So, what is going to happen next?
Something does not feel right. Is this the calm before a storm? We are all here on the emerging side of a viral pandemic, which brought all our lives to a halt — and along with it our economy.
Everyone except the very well-off is feeling and will continue to feel the weight of the building economic pressure. All those bills that were “deferred” and the utility connections that were left undisturbed are about to be called in.
TVs will go off, telephones will stop ringing, health insurance will be cancelled, and some houses will be plunged into darkness as the utility companies announce that they now want their money from the public that they “assisted” during these static times.
People are running to cash in pensions that were once upon a time sacrosanct, and quietly nibbling on their nails wondering what is going to happen next.
And that is the hard question no one is asking: what is going to happen next? In a country dependent on imported income with no home-grown industry other than tourism and international business, how do we plan to reverse the clear economic slide that we are in?
The hotels are empty. All of the businesses that rely on visitor dollars are stagnant. With most people still working from home, the economy surrounding employee support services — retailers, restaurants, etc — is very slow. Jury trials and court proceedings are limping along. Everything has slowed down.
For the moment, some people are still nervously surviving on their savings, while others are suffering in silence. But soon the cracks will appear, the planks in the floor will begin to creak, and the ceiling above us will begin to fall through.
It is inevitable the social anxiety will emerge, desperation will grow like a tumour, and the class stratifications that have defined us all will begin to erode. Crime is going to go up. More is going to be demanded from a system that is already listing to one side from the enormous weight. Life as we know it in a country with one of the highest costs of living is about to change for most of us.
But no one seems to be talking about it. It is as if we are all ignoring the obvious. It reminds me of that totally ineffective defensive response used by a cockroach when you turn the lights on suddenly in the kitchen — they stop dead in their tracks as if to say, “If I don’t move, they won’t see me”. And of course, they end up suffering the wrath of the proverbial slipper … smack!
I guess I want to encourage us all to talk about it. We have to. We all have to speak this truth loudly and then put our heads together to come up with a plan. We cannot leave all the thinking to the Government. They are very capable, but I fear this problem is going to require all hands on deck.
The only way for us to navigate this is to develop our available ways to generate income. We have tossed around the ideas of recreational cannabis, gaming and cryptocurrency for some time now. Those are obvious injections that would bring people here in droves to enjoy the sun, sand, water, winnings and weed.
Some relaxation of the rules relating to foreign investments may be needed to make this happen, but then there is this religiously entrenched conservative power base here in Bermuda that embraces a zero-tolerance approach to at least two of those alternatives.
My finger on the pulse of the community tells me that those who would cling to tradition so dogmatically so as to thwart this type of progress are in the minority. Most of us are willing to try something new.
We cannot stay the same. We will perish if we do. Of course, some among us will always survive well — or just leave when the going gets rough — but I am not talking to them.
I am talking to each person that calls Bermuda home no matter how rough it gets. We are at a crucial crossroads where the economic downturn is going to mix and clash with a palpable upturn in demands for equality and justice.
On the one hand we are raising our voices to demand that our lives must matter, but on the other hand we have to think about how we intend give people more rights when we have fewer resources.
This is an issue we are all going to have to chip into to solve. One thing is for sure: keeping our borders closed would be economic suicide.
We have to generate money for us to survive. How will we do that if we do not allow people from our closest shores to visit and /or spend their resources? Where is the money going to come from?
• Charles Richardson is a lawyer and community activist
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