Mutterings from the bully pulpit

  • My brother’s keeper: Chris Furbert went overboard in using his platform as BIU president to attempt to smear Dwayne Robinson for the benefit of Jason Hayward (Photograph by Blaire Simmons).

    My brother’s keeper: Chris Furbert went overboard in using his platform as BIU president to attempt to smear Dwayne Robinson for the benefit of Jason Hayward (Photograph by Blaire Simmons).

The definition of a schoolyard bully is one who engages in proactive aggression with the expectation of gaining a reward.

What reward, pray tell, was there to be gained from a union president piling in on a wet-behind-the-ears political candidate who hitherto did not stand a chance in hell of upstaging the Progressive Labour Party candidate in Pembroke Central, no matter whose name was pulled out of the party leader’s hat to succeed the sadly departed Walton Brown?

And the rather lopsided Constituency 17 results from last night confirm that Dwayne Robinson was only ever going to be trotted out by the One Bermuda Alliance as a sacrificial lamb against Jason Hayward. Or else it would have plumped for the far more experienced Nick Kempe, the Opposition Leader in the Senate who in 2012 ran a former Junior Minister of Finance close in the neighbouring constituency of Pembroke West Central.

That former junior minister is now running the country.

Albeit not a political heavyweight, Mr Hayward nevertheless carried the distinction of having been visible in the public domain for years as president of the white-collar union, Bermuda Public Services Union, long before his rival even had been sold on the idea for the political satire webcast It’s That Type of Party, which landed him in this hot mess in the first place.

So the schoolyard bully in this piece is none other than Chris Furbert, president of the Bermuda Industrial Union.

It is a role he is used to — in union negotiations, on the football pitch, around the poker table, playing marbles at Easter — and one for the most part for which he can be duly praised in a deserving legacy as one who has fought tooth and nail for workers’ rights.

But there is no such praise reserved for Mr Furbert today.

Not after that most shameful abuse of power, position and privilege that manifested itself two days ago in an attempted hatchet job of a promising young black man — we are at pains to introduce race, but here you just cannot escape a poignant irony.

When you think of the future of this country and its leaders heading into the 2020s, 2030s and beyond, and for the benefit of the many who cannot see past the colour of a man’s skin and into the content of his character, four spring readily to mind.

For balance, Eron Hill and Ryan Robinson Perinchief on the left, and Dwayne Robinson and Trae Cannonier on the right — each for their political leanings if not their individual ideologies.

To wish to publicly pull the rug out from under either of them should require some thought, in particular for the unintended consequences.

But Mr Furbert, ever so impetuous, was having none of that when he summoned the media to the BIU for yet another of his hastily arranged press conferences. In kneejerk reactive mode after being alerted to the “politricks” that were being played out on social media, this “leader” in our community decided he would stick the knife in where it hurt — and twist.

It is one thing for a social-media bumpkin to strike it rich by recalling the worst vices of a political aspirant and then replaying them in front of the widest audience possible on the eve of an election.

No matter which side you’re on, you can only say, “Well played”. Even Hillary Clinton would attest to that.

But it is quite another for a respected, supposedly apolitical leader of society to make hay of it, and then proceed on a naked display of public canvassing for his rival — as if Jason Hayward, who was already well ahead in polling, really needed it.

A bit like allowing Lewis Hamilton to carry a ten-pound lighter load than the rest of the field in Formula One.

For revision, so that none of this gets twisted, what Dwayne Robinson said on that fateful January 2017 webcast was wrong on so many levels.

It is true that he and Trae Cannonier often got up to some prattish behaviour on ITTP, and on occasion took satirical licence a bit too far, but it is also true that they often struck the right chord and were worthy of applause for an endeavour that was refreshingly unique to Bermuda.

In one of the most famous speeches ever given, at the funeral of Julius Caesar, Marc Antony said: “ ... the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones”.

So let it be with Dwayne Robinson.

It really doesn’t matter if he uttered the words “pepper mist” one year ago, two years ago, three years ago, ten years ago. Foot-in-mouth has no statute of limitations, especially for public figures — see Donald Trump vis-à-vis the Central Park Five, for starters — and Mr Robinson will learn those words will follow him throughout his political career.

The entire episode provides another stark reminder of the naivety and paucity of our politics. For if the OBA had properly vetted this candidate, it could have got in front of the train wreck and mitigated against it — perhaps as early as November 2018 when Mr Robinson was appointed senator within weeks of joining the party.

Perhaps the chief decision-makers were distracted in the wake of the coup to unseat the ineffectual Jeanne Atherden as party leader and Leader of the Opposition.

So now the young ’un, in the guise of a dead man walking, has to suffer the consequences.

But he most definitely should not be doing so at the hands of Chris Furbert.

Not the man who repeatedly organised the illegal blocking of Parliament, which ultimately led to one of the most mournful days in the history of Bermuda.

Protest, lawful; blocking of Parliament, unlawful.

If they are so obliged, the people have the right to protest. But two months after December 2, 2016, after all the pain and suffering that day brought on all fronts, when Mr Furbert learnt that the early-to-rise OBA MPs had safely taken their seats in the Lower House to pass the legislation required for the airport redevelopment to go ahead, he aborted further industrial action.

Why? Because they could not now prevent MPs from entering the House of Assembly.

Which would be what? Illegal.

If this cause was so just to elicit work stoppages and other civil unrest, it should have been just enough for the people — all 150 or so who still had the stomach for it a mere 70 days later — to again surround Parliament for the peaceful protest that we now know it had been fraudulently advertised to be.

An over-our-dead-bodies gathering masked as a peaceful protest led to many innocent people getting hurt that day.

That, plus the Pathways to Status shambles, resulted in a change in government. Which has resulted in the effective dissolution of the People’s Campaign.

So now, with the Reverend Nicholas Tweed doing what he does best in ministering to the congregation of St Paul AME Church, as per his work permit, and Jason Hayward first taking on the role of senator and now sitting as a newly minted Member of Parliament, Mr Furbert could be forgiven for feeling a little isolated and for yearning a relevance that ventures beyond his stated remit.

But he cannot and should not be forgiven this most recent act of bullying.

Cue the next snap press conference.

“O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason.”

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Published Nov 22, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Nov 23, 2019 at 7:40 pm)

Mutterings from the bully pulpit

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