We must work together to reinvent Bermuda
“Beware when you bring in a prince to get rid of your problems because, while he may get rid of your problem, the next problem is how to get rid of the prince.”
That is a proverb that has a myriad of literal and non-literal implications and applications. Life is always filled with challenges that at times require a specific remedy to bring a resolution.
In medical applications at times, we need a prescription such as an antibiotic that will rid you of an infectious disease, but if you continue to take the antibiotic for too long, eventually it will make you sick. Most things in life follow that same principle.
Politics and what we revile as history always need cross-examination. We don’t need to relitigate history concerning its past relevance; rather, we assume, rightly or wrongly, that previous conditions warranted whatever strategies and tools that were developed. The question is whether those same tools are useful today.
Colonial Britain ruled with a Machiavellian principle “that a prince [ruler] is better to be feared than loved”. Hence, protest movements were an inevitable reaction to colonial rule. Civil debate in Parliament amid the best of oration got nowhere. It was protest, strikes and mass demonstrations, which were at times violent, that brought change. It was unionism that caused uniform pay and benefits to come to the workforce — not humanised debate.
The residual effect is a legacy political culture grown in the womb of colonialism. So there is no wonder or strange phenomenon that when even a labour government borne out of colonialism is in power that the tendency to strike does not abate.
In Bermuda, short-lived was the progressive movement whose tendency towards consultation and developing consensus resulted in a participatory democratic style. It began in the latter 1950s but died before it was truly born by the early 1960s. Essentially, our politics was hijacked by a battle between the oligarchs and a labour struggle. The tools we see today are legacy instruments of that battle.
When power is associated, there is no impulse to change the formula. Our location as a gem in the Atlantic, which had centuries of military significance, gave life to the Bermudian economy in spite of its faults and social misgivings.
Bermuda is now faced with having to reinvent success and we will need to rely on each other to achieve it — or sink under a flood of expectations that mathematically cannot be fulfilled.
This is a new day that has outlived past formulas. A healthy dose of a progressive movement would be useful at this juncture. Bermuda doesn’t need to just do things better; it also needs to do things differently and more inclusively.
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Ada Foggo (1928-2020)
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