It pays to keep an open mind to your enemies’
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
— Psalms 23:5
The 49th Annual Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast was held last Friday at the Hamilton Princess Hotel and Beach Club. Those gathered consisted of business leaders, the judiciary, clergy, uniformed services and politicians from both sides of the aisle.
Considering the room was full of politicians from either side, the message by the guest speaker, Carlos Austin, was quite an interesting, if not profound, topic: “Learning from our enemies”.
Mr Austin, a motivational speaker, cited several of his own personal experiences that caused him to seek to learn from those who had not treated him or others in a humane manner.
Usually, the way that they behaved would have caused most human beings to react defensively. He chose not to seek revenge, however. Instead, he sought to learn what made his opponents tick and what, if any, positive lesson could be extracted from their actions and mindsets.
Looking directly at those gathered, he implored those of us in Bermuda to learn from our political enemies. In doing so, we have an opportunity to serve as an example to the rest of the world.
I cannot speak for others who were there, but his message gave me much room for thought.
In the past few months that Parliament has been in session, I have weekly, face-to-face interactions with my fellow parliamentarians. Twenty-three of them are my fellow Progressive Labour Party MPs while 12 are One Bermuda Alliance MPs.
To all intents and purposes, those 12 OBA MPs are my “enemies” — my “political enemies” to be precise. Conversely, I am their sworn political enemy.
Indeed, we have spent our entire political lives championing opposing political ideologies and competing against each other for the hearts, minds and votes of fellow Bermudians.
Unlimited and immeasurable time, money and effort was put into ensuring that we win seats and win the government. This is the nature of politics worldwide.
So, why should we in Bermuda be any different and seek not to “learn from our enemies”?
The words of Mr Austin circulated around my head all day Friday while Parliament was in session. I found myself listening more intently to what various OBA MPs had to say on different issues that were discussed.
I found myself seeking to see if there was anything to learn from these persons, these political enemies of mine.
During the presentation of one particular OBA MP, visual charts and statistics were used to illustrate a point, which I had not seen done before during parliamentary sessions. It was then that I began to find the answer to my question of what I could possibly learn from my foes.
If anything was clearly communicated by the people of Bermuda in both the 2012 and 2017 elections, it was that they have little to no patience for the practice of being excluded from the decision-making process.
As more and more voters demand higher levels of performance from politicians, there are some points for effective politicians to consider.
• Maintain open lines of communication with your constituents and with members of the community by using all forms of social media and traditional door-to-door canvassing
• Stay connected with the people. This allows you to always be aware of and in tune with the concerns of your constituents
• Always be guided by empathy and compassion, particularly for our most vulnerable, children and seniors
While I will never subscribe to the philosophy of the OBA, I can see merit in some of the things that they bring to the table, and the manner in which they present their points. Indeed, there is room for them to learn from us as well.
In coming weeks, months and years, it would be good to see all politicians seeking to learn from those who sit opposite them. Perhaps then Mr Austin will see that his brief address has borne long-lasting fruit.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at email@example.com
Roland Skinner (1940-2018)
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