Seeking peace and goodwill in uncertain times
"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
So says the Gospel of St James in the King James version of the Bible, announcing the birth of Jesus Christ, whose birthday Christians around the world celebrate tomorrow.
Whether you believe in God, or indeed have any faith at all, the idea of peace on earth and good will towards all people resonates through the world at this time of year.
The next few days are a time to step back and to reflect both on the year that has passed and on the future.
For many, these holidays will be a time of less comfort and joy than in the past. Bermuda continues to face the spectre of Covid-19 and the rise of the Omicron variant will be greeted by many with a sense of resignation when it feels as if the Delta wave has only just receded, leaving many mourning families in its wake.
While the lives lost or affected by long Covid are invariably the most painful legacy of the pandemic, the virus and its variants continue to wreak a heavy toll on the economy and are doing particular harm to those whose livelihoods depend in some way on the hospitality sector and any roles that involve physically interacting with other people.
For those people, this Christmas will be a time of financial insecurity, when the desire to share gifts and meals with others must be balanced by the need to manage the financial challenges the new year may bring.
Regrettably, Bermuda is also seeing a rise in violent crime and an apparent return to the gang warfare that blighted much of the community several years ago.
Overhanging all of this is a general sense of insecurity and uncertainty, a feeling that as a community we have less control over our destiny than was once the case.
Quo Fata Ferunt, the island’s motto of “where the fates lead us” has always been coupled with the idea that Bermudians can adapt to changing circumstances, that we are a hardy people who can take change and survive and thrive. We need to recapture that spirit now as the world changes in rapid and dizzying ways.
To achieve this requires first remembering that we are indeed our brother’s keeper and our first duty is to look after those who through no fault of their own find themselves in difficulties. Bermuda has indeed done this through the pandemic and should not stop now.
It also demands that we work together as a community. This idea is oft repeated and can appear facile. But it is important. There will inevitably be disagreements about the best way forward - and there should be. But now more than ever the community needs to agree to a common purpose and to work towards it.
This purpose should embody the idea that every person in Bermuda has potential and should have the tools to fulfil it. No person should fear want and no child should be deprived of a healthy upbringing, a secure home and health.
Similarly, the community should strive towards financial security for all. This newspaper is not suggesting a philosophy of “from each according to their means, to each according their needs”.
Individuals have the right to pursue their own success and enjoy the fruits of their labour and different people will seek different types of success and fulfilment. But the financial crisis of 2008 and now the pandemic have shown that a society that places too much emphasis on the individual and not enough on the importance of community will fail.
So the need to ensure that people grow up and live without fear of hunger or homelessness is more important now than ever before.
How a society gets to that point will be a matter of debate. But it is important to keep that end in sight. We owe it to each other.
So as we celebrate these holidays, regardless of faith, and look to a new year, we should remember the golden rule - to treat others as we would want to be treated, to look after those who find themselves in difficulty, and to ensure everyone in this society has a fair shot at achieving personal success and living a meaningful and long life.