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Building a more civil society

Bermuda is facing unprecedented challenges as it grapples with the recession and an upsurge in violent crime.

In light of these new economic and social realities, how do we build a more civil and inclusive community?

It is relatively easy to keep a somewhat happy community when we are benefiting from a growing economy. Community, like friendships, is never really tested until it jointly faces adversity. We need to cooperate during times of adversity to soothe and resolve our differences so as to do what is in the best interest of the community.

A community as most of us know it is a group of people sharing a web of human relationships and common interests who live in one locality. Keep in mind, every house is not a home and every spot on the map is not a community. Communities are forged by dedication, work, tolerance and love. As we become even more diverse, we must work harder to unite our common values and to do what is best for the good of all. We must work harder to overcome our differences in our hearts and in our laws in order for the community to function fairly. We must treat all our people with fairness, regardless of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation and regardless of when they arrived in our country.

People in our community need a shared stake in the future. We need a shared common interest. We must give more thought to those things that build a civil and good community and let us with “new eyes” see how to minimise those factors that separate us like race, origins and perceived differences.

We cannot rely on past successes to ensure future successes, and we cannot take the future for granted. Successful communities don't just happen. They are built by caring for each other, helping each other, and working jointly on projects and programmes. We have to set the example for the present generation and put an end to the myth that just because they are Bermudians they are automatically entitled to benefit from past successes.

If we do not turn the hearts of our children toward knowledge and character, we will lose their gifts and undermine their potential and the opportunity to contribute their talents to our community. A successful community demands from each of us good relationships, respect, responsibility and discipline. A well-managed community needs more than quality leadership, it needs quality citizenship.

Many in our country do not know the pain of poverty but should listen to those who do. Compassion is the work of a community, not just the Government. Poverty is a powder keg that could be ignited by our indifference and, if we permit our economy to drift and decline, the vulnerable will suffer most.

Most Bermudians are generous, courageous, strong and decent. We must hold dear to these principles. Being civil is not a tactic or a sentiment, it is a determined choice of trust over cynicism; of community over chaos. We should attempt to state our opinions with civility and pursue what is in the best interest of the country.

Our community cannot rise to its full potential or achieve greatness unless individuals at many levels of ability accept the need for high standards of performance and strive to achieve those standards within the limits possible for them. Our public interest depends on individual character, civic duty, basic fairness, and on unselfish acts of decency, which gives direction to our children.

A quality community can only be built on the bedrock of quality citizens who feel secure and, at a minimum, have a certain level of trust in the wider community.

Sir John Swan

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Published February 29, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated February 29, 2012 at 6:20 am)

Building a more civil society

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