Going forward through the ‘rear-view mirror’

It would be easier to halt the ocean tide than to arrest the march of time, yet all too often the local opposition to change is grounded in emotional appeals to a vision of a Cayman Islands that has long since slipped away.

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.


  1. Nobody is trying to arrest the march of time, and while we can all agree that the Cayman Islands of the past has long since slipped away, we can (and should) still do whatever possible to preserve traditional Caymanian values and culture.

    This has nothing to do with wanting Cayman to be like it was 50 years ago, but everything to do with trying to temper the obvious negative effects from what is seen by many as nothing more than modern day progress.

    Far too many people want to go to countries and dictate to the minority local populations (and sometimes majority local populations) what they should and should not do and what values and standards they should and should not have. This type of conduct has been very destructive for the Cayman Islands, has created divisions within our society, and only serves to further promote the type of discrimination that has manifested itself over the past few decades.

    This situation is not unique to the Cayman Islands. In fact, if you look at the results of the 2014 European Parliament elections that were held in the UK and across Europe you will notice that even much larger countries are facing similar problems.

    The difference with the Cayman Islands is that, as a small country, we feel the effects of undesirable conduct a lot sooner than much larger countries with larger local populations.

  2. Lobbyist do speak eloquently. As subjects, bow to your leader in industry, and stop spitting in the wind of change. And, the philosopher has spoken; no history class today, no history tomorrow no history class ever. It seem that my earlier predictions of build it and they will not come is in line with my recent observations as it relates to Seven Mile public beach and the Cayman people. Amendment: Annexed out of sight and out of mind. Of course everyone is welcomed to visit the new and improved public beaches up East where friendly native breezes still blow, where past present and future mingle in an island delight. Ever watch star trek, and how they keep harping about the prime directive.. Go East young man, go East.

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