that when you see it again.”
He was telling the youngsters that while they giggled with delight at the discomfiture they inflicted on him, they should remember that a day of reckoning would come and he would turn the tables on them. Mr. Haven was an accomplished trickster and more than once he turned those giggles into squeals of anguish.
Governor General Arthur Hanna, during one of the swearing-in ceremonies for the new Government, reminded his listeners of the importance of the Opposition in our system of government. But he also reminded them that the Government of the Day must be able to get on with its legislative agenda.
That is advice the PLP should now take to heart and stop behaving like spoiled brats who want to break up the game and throw away the marbles because they lost. They should lick their wounds in private and act as a responsible Opposition in public.
This country is facing some huge home-grown problems, together with a multitude of challenges presented by a rapidly-changing world. Criminality, rents in the Bahamian social fabric and cultural degradation all need to be urgently addressed.
External challenges are likely to intensify against our national sovereignty, our right to determine our own model of development and our ability to chart our own course in the world. It is now time for serious debate on all these burning issues – in parliament and across the nation.
The PLP members of parliament should get over their frustration and settle down to the job the people elected them to do -- participate constructively in the national debate.