Parliament in most societies is referred to as supreme. If our Parliament is not supreme, it is undoubtedly one of the most powerful and important institutions in our country. It is an institution that has responsibility to pass laws that govern our society and levy taxes that every resident has to pay.
Parliamentarians, therefore, are leaders of our country who have an awesome responsibility to all residents, especially our young people who are very impressionable. Hence, it is important for Parliamentarians to act with decorum, tolerance, honour and respect, and to be a catalyst for maintaining civility in our country.
Parliamentarians need to find a way to advance their views without lapsing into contempt, anger, threats or fear-mongering. They should be careful that their remarks do not contribute to public disorder. In my view, the results of rude, bombastic debates undermine our unity and erode civility, and it makes it difficult to attract investors and even tourists. No one wants to invest in a country or stay in a country where they perceive they are not wanted.
In spite of the efforts of our government to persuade investors to come here in order to create jobs for Bahamians, it becomes far more difficult because of the animosity between Parliamentarians who should be our standard-bearer.
The outside world owes us nothing. If we, by our actions, convey that we are a country seriously divided and take so much time vilifying each other, we will forget our mission to create a community that is successful economically and socially so that we can make all Bahamians lives better.
The willingness to honour one another and seek the common good must transcend partisanship, ideology, race, ethnicity and even religious affiliation. Good relationships make our lives better. Respect allows us to connect successfully with others. In our aggressive and complex society, and in our wider aggressive and complex world, respect will encourage us to be civil without being self-serving; to be sensitive and assertive; and at the same time to practise respect of others as an extension of our own self-respect. We should do all of this with the best intent and for the good of all.
Remember that being civil is a choice. In any given circumstance, we have the option of stopping and thinking before we act. We, therefore, have a choice about how we behave and that means that we have a choice to foster good relationships. The writer Eric Hoffer said: “Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.”
The challenges facing our Bahamas are not easy or simple, but we can prevail only by committing ourselves to values of responsibility and equality of opportunity for present and future generations.
We must always keep in mind that The Bahamas’ very survival depends on our ability to treat each other with kindness, civility, and to think before we speak and to listen. It may be wise to practise to think twice and to speak once.
It is my firm belief that if Parliamentarians and other leaders embrace and consolidate these values, not in theory but in practice, it will go a long way in retaining civility, which must be the hallmark of all Bahamians.
What is at stake is the economic, cultural and social health of our country.