The one-party state

  • Never too old to learn: the late Sir John Plowman, one of the founding members of the UBP and a longtime chairman of the party, discovered belatedly that blacks in Bermuda had the same ambitions as whites did (File photograph).

    Never too old to learn: the late Sir John Plowman, one of the founding members of the UBP and a longtime chairman of the party, discovered belatedly that blacks in Bermuda had the same ambitions as whites did (File photograph).

If by the year 1993, the United Bermuda Party had reached the point of being a diminished political entity, what is the One Bermuda Alliance’s value to the electorate using the same social formula?

Lets go to racial demographics, which is at the heart of it.

The UBP began in the segregated era of the 1960s on the premise of unity between the races. The proposition was based on blacks being welcomed into the white world. At least that was the promise and expectation when the party was first launched. While the welcome was perhaps genuinely felt in the hearts of the promoters and also believed by those who embraced it, the reality never translated into an on-the-ground reality — except in very few instances. Too few to be considered an overall embrace; rather, it was an embrace of a selected few.

Sir John Swan, although a beneficiary, used to complain about this issue, arguing that they need to broaden the tent.

It was the fear of a seeming threat from a radical Left presented by a labour party with a few proponents hostile to business that kept many of the chickens in the coup. They protected the little world they knew, rather than risk a perceived loss of it all.

Then there were those who believed that with struggle they could make a difference that would result in a real unity. However, by attrition, that generation literally died — the election of 1993 resulted in people in wheelchairs being brought to the polls by a well-oiled political machinery, only to manage a very narrow victory. After 1993, too many voters were already in the graveyard to fudge a majority.

It was the Progressive Labour Party’s electorate to win and only a complete mess-up would make them lose. In 2012, the PLP electorate gave its own party a wake-up call. The OBA wrongfully thought it actually had a mandate and managed to demonstrate to the electorate that it was a rebranded UBP whose formula of “let us show you how it’s done” the people had already outgrown.

The bloggers got it wrong: the idea of political unity and togetherness of the races is not the failure; it is the premise upon which it was built that is the failure.

Sir John Plowman got it right when he told his comrades he thought at first that blacks would be only too happy to join his world, but he later discovered that what they really wanted was a world of their own. He recognised no posturing would do; they wanted the same privileges that he enjoyed, and nothing short of that.

Simply put, the blacks wanted the same thing he as a white man wanted. In a competitive world of business reliant on networking is where the rubber meets the road. After 350 years of development of a black population that had become replete with skill sets and tradesmanship up until 1960, they were systematically dismantled in 30-plus years by politics and financial re-engineering.

Bermuda went through billions of dollars of growth and development between 1970 and 1990, which normally would nourish an entire community, but in the Bermuda case, a surgical bypass orchestrated by the banks, government policy and architectural/engineering firms assured that those billions would sidestep the majority of the population. This was a deliberate attempt to maintain power through the control of liquidity and capital flow. It was so successful that a new culture of dependency became the norm. The ethos became “You can own everything; just make sure we get a decent wage”. And now it’s a living wage.

The prevailing assumptions are now inherent — “leave the economy to us because we are better at it”.

That attitude cannot be helped, particularly when there is no market competitor as a threat — the only threat being the terms of agreement with the unions for wages and the benefits of employment. In the days of Malcolm X, the analogy would be that the slaves don’t mind the status of slavery. They just want to be treated better with an assurance of having enough food on the table.

Malcolm X would have said: “Wake up! Stop depending on anyone else and build your own world.”

Build your own world is easier said than done. It requires dismantling of a mindset that has become dependent on the certainty of a weekly paycheque, a habit programmed to a 40-hour work week, finishing at work at 4pm or 5pm, and being off on the weekends.

There exists an inherent dissatisfaction in the black community with the structural environment they are in. Although locked in a self-afflicted form of mental slavery, they look to the Government to save them from their misery. They also believe in the “love your neighbour” principle, which underwrites racial harmony and diversity. However, none have attempted to address the recipe that underlies our economic and social dysfunction.

It is not until now that we have a government that has publicly declared it wants to see evolution and even revolution in the marketplace. It truly doesn’t matter whether or not it’s a dream; it speaks to the core of the resentment and hope that exist in the black psyche. It doesn’t help the OBA and the bloggers one bit by ranting “You don’t know what you’re doing or how to get it done”. That only feeds the resentment and further alienates.

We hear the complaint: “This is a democracy; we don’t want a one-party state”. However, in real terms the process may involve just that — a vastly popular government party with an irrelevant opposition, which by default is a one-party state.

That status may last until there is a new paradigm and a new social and economic reality on the ground. Once there is true social and economic equality, Bermuda will enter an era of true diversity. Only then will our politics metamorphose to an ideology-driven parliament. So, in the meantime, the PLP needs to have sole focus on developing the economy with an eye on those stratagems that create inclusion and foster diversity.

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Published Dec 7, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 6, 2019 at 10:38 pm)

The one-party state

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