In the Roman Empire’s waning years, when its citizens could not afford bread, its leaders chose to appease and pacify the masses with the spectacle and sport of the arena. Instead of spending their dwindling coffers on running the empire and making sure its people were fed, the government instead chose to buy and import sand to fill the colosseums.
Bread and circuses. Keep the people entertained while the institutions crumble.
So is it the Bahamian government’s responsibility to throw parties? To throw our money into masks and music instead of into schools and clinics? To protect the special interests of those who distract the people with games, winning numbers and lotteries? Sorry, scratch that last word – the three-ball drop that is specifically advertised as a lottery (which are, on paper, illegal in this country) was declared not-a-lottery by the Minister in charge of such things.
I will agree that the government has a role in developing and nurturing culture. But I would argue that this is done through strengthening education, providing opportunities for local craftspeople and artists and, if marketing dollars are involved at all, market the culture we already have.
Seven million dollars for “Junkanoo Carnival.” Junkanoo, our actual culture, is simply a word they’ve grafted on. Bahamian artists are pushed aside and paid less than international musicians – we’re told this is because people won’t come to our Carnival without a big headlining act. Is that what tourists like about The Bahamas? Imported culture? If that’s the logic behind it then let us tear up all the local conch shacks and replace them with Red Lobsters – since tourists won’t come if it’s not something they recognize.
Seven million dollars. I wonder how much sand that would buy.
But who cares about seven million dollars of wasted taxes, rising crime, crumbling schools and moldy clinics when you can make all your dreams come true if your numbers hit at your local gambling house? Don’t worry, you don’t have to look far to find a local gambling house because there are three on every street corner. Did the people literally vote against these institutions? Yes – but why would the government actually listen to the people? As a further slap in the face the gambling houses don’t even have to pay VAT. Clinics have to pay VAT – but gambling houses do not. Charities have to pay VAT – but gambling houses do not. Schools have to pay VAT – but gambling houses do not.
Keeping the people poor, sick, uneducated but entertained: now THAT’S a gamble.