The reason I write
If anyone wonders what the intent is behind some of my articles, let me explain. There are two compelling motivations: the first is that I had long grown tired of there being an absence of thought and dialogue about political and social evolution, which we may refer to as “progressive thought”. The second issue relates to identity, which I will address later.
Frankly, I never expected the United Bermuda Party to morph into something ideal or grandeur. They came off the back of being landed gentry and built a world for themselves, which had just a little scope for others. As far as they were concerned, they had seen the mountaintop. On the other hand, it was always my thought that Bermuda, indeed, could be a better world for everyone — where the mountaintop could be seen by all.
OK, so that may have been my youthful fantasy, but the problem is I never strayed from it. That the Progressive Labour Party is drawn from the sector that is the beleaguered masses, my natural thought was that the voice and momentum towards a greater world would come from the PLP.
However, not a whimper of progressive thought; not even a silent agenda as to the real move behind the scenes for the past half century. Instead, if what we see has been less than inspiring, dig a little beyond the surface and it does not get better with every layer. There is just no other intent to be found anywhere among any other than to rule.
The masses are beguiled by the references to the old days, when there was pure protest, the kind that gave birth to the union, which at one time had a genuine cause. Then the formation of a political party amid a franchise that was only for landlords. It was a moral battle fought by many of our ancestors who are now deceased. Sixty years down the road, we are going to hear about that struggle, but sadly that’s because there is nothing to tell you about a goal or purpose or direction that leads us today and tomorrow or for the future of the country and the children.
So I bring up topics such as democracy and republic, and the natures of what they imply, to highlight that these conversations are not part of the language or lexicon of the PLP and have not been for 60-plus years.
How to win an election is not Politics 101. Showing how poor the other party is at governing isn’t Politics 101, either. If I am wrong, then take the opportunity through this medium to share — aside from the calls of who can govern better — what the dialogue has been about since you can remember.
Of course, the PLP will take my opinions, trash them as anti-PLP, and have me therefore supporting the other side. The One Bermuda Alliance will often take my opinions as sparing the PLP and not saying enough about its bad economic management — or avoiding such talk altogether. Neither will take a forensic look at the essence of what politics should be about, which is enhancing the rights and input of the people. Neither seem to want that conversation, particularly when the PLP can easily take the conversation down memory lane and the OBA can focus on the national debt and poor management.
The second item of identity, for me, is another trigger. That Bermuda and its experience is very unique — with a history and evolution as a society that is incomparable to any island of its size — is too often overlooked and understated, if not trampled upon by those who have no regard for our indigenity.
As a comparable analogy, recently I listened to a lecture by a Black Nova Scotian professor, George Elliott Clarke, who coined the phrase “Africadian” to distinguish the 18th and early 19th-century beginnings of the African communities, many of whom mixed with the Mi’kmaq Native Americans.
His opponents argued he was attempting to separate from the diaspora, and others accused him of trying to usurp the primordial indigenous status of the Native Americans, neither of which is true. He was simply separating the experience of the original African community from the later arrivals, whose assimilation and history were different.
As an example, I have a great-grandfather who migrated to Canada through Nova Scotia after they placed a moratorium on whale-hunting around 1900. He joined with the Chinese doing the railroads. He settled a small portion of the family in Canada and their history of progress and assimilation was a completely different story from the experience of the original African runaway slave who settled in Canada 100-plus years earlier.
I can state clearly that I have established ancestry from Haiti, Turks Island, Saba and St Vincent. At the same time, my predominant DNA profile through the Darrell, Wilkinson, Harvey, Williams, Stowe, Steede, Jones and Smith families reaches deep into the origins of Bermuda society. So, rather than speak of four or five generations, I talk of 13 generations. All of this is OK and should be basic acceptance of a general facts. However, I get triggered to respond to attitudes that suggest that my Bermudian roots were benign or dormant, until acted upon by the later parts of my DNA. I get triggered by any attempt to diminish the pride I have in my complete history.
So, in summary here is a parable: I swim outside the channel to the buoys, rather than hang around the rocks. I do that because I know the political parties want to keep everyone on shore hanging around the rocks. The political parties want the conversation to have a narrow focus on the parties, rather than a substantive conversation on the kind of life people can enjoy.
I want people to know that it’s OK to think; it is your right to idealise a better way, and it is also your right to create a better world than the one you found. No, you are not betraying your ancestors to want better; they wanted better also and were able only to advance to the extent they did. We are not bound by their limitations, and we take the best of what they established as tradition, while realising that tradition does not supplant progress.
So, yes, I want you to be angry with the intellectual silence on progressive thinking, but I do not want to add cynicism. Instead stand with joy because, while we may have endured weeping at night, joy cometh in the morning. That happens only when you accept you are free, and can stand up and add your voice and your thoughts.
Last but not least, do not allow anyone, no matter where they’ve come from, to twist your story with an attempt to write you out of your glorious spot in history simply because they do not share it.