Values that made Bermuda
Our island Bermuda has always been a unique place to experience life on this planet, perhaps mainly owing to our size, and compared with many other countries, a small population. Our geographical position has also provided a degree of isolation without being out of touch with the rest of the world. As with much of the world, our island beautycould not escape that dreadful dark period of slavery that swept through so many countries.
Despite tragic events surrounding that part of our history, which made life a daily nightmare for the Black population that struggled to find a way for family life, it would be a long and difficult test of the human spirit before a little light appeared at the end of a tunnel of injustice.
Even with our best imagination, we in today’s world will never know how many people oppressed simply because of skin colour would seek ways to keep determination alive in the hope of freedom and justice for all.
In reflecting on that negative part of our Bermuda history, it can be overlooked that in that jungle of racial injustice, there were White people who knew slavery was wrong. There are stories that emerged later of how some Whites actually risked scorn from the White population to teach slaves in secret at night how to read and write.
In any society, the ability to read and write is an advantage in the learning process. I recall while a student at the Central School — now Victor Scott Primary — the principal, Mr Scott, would emphasise regularly during school assembly the importance of reading. Because, as he put it, many doors open for the mind as we learn more about the world we live in.
During that period, Bermuda was in the grip of institutional segregation. However, in my time at that school, and in my view, we had an advantage with the best teachers in the world.
They did their best to teach in a positive manner every day — as though they knew the day would come for doors to open for all. And when that happened, they wanted their students to be ready for the challenge.
They were also aware that families were having a tough time, and this reflected on some students who were willing to sacrifice education in place of a job, any job, to help them. A raging world war added to what was already a challenging time.
A significant factor during those truly difficult days for Bermuda was that it was a period where discipline and respect were values that crossed racial lines. It was perhaps that discipline and respect in the midst of a two-society structure helped in steadying our island ship until it reached clearer waters of social justice for all.
Back in those days, life was slower with very little road traffic and speeding was not a subject. That would all change later.
A troubling factor in today’s political climate is that while most people expect heated exchanges on various subjects, there is a perception that mixed messages to score political points can overshadow what should be a more unified approach on matters of public concern. It would go a long way in promoting good values.
In keeping our focus on values that promote family and community order, the area I was brought up in — Ewing Street, Hamilton — was at that time a close-knit neighbourhood. I believe it was that way also with other parts of our island community. Over the years, some of us have watched changes from the 1940s, and we all know things do change.
Values In some areas have fallen away, and without discipline and respect, behaviour has changed with a gradual slide to an “anything goes” attitude on our roads and in the area of violent crime. It all boils down to values.
This must be a challenging time for educators because unlike the earlier period, too many children today have missed being held accountable for basic values such as respect and being honest and truthful. Apart from academics, values were also stressed in class that could be the case these days.
There was a time when values were also taught in Sunday school throughout the island. But it is no secret that fewer children attend Sunday school these days.
Back then, it was not unusual for a parent, while walking with a child, to take a certain course of action if that child remained silent as the parent offered greetings to another in passing. I have heard many stories from adults on how they were taken around the corner and dealt with. One gentleman told me after one of those corrections, he was speaking to people before they got there!
Let’s be clear, parents were not being cruel back then, but they had little room for disrespect and rudeness.
Our political leaders of the day should find a way to pool their strengths in the area of promoting family values and the need to respect the laws of the land. The issues of speeding on our roads and gun crime should never be seen as a part of today’s Bermuda.
There seems to be plenty of talk whenever there is an incident, but as it happens in larger countries, there are seldom positive solid steps taken to discourage such conduct. The only real hope is in teaching the next generation as early as possible, that
it is not out of style to be an honest, decent and respectful citizen.
Proper values taught early make a child less vulnerable to the many negative distractions moving around the world. Bermuda is still a very special place and most of us are proud of our island home. But our future could depend on how well we unite in keeping Bermuda a successful, safe and peaceful place.