This yearning to preserve things as they once were is understandable but unadvisable and, certainly, unsustainable. The evolutionary consequence of arresting development is caterpillars – not butterflies.
Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan wrote in 1967, “When faced with a totally new situation, we tend always to attach ourselves to the objects, to the flavor of the most recent past. We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”
In a later work, he elaborated, “Ordinary human instinct causes people to recoil from these new environments and to rely on the rear-view mirror as a kind of repeat or ricorso of the preceding environment, thus insuring total disorientation at all times. It is not that there is anything wrong with the old environment, but it simply will not serve as navigational guide to the new one.”
McLuhan’s ideas, and his particular choice of imagery, dovetail quite neatly with a current situation in Cayman – the continuing legal battle by a group of four Caymanian women against the government’s transfer of a section of West Bay Road to the Dart Group.
The government and Dart signed the National Roads Agreement in December 2011, calling for the closure and vesting of the road near Public Beach to enable Dart to construct its new Kimpton resort. In exchange, Dart built the new Esterley Tibbetts Highway extension up to Batabano Road and Willie Farrington Drive.
In late February of this year, a judge dismissed the women’s legal challenge, saying they should have filed it within a year after the NRA Agreement was signed, disagreeing with their argument that the 12-month timer should have started much later, when the section of the road closed in March 2013.
Now, the women are seeking to have the judge’s decision overturned by Cayman’s Court of Appeal.
After the February judgment was released, this Editorial Board not only applauded it as being correct, but went further to question the government’s determination to grant legal aid to the women, effectively bankrolling both sides of a civil case against itself. Likewise, we hope that the new appeal isn’t being funded, even partly, through legal aid, which one would think would be reserved for indigent criminal defendants.
The four plaintiffs are relying on arguments relating to human rights and constitutional guarantees, but their contentions, minus the legalese, really boil down to the idea that they and others should have the right to drive on a stretch of road and enjoy a view they had become accustomed to – regardless of the development of private property, enhancement of public property and future positive economic benefits enabled by an agreement negotiated and signed by their own government.
We must ask ourselves a seminal, if uncomfortable, question: Is Cayman more in need of a curator to preside over its glorious past, or a leader to guide us to an even more glorious future?
If we as a country desire to move forward, we cannot allow our gaze to linger overly long on the reflection in our rearview mirror … even if it’s of a brilliant sunset over Seven Mile Beach.