ASSERTING OUR RIGHT TO DEBATE THE ISLANDS’ PUBLIC AFFAIRS
NB: This column was originally published in the Driftwood on August 6, 2010. The Trust was out, as it is now, to suppress the public quest for a review of the Trust. In the intervening years, the cause of the Trust, being to protect the islands against a proliferation of “Magic Lake Estates” evaporated and the Trust is seeking a new cause to fill the vacuum of relevance. The piece was edited for brevity.
The emerging resistance to the Islands Trust is met with considerable reaction. The Trust's top guns are out firing shots madly in all directions, seeking to silence dissent, to quench the peoples' quest for a glance up the kilt of the Trust.
What is happening was predictable when the Trust was gestated, delivered and imposed upon us in 1974. It attracted ideologues and assorted true believers who over the years permeated it with a culture of infallibility, a sense of self-righteousness and a belief in being blessed with exclusive wisdom and prophetic abilities, none of which are justified. Immersed in this culture, many women and men of the Trust see themselves as patrons of ignorants in ardent need of being herded by the chosen ones.
Illusions of infallibility lead to excesses and warp the manner of magistrates. Eventually they load on the camel the proverbial straw that breaks the beast’s back.
After half century under the Trust, islanders feel it is time to have a close look at it. We want to reconsider the Trust. We want to find out whether we need it and if so, what shape and form it should take. Or to dispose of it, if find it redundant, because idle hands are the devil’s tools.
Of course some islanders adore the Trust and this is normal in a healthy society. After all, both god and devil have followings and it is certain that the elimination of either would cause the demise of the other.
Democracy exists to help us make choices, just like the clever Cheshire Cat who helped Alice navigate Wonderland. Not unlike the cat, democracy does not devise solutions to problems, it just causes ideas to emerge and fosters them to evolve into solutions. It is despots who impose “solutions”.
Without debate, democracy dies, just like fish on dry land. Debate has to be free, it must never be fenced in, for “managing” debate and especially when done by “con-Sultants”, is tantamount to eunochizing Democracy to make it guard the Sultan’s harem.
Yet, that may be what we are faced with. The Trust is out to kill the debate or, failing that, to control the discourse. Evidently, Plan A is to kill the peoples’ quest for a review of the Trust. Sensing that Plan A is failing, the Trust, has hired hordes of mercenaries to deploy Plan B.
Plan B is to herd us through the rut of compromise into the cesspool of cosmetic reform. The tactic is not original with the Trust; this is a habitual reaction of desperate despots.
The “resistance” to the Trust plan is not manifestly angelic either, which is normal too. By nature, any uprising is a compendium of people of diverse views trying to coagulate into a unified commonality for the pursuit of a general accommodation for their diverse views. Because of these realities, a resistance movement contrasts sharply the uniformity and the single-mindness of the reactionary side.
I found the 2010 petition “logically and democratically correct”, so to speak. It was a petition asking for a reconsideration of the then 35-year-old Islands Trust Act. It was not a petition for a changeover to a municipal or any other form or government. It was not a death knell for the Trust. It was merely a health exam, long overdue for the old act.
Yet the Trust has reacted to the petition like it is a request for its head on a platter. Their reaction was fear driven. It manifests that the Trust’s own men and women, those who have seen the Trust inside and out, know that the Trust is feeble and may not survive exposure to the public eye. From what I know, their fears are sound.
I signed the petition and recommended signing it. This does not mean that I support any potential alternative, mentioned by any group or individual partaking in the resistance. For this is not the time to discuss alternatives. To do that would be detrimental to the cause of progress, for it would shift attention away from the the nature and the manner of the Trust, thereby aiding and abetting the suppression of democracy.
What the Trust is out to suppress we must pursue. It is our solemn citizenship duty to dissect and examine the Trust. It is our duty to preserve and protect democracy from the peril of the Trust seeking to kill debate, to suppress our democratic right to accountable government, to government by consent, to democracy.
At issue is whether we can assert our right to debate public affairs or whether the Trust can stop us from holding it accountable. That is what it boils down to. That is what is at issue. Let’s not lose sight of that.