The illusion of democracy


Democracy is an ideal that is not easily achievable. Unfortunately, too many people think we have achieved it already, simply because we are allowed to vote.

The right to vote is only one principle and even there the right is not exercised fully. There are so many natural inclinations that the human family have, which act as a distraction to achieving anything ideal even with respect to voting.

Tribal tendencies, ethnicity, religion and even education can be and are often the culprit that divide a community, creating in-crowds that benefit and marginalised sectors that are outcast to the systems. For there to be true equality, all inclinations towards tribalism and sectarianism must be broken and the arm of participation must be extended.

Undefined populism is a phenomenon that is shaping governments today. Unlike the mid-20th century when ideologies such as socialism were clearly definable, the populism of today does not have a clear endgame or ideology, but rather are expressions of dissatisfaction, perceived loss and fear-driven revolts against systemic poverty and oppression.

Modernity has placed much of the real movement and work on the back of technology and fostered unprecedented inequality. Because of large corporations, more of the wealth in the world is now in fewer hands. People are angry but don’t know how to fix the problem and the search only develops new ones.

The migratory pattern over the past few decades has created a new diversification in most developed nations. One can hear the cries among many domestic populations, with claims that foreigners are taking their jobs and opportunities. Brexit was a typical example where there is a massive complaint, but no solution.

The complaints are real or at least they feel as though they are. However, economies have become dependent on diversity and globalisation is irreversible. Education has always been a coefficient from the beginnings of humanity. Therefore, industry and institutions will continue to seek skilled individuals for their own survival.

Bermuda is not another world in that regard. Our position in the world is sustained by the skill that exists within our borders. We can remember historically 1857. As our economy shifted, we needed farm labour, which was largely fulfilled by the Portuguese. Then again, in the late 19th century with the West Indian migration.

The strength and vibrancy of any economy are based on its gross output, which is directly tied to skill sets and adequate labour. Balancing our need for foreign labour is a bridge that Bermuda will need to cross continuously. However, even more pernicious and closer to the juggler’s veins is the need to break with its old format of tribal politics.

We have often heard the cry “we need to get rid of party politics”. Well, truthfully, it is not party politics in and of itself; what needs to end is the associated tribalism, which creates a toxic social environment. Until we can see each human as equal and as having potential, we have no business fostering political parties. There is the thought that time will heal, but time alone is insufficient.

Unfortunately, we cannot talk about democracy because of tribalism. We can talk only about the means of attaining power and the dynamics of achieving it — or who can achieve it.

The issue of truth, decency and respect for principle — regardless of the person or who rules — is buried under partisanship. Criticism is meant for the other side; self-criticism will be met with isolation.

Until we can break that vicious cycle, we will not advance as an exemplary jurisdiction or democracy. When we can put principle above party, it is only then we can rise above a pile of bad examples worldwide, become a country the world can respect, and be a desired destination for tourism and business.

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Published May 27, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated May 27, 2019 at 8:13 am)

The illusion of democracy

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