When will we ever get it?
While speculation over whether Joe Biden and the Democrats can hold on to the 2020 election victory and stave off a Donald Trump return with the Republicans can appear as a relevant debate, by comparison in Bermuda there is no such speculation here or a similar political dynamic in our local politics.
Can we agree it is less dynamic — or, in fact, boringly so — when the biggest debate heard on our streets is over who among the sitting MPs can replace David Burt?
You have heard it asked, again loosely on the street, whether deputy leader Walter Roban could become the next premier? What would be the conceivable difference if he did? Would there be any ideological shift — more progressive, deeper labour — or would it be more of the same?
That’s without asking the more general question, given the loyalty factor and the litmus test the MPs had to pass to fit in: is it possible that anyone could make a change? To be fair, that question may apply to both parties: does either have the capacity within to bring something different or change that the public could appreciate?
Unlike the United States, where the difference between a Trumpian presidency and a Biden or other can be akin to the difference of two worlds — signalling that the issue is not a simple one of party politics. In the US, separate brands of thought have emerged that have influenced the directions of the parties. Because these brands are ideologically driven, there will be personalities from time to time that have emerged who were philosophically imbued with ideas that inspired large segments of the populace and essentially coloured whole eras behind their thought, such as for example the Reagan era or the McCarthy era.
That could not happen in Bermuda with the kind of partisan construct we have allowed to brew for 60 years, which curtails thought and encourages politicians to conform to what the image of the party is said to be. Our politic is not an intellectually dynamic metamorphosis that is evolving; it’s a fossilised format that is reprinted for each new generation to follow. You disagree at your peril.
As much as I would have wanted at one time many years ago to be a representative of the Progressive Labour Party and assist it to achieve what I believed to be its former aim in creating a better, more egalitarian society, I know, you know and they know — in fact, everyone knows — I could never have made it pass the front door as a candidate. Sadly the same is true for too many people; perhaps the vast majority.
Truth, when told, the only difference between the two parties of legacy is I barely got past the front door in the other as well; and it was known by hierarchy that having me just inside the door would be as far as I could get and was all I could have expected, for which I should be grateful.
When will we ever get it? The problem is not just party politics; it’s party “politricks” aided and abetted by what we have legitimised as a so-called selection committee. These are no more than miniature versions of politburos that act as filters for the parties to ensure nothing other than the presumptive field of candidates, who above everything else, including having principles or being truthful, are loyal. That's the value that gets a shot at a seat.
Then as you also know, there are the "safe seats" where another level of politricks ensures only the really, really “look like us” loyalist candidate is privileged to get — unless, of course, they brought the seat with them.
Political cloning has been the mainstay of our selection process for the entirety of responsible government's duration. Regrettably the blind, because it has worked for them, believe it is good for everybody and the way to go, and see nothing wrong with maintaining what they deem as the order frankly because it is their ticket to power.
The problem is, at the same time they want to claim also to represent the people, and like parents or custodians who take care of their children, they don't allow or want the people to choose or act or be politically responsible for themselves.
“Oh, well, we let them have their say every four years, when they vote.”
“Yes, Momma, but you have already prepared the meal. The menu was set. All you have asked us to do is show up to the table and eat what you have already prepared for us.”
The electorate en masse is treated like irresponsible if not ignorant children who cannot be trusted or given broad responsibilities — father knows best syndrome. The few dedicated and, above all, loyal members must do it all for them because apparently the masses don’t know and cannot be trusted with things such as selecting party candidates. Only the loyal party members know best. The electorate of 40,000 has enabled party members that number less than 1,000 combined for 60 years.
We want to flaunt this “democratic” system of ours in 2021 as though our processes are the order of the day, while there has been a global experimentation and evolution of democracy.
Here is where the old-timers’ saying is applicable: “It’s so painful to look at, we must laugh to stop ourselves from crying.”
Our understanding of the involvement of the people and their participation in what should be a real democracy is so archaic; then we add insult by wanting sovereignty.
Our not yet nascent call for sovereignty is the equivalent of an Amazonian tribal chief wanting to run a big city such as São Paulo, which is one of the largest municipalities in the world. No pun intended on a tribal chief, if he indeed experienced or was educated by the culture and the rules of the city, but to take his tribal experience as a village and practice as the prerequisite would be a bit rich.
That's how we compare with our complete lack of democratic understanding as it relates to the inalienable rights of persons and their participation within a human society. We have not begun and, sadly, the guys leading the mission have fallen asleep on the pulpit, as though they saw the sign “freedom” and laid camp around the signpost rather than enter the city.
“Well, our neighbours to the south went independent and they have their own flag.”
But that’s about all they have got. A flag.
We want more. We want to be a model. We want to take the world through our example, one step closer to that shining city on the hill. Yes, if we are to be proud, let’s have an idea that gives rise to that pride. Let’s remember this: a country’s value to the world is not judged by the size of its territory alone, but rather it’s the size of its idea that has the greatest and lasting value .
All the MPs are forgiven. None of them have sworn an oath as a parliamentarian to protect the citizens they serve. They work for the citizens when it is convenient to do so. Very few, if any, allowed themselves to be caught up in a moral tug-o-war between fealty to the people while operating in the best interest of the country, and the party/party leadership. The imperative and resolution invariably are predetermined: follow the leadership of the party, closely followed by the party, then the country and the people last. So they will sit as obedient pets on their bench, waiting for the whistle. With the existing modus operandi, there will not be any robust and free exchanges until every member of the bench is independently wealthy.
If that isn't the truth, then show examples of something different and perhaps the results of those who stood as different. Most know that if they stood and said God and truth are first, the country and its people next, then the party and last the leader, you knew before the sentence was completed you will go nowhere in Bermuda — not if you have any interest in a long career in politics.
You would need to do what an elder mentor of mine, known for his crude sense of humour, said when he quickly asked after a political discussion: “Khalid, do you like fishing?” I answered with a declarative “Hell no. I almost hate fishing!” He replied: “Well, you would be better off and probably have more luck fishing than thinking about entering politics with your attitude.”
That was my old friend and family Eddie de Jean. Always brutally honest.