CONSUMERS AND ĎKING SOL KERZNER OF ATLANTISí
By Charles Fawkes
HOUSE OF LABOUR: With all of the good news coming from ĎKing Sol Kerzner of Atlantisí and his court comprising of no less than the cabinet of Prime Minister Perry Christie, Bahamians can only see the continuation of the Bahamian dream.† Despite this glowing dream presented by Perry Christie and King Kerzner there is always the chance that a nightmare could just be around the corner. Our leaders have always misread Bahamian consumers during boom times thus creating a false sense of security and achievement.
††††††††† The recent upsurge in violent crime not withstanding, Bahamians are naturally easygoing peace loving people who would prefer negotiation to confrontation, forgiveness over revenge, and would rather cultivate a friend than create an enemy. So much so that the common saying is that rather than taking his revenge a Bahamian would elect to ďleave you to GodĒ.
††††††††† If however, you interpret these traits as a sign of weakness you do so at your own peril. Because, there is a limit to his tolerance Ė a point beyond which he will not go and his resolve and determination at that point will match anyoneís.
††††††††† It seems that it is this component of the Bahamian consumerís personality that is the most difficult for the foreign managers and investors of all resorts properties to comprehend. They consistently misread the consumers, take liberties and make demands that are totally unacceptable. They eventually force the consumers and their unions to draw a line in the sand, which the foreign managers/investors still continue to challenge.
††††††††† Examples in our history of managementís misreading the Bahamian personality are innumerable. The two classic examples in Bahamian labor history are The Burma Road Riots of 1942 and the General Strike, triggered by the taxi drivers in 1958. Although in these crises the foreign entities were aided and abetted by the Bahamian White establishment at the time, the underlying principles that were at stake then are the same today.
††††††††† There is no other area where the consumerís rights are more under siege than in our largest industry Ė the Hotel Industry. And with a political climate more conductive to their design we do not expect much change from the foreign managers/investors for the foreseeable future. It behooves therefore, Bahamian consumers and their unions to be vigilant and resist all efforts to divide their ranks from within and from without.
††††††††† Quite often it is not money issues that trigger the consumers to draw the metaphorical line in the sand. Many times it is the consumerís dignity; honor and respect that they feel are challenged and trodden upon.
††††††††† For years as an opposition leader, Perry Christie led a party with no programs, no clear-cut ideology. All these years, he offered the Bahamian people a hollowed shell, nothing concrete- offering just a dream for sale. The dream was well designed, carefully packaged and put on the political market. Most of the Bahamian consumers bought it.
††††††††† It is just a dream of good houses, fancy cars, quality education, quality living and control of their country. Like any product, the dream has its price. The Price is high. The consumers will have to reject their identity as a class and merge their destinies with that of a new set of oppressors like the Kerznerís, a set of oppressors who want economic power for themselves and not in the interest of the consuming class.
††††††††† This is a strange price, because most of the consumers who buy the dream will pay for it with sweat and blood.
††††††††† The dream however will be kept alive by the Christieís of this world and thousands of Bahamians will one day wake up to the harsh brutal light of reality.
††††††††† The bills will come due on the Bahamian dream under Christieís leadership, just as they came due under Pindling and Ingrahamís dream.
††††††††† An itemized list of the most recent payments shows that virtually no aspect of a consumerís life is untaxed. Some of the costs are direct and immediate. The price of food escalates with each trip to the grocery store. A larger percentage each week of a consumerís wages must go just to maintaining the physical strength to get to the job (if you have a job). If you donít have a job, you may be invited to learn to eat air.
††††††††† And forget about buying a house! For the very-greedy financers there simply are not enough profits to be made from the long, agonizing repayment of mortgages; thus, the banks have jumped the interest rates so high that home ownership is virtually forbidden.
†††††††††† Effective medical care is equally expensive and even more restricted. A consumer without an insurance or money may suffer on a hospitalís steps for want of medical attention.
††††††††† The children of consumers are finishing twelve or more years of school semi-literate, ignorant of their own history and lacking any consciousness.
††††††††† Denied the necessities of life, unprotected by the government which was supposed to be ď of, by and for the peopleĒ but is more clearly than ever the basic weapon for controlling the consuming class, many consumers will turn to the unions as the only organizations which may have the power to save them.
††††††††† These consumers will find the unions so hobbled by law, so limited by poor leadership that they are mere ghosts of the muscular, vital fighting forces of the fifties. When they critically examine the right wing parties, they will find nothing worth accepting, they will realize that all of the noise and sweet talk amongst this group of misleaders are just the death rattle of an ebbing era in Bahamian politics.
††††††††† Continuing this dream under the current setup will mean:
∑ Unemployment above 10.8%!
∑ Low wages and long hours!
∑ †Rising Inflation!
∑ Poor housing!
∑ Dangerously poor sanitation!
∑ High rents and greedy landlords!
∑ Inadequate water supply!
∑ Poor education!
∑ Poor medical care!
∑ Corrupt and incompetent officials!
∑ Political repression and victimization!
∑ Foreign control of the best land!
∑ Exorbitant prices for imported necessities
∑ No development of agriculture!
∑ No taxes on the rich or foreign investors!
∑ Crime, Drugs, Prostitution and Rape!
However, we donít have to put up with it forever. We donít have to endure the lies and corruption.† We can put an end to foreign domination of our country. We can set our youth free from crime and unemployment. We can liberate our women from prostitution. We can have full employment at decent wages. Our land and our resources do not have to be controlled by foreign interests. Our children can have the education they deserve. Our families can have decent housing and the finest in medical cares. Other nations have already put an end to exploitation and oppression. And we can build a just and humane society in the Bahamas also.
†††† †††† Building this kind of society will mean true freedom of speech and religion and true freedom of the press. Today real freedom belongs only to those few who have the money to control the press and make themselves heard. But under a new Bahamas, freedom can belong to all and will not be for sale to the few.
†††† It will mean that all people will control the wealth of our country. The profits that are now going to a few wealthy Bahamians and foreign investors could be available to meet the need of the people. Instead of mansions and yachts for millionaires, we can have good housing; education and medial care for all.
†††† It will mean an end to unemployment. Today we have unemployment because those who own everything donít think they can make enough profit by investing in projects that will provide jobs for all. But under a new Bahamas, we will need the labor of everyone to meet public needs.
†††† It could mean genuine democracy. Wealth will not be able to buy political power. Those with access to wealth will be taxed, and the wealth will be used for the public good. Those who hold public office will be working and the people, through the right of referendum and recall, will control them. There could be effective local government in every neighbourhood on every island. And those who serve in government will be paid a workmanís wage not the exorbitant salaries of today.
Charles Fawkes is President of the National Consumer Association and organizer for the Commonwealth Group of Unions, Inside Labour Columnist for the Bahama Journal, Editor of the Headline News, The ConsumerGuard and The Workersí Vanguard. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
He can be contacted at his office in the House of Labour at [1-242] 326-6620.