Forty Years Old, or Young?

It goes without saying that certain behaviors are expected of one who is 20, 25 and more so, 40 years of age. Accordingly, a county bearing the vestige of independence for forty years it is only normal to expect certain signs of growth, development and maturity. Maturity, according to Wikipedia, “is a psychological term which refers to the ability of an individual to respond appropriately to his or her environment. Some characteristics that show the maturity of a person include emotional security/self-acceptance, realistic perception, skills, and assignments and self-objectification.” Applying this to our 40-year country, one can expect to see traits of care, security, civility, industry, growth, and spirituality - given its current constitution. In this vein, I share a few personal observations under the caption “Forty Years Old, or Young?”

Education

At forty years of age as an independent nation the Bahamas is to be commended for providing education for all its people and residents. Education is essentially free from kindergarten to secondary level, therefore each person has an opportunity to develop and grow in knowledge and skill. Nevertheless, the national grade would seem to imply that this opportunity and privilege is not being embraced to the fullest. Or it may suggest that there needs to be a re-visitation of our methods and approach to teaching and learning. It is crucial that a one-fits-all methodology not be applied, for it is a known fact that persons learn differently. There is much to unpack in the biblical saying recorded in Proverbs 22:1: “Train a child in the way he should go.” That way, whether academically or vocationally, is to be determined and responded to accordingly. Those not academically inclined must not be made to feel inferior in any way. Nonetheless, forty years later, why is there need to import so many laborers and persons with other skills? Could it be that our education and training have not kept pace with our country’s need?

Health

Public Health Care is another service provided by the government with minimal cost to citizens and has been expanded significantly over the past forty years. Government facilities, inclusive of the Princess Margaret, Rand Memorial and numerous mini hospitals and clinics throughout the country, provide a reasonable measure of health care. Of course, this comes with a heavy price tag to the government, or should I say the citizens? And now it is once again proposed that a national health care plan be instituted. It does not require a rocket scientist to know that this is costly. One might ask, “Can the country afford it?” On the other hand, some will counter, “Can the country not afford to provide such a service?” However, another question needs to be placed in the mix: “ Shouldn’t a forty-year old maturity demonstrate that we the citizens and residents are willing to pay our part as opposed to being totally dependent on the government?” While I am mindful of a percentage of persons who would need to have their health needs totally funded, there is unfortunately a dependency culture that prevails. And that is the government should pay for me. Maturity implies that I do my part as opposed to depending on another to do what I can do. Biblically, we are counseled in Luke 6:31, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In other words, would you want to be taken advantage of? Certainly not! Likewise we should not take advantage of the system. Honesty and integrity are necessary ingredients of a matured country, and I do not think it coincidental that they are included in the current constitution. Nevertheless, the way forward calls for citizens and residents to adapt healthier lifestyles that will hopefully serve to decrease lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol, and thereby reduce our health costs.

On another note, it is so comforting to hear that the government plans to place focus on agriculture. Forty years later we should have been further advanced in feeding ourselves. Unfortunately, not many of us have been taught and encouraged deliberately to embrace farming and agriculture, and today we are paying the price in high import bills.

Safety and Security

Security is a basic need of mankind and likewise a necessity of a developing nation such as ours. However, forty years later --gone are the days of being able to go to parks and beaches at any time. Even night church attendance is purported to be down owing to the fear of crime. Forty years ago it was much safer to move around. The sight of burglar bars, security personnel and alarm systems speak to security concerns. Without question it costs more to live in Nassau, Grand Bahama and some of the more developed family islands. The alarming robbery and murder rates stand to ruin and destroy our once peaceful, safe and friendly status. This poses a major threat to a country dependent on tourism. Maturity demands that we the people stop depending on just the police to combat crime. There is more that we can do in implementing security measures and being alert to our environments. Also we must we willing to report what we know. Likewise there must be the assurance that for reporting we will not be put at the risk of retaliation.

A Non-Partisan Spirit is Needed

Another sign of maturity is the ability to be objective and truthful about the contribution of another, even an opponent, and give credit or praise. It disturbs me to hear so often from our halls of parliament reference to opposing parties on the part of successive governments blaming and pointing the finger. There would appear to be an unwillingness to continue or maintain an initiative because it comes with the branding of the opponent, be it a former government or the sitting government. Forty years old ought to imply that we are beyond pettiness. It is said of Jesus in Luke 2:42, 52 at the age of 12 that He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

There is need for a greater consideration of country as opposed to who does what and who gets the credit. Maybe with it starting with our politicians, it will trickle down to our people and the label of PLP, FNM, DNA or the like will not determine if one gets a job or not. Instead, consideration will be given to who is qualified.

Until we get beyond the partisan spirit, we are not likely to benefit from the vast knowledge and contribution of our people. Until we remove smeared lenses, public funds will not be wisely expended thereby minimizing waste; crime is likely to reel out of control and anger will continue to grow when the people perceive favoritism.

The Importance of the Presence of God

Forty years later there is unquestionably a proliferation of churches. They are everywhere; but are they having the impact and/or influence in establishing morality? Even as I write there is the news of a major victory for same sex marriage in the United States of America. Could the same be lurking at the doors of the Bahamas? Maturity and growth do not suggest that we welcome everything because others do so. Maturity would suggest that we have morals, standards and a mind of our own. However, I hope that it would be a mind that is informed by godly principles and values. It is clear a nation that has the Lord as its God is a wise nation (Deuteronomy 4:7-9). Bahamians and residents must never underestimate the necessity of God’s presence. Without Him we are doomed to degradation and failure all in the vestige of a so-called maturity and modernization. And therefore I ask, “Are we forty years old (matured and responsible)?” Or “Are we forty years young (not knowing who we are and succumbing to any and everything simply because others do it?” It is my hope that we will allow God and His teachings to influence our thoughts, actions and decisions. Thereby we will be a blessed nation –forty and growing.