A flick of the switch
The selection of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden's running mate in the United States presidential election signalled there is still a reason for hope in the great American idea.
It was an idea that was born as a bright light in the darkness of an era of savagery, exploitation and greed.
The idea of a nation seeking to perfect itself as a work in progress over the centuries has been daunting, with episodes that make the dream at times seem impossible and cause one to stoop instead to ideas of mediocrity where virtue seems only for the foolish.
The choice of Kamala Harris as a vice-presidential candidate has once again demonstrated that there is light in the dream and that the idea of a world of access and equality for all regardless of race or any differences is indeed a possibility. That selection alone is another spark of light in a world that had become dark.
As always, it is of no use talking about the possibilities of America, because truly the USA is an experiment, which all of humanity has as a reference on how to improve their own lives and their nations.
Bermuda has avoided since its inception taking any such ideological stand. Like America, it was founded by merchants who received a patent to launch their business. The original investors lost out to their local tenants, but theoretically the original premise, aside from broadening the franchise, still remains as a matter of managing the business. Even now, the contest is over who can best manage the country as a business.
Naturally, the need for a civil society emerged and as a result the country does enjoy civil and human rights provisions in law. However, if the goal was ever towards a human society, it would be also worth considering the full value and spectrum of human liberties and how each member of society requires the tools to be enabled to live a full and productive life.
To translate that need to be fully human requires the legislative construct that supports all the true freedoms and the validation of each individual as an integral participant within a system that grants them equality under the law to partake in the civic responsibilities of governance — as a right and not as a privileged because of some association.
This form of human enlightenment has not graced our shores politically. As loyalist to the Crown, we withstood any impulse to even remotely take on the ideas and philosophy of the “right of individual human liberty”, which caused the revolution within the British Empire. We rather tended to the business of benefiting from the conflict than make a stand for human liberty.
In former colonial territories, as traumatic as slavery was, sadly it didn't — not even among the former slaves — evoke that sense of “never again will anyone suffer that human indignity” enough to become a catalyst for a new order. Instead the effort, when scrutinised ethically, is to gain parity with the former slave masters. You would think there would be the desire to be better than the colonial masters and not mimic their style of governance.
We indeed live in a dark age where the motive behind our society's drive causes us to engage in a struggle to be at the top of the economic chain, rather than the top of humanity. We do not hear from the pulpits of leadership the glorious ethical words about building that shining light upon the hill as a human example for all to see.
Despite being a Judeo-Christian society with an abundance of churches and mosques, the idea of creating fellowship as a mutually responsible society has never been the goal or ambition of the country.
We watch television news for that, but without a trace of self-consciousness or self-reflection. Like viewing a soap opera, we have a vicarious expectation of America but not of ourselves. Our aim as opposed to theirs seems to be the chase to be on top of the proverbial food supply, with the first man that gets there declared the champion.
Yet all the good books said, in multiple languages, “Let your light so shine that your good works can be seen, and people may glorify God”. That's not just a good idea, it's actually a command. That biblical adage is the recipe for a true human society and world. Any people that pursue that noble cause will rise as a promise because it is the law of the universe.
Well, what do we do? First, the electorate needs to come to terms with what the true societal goal needs to be. The new vision must then become the doctrine that guides the political aim and constitutional framework for the country.
Given Bermuda has become de facto a one-party state, it is infinitely easier to develop the model governance outside the parliamentary constraints across the island with that one party as the platform. It will be easier for Bermudians as ordinary citizens, under one umbrella, to go into a public exercise of reasoning or forum to determine the way forward.
After the public have deliberated, the party can take the public mandate to Parliament. Trying to develop a proper reform mandate within Parliament will be too confrontational and convoluted with the issue of power. The best approach is by way of the format of a single objective through civil society. We can take the best of what the world has taught us and stand on it.