More precious than gold
In a world obsessed with materialistic and economic gain, with people stumbling over one another in a rush to be on the frontline of what they perceive as success, something more precious than gold could be drifting away, paving the way for a more callous and cold society.
Along with much of the world today, Bermuda has in recent decades fallen prey to that urge to abandon qualities that helped to give Bermuda an image of polite friendliness, that was a key ingredient in building a tourist industry which was rewarding in many ways for all Bermudians. It was that special quality of warmth among the people that perhaps led to the description of our island as a jewel in the Atlantic.
The incredible part of that history, is that in the midst of a major struggle for social justice, stemming from the dark period of slavery, most Bermudians had a quality that was taught early in the family setting.
Without modern conveniences taken for granted today, the challenge to keep their spirits up, was a strong belief that no matter what, keeping their faith, while respecting each other, would get them through. In a sense, it was all they had. Bermuda has since, toiled through numerous stormy domestic periods, in trying to overcome a racially divided society, in order to move our island to the high ground of equal rights for all.
That would also open opportunities for participation in all areas of community life, including government. Even with such progress, there remains work ahead in totally eradicating negative attitudes that stifle at times further growth.
Today's bustling economic pace, in a highly competitive society, has slowly taken a toll with the loss of something far more precious than gold. Good old-fashioned manners and respect, usually taught in the home has faded. Instead, we have a generation where in most cases we seldom hear, “good morning, how are you?”.
Having good manners and being polite used to be a rich quality throughout our Bermudian culture.
Yes, we do have some very well behaved young people, some not even in their teens, who display good manners when interacting with others. However, it is no secret that too many young people today could not care less in how they greet others. This shows a lack of sensitivity in how important it is to acknowledge others with just a simple good morning or good afternoon. Communication will always be an important factor in life.
Our education system could help in trying to restore good manners, even though much of that work should take place in the home. Electronic gadgets in all forms have invaded our method of communication, to a point where conversation without such devices has become a lost art. That is sad, because there should be a period in the home where conversation takes place without any electronic interference. Almost impossible these days.
Conversation is important because it provides an opportunity to exchange views on various issues in an atmosphere of respect for each other's opinion. During such conversations the importance of discipline could be stressed as vital in making decisions that could mean the difference between moving in a positive direction, or falling prey to countless negative distractions that while appealing, usually result in unwanted consequences.
Much has changed in how discipline is handed out these days. During my spell as an art teacher at a boys school at Prospect, the principal was Ivan Cunningham, who left no stone unturned in getting his message across that rude behaviour would not be tolerated. Mornings began with students gathered in an assembly hall, where he would start the proceedings. Many mornings, despite being told to quiet down by teachers, the boys would ramble on as though they were in charge. That is until Mr Cunningham arrived. He never said a word, but simply went back to his office and they knew he would not be back until the room was absolutely silent. Sometimes that wait lasted ten to 15 minutes.
The moment he left the office a hush fell over the students, and when he entered the door, if you closed your eyes, you would think the room was empty. They learnt quickly the importance of discipline. Many of those students later became quite successful in a number of trades and professions. We may not be able to turn the clock back, but Bermuda needs greater focus on character building, because if children are not given proper values early, they will not be in position to pass values on to the next generation. That is a frightening thought.