Published On: Thu, May 9th, 2024

The Pirate Society

By Hilbert Haar

My publisher Terrance Rey posed the question whether we can be both a socialist and a capitalist country. Interesting question.

American politicians tend to use socialism as a derogatory term, accusing their government of handing out taxpayers money like there is no tomorrow. But who is paying those damn politicians? Exactly, the tax payers. So it is fair to say that they live in a closed – quite comfortable – socialist society of their own. And they are happy with it; otherwise they would go and do something useful. Yet, the rest of the world considers the United States as the epitome of capitalism. The American Dream. Right? A big house, an even bigger and gas slurping car, a swimming pool and credit card debts up the gazoo. Consequences be damned.

Venezuela has been a socialist dictatorship since 2007 and look where those guys are now. I guess they wish they had the credit card debts of an average American.

Is the Netherlands socialist or capitalist? Traditionally it is a country of traders. The British already knew more than a hundred years ago: the fault of the Dutch is giving too little and asking too much. There: capitalist! But the country has also a reasonable social welfare system, unemployment benefits and health care insurance for everyone.

Now wait a minute; I am not glorifying the Netherlands, just pointing out a few facts. I was born in that country a long time ago but I first and foremost consider myself an earthling. Thanks for your understanding.

Where does St. Maarten stand on the spectrum that begins with socialist (on the left) and ends with capitalism (on the right)? My answer is: nowhere and I will make an attempt explain why I see it that way.

In my opinion St. Maarten is not a capitalist society and not a socialist society either. It is in a class of its own as a pirate society. I mean, we have potholes and corruption and that is all the evidence you need.

Potholes show that our politicians do not allocate enough money to maintenance of the road infrastructure, even though well maintained roads would benefit all citizens. But no, our politicians have other fish to fry, predominantly the ones on their own barbecue.

There is a definite link between those damn potholes and corruption. You know why? Because corruption makes everything more expensive. Look into the Theo Heyliger case and you’ll know what I am talking about.

I once talked with a local road builder who assured me that of course his company is capable of building roads that last for a very long time. But when it comes to signing contracts with the responsible politicians, road builders run into a brick wall: the specifications. In other words: the way they are going to build a road. And if the allocated budget for any given project only allows for laying a very thin layer of asphalt, trouble and potholes are never far away. Or, as the road builder told me: “You get what you pay for.”

Another aspect that makes me think of St. Maarten as a pirate society is a remark I once heard from a member of a Belgian team that had traveled to the Caribbean to enable citizens to obtain a new passport. We traveled to Guadeloupe to get a new passport for my wife Myriam. We started chatting and it did not take long for the Belgian gentleman to ask us where we lived. When we said (truthfully) St. Maarten he smiled. You know what he said? “Ha! That’s where the sharks don’t live in the water but on the land.”

I am not making this up. It is a true story. And it really breaks my heart to know that people elsewhere in the world take a rather dim view to the way St. Maarten handles its affairs.

My question is: do we really want to be that pirate society or are we ready to battle that negative image and do something about it? I consider this not just as a challenge for our new government and our new parliament. It is a call to all of us to be courageous and honest by taking a good hard look at our own behavior. Small changes can have a huge impact in the long run. So please: save our beautiful island from all those con-artists and make it a better place to live in for all.

Pirate cartoon

Image caption: Pirate cartoon taken from the book Cusha Cartoons. Pre-order your copy by buying a Cusha Columns subscription here online at https://stmaartennews.com/subscriptions.