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It began with the people

I remember the popularity of Fidel Castro during the 1960s. The cigar-smoking man in army fatigues who, as a charismatic leader, transformed Cuba into a communist state 90 miles from the United States at the height of the Cold War. Expressed then as the most popular sentiment was that this was a revolution about and for the people.

A small group hold signs and Cuban flags as Ramón Saúl Sánchez of the Cuban exile organisation Democracy Movement held a press conference requesting that Joe Biden goes to Miami to meet Cuban exiles (Photograph by Carl Juste/Miami Herald/AP)

Cuba itself became the symbol of liberation and assistance to the beleaguered masses in many places around the world. That assistance was not just in military support, but often humanitarian relief for distributing food and medical aid. If one did not agree with communism, it would have been hard not to agree with what was then anti-racism and a struggle against blatant bigotry sponsored by many colonial regimes at the time.

Again, the words and the sentiment were “for the people” and never would any who genuinely fought or supported the revolution have dreamt that the struggle was to maintain a ruling class. However, it was true to nature and highlighted the wisdom of Socrates, who recognised that even a so-called democracy without a full understanding of the virtues of a republic would result in a tyranny or an oligarchy.

It is an invariable consequence once a leadership is established, even if the cause is just — if it does not establish itself on the consent of the people and is not regularised, it will become, ipso facto, an oligarchy that believes it has the inherent right to rule.

Sadly, this is not just true of Cuba, which has returned to its roots with the people on the streets trying to take back the power that they believe is theirs. This is also true of many of the countries who began to assert their rights in the name of the people back in the early 1960s, but who find themselves with runaway leaders who have escaped the censure of the people.

Life everywhere was grossly unfair in the 1950s and led to real zeal for change. Zeal is good but not necessarily the best medium for thought. Solidarity is also useful, with one voice and a singular resolve for situations such as war, but when the crisis is over, it then becomes a time to listen to all the voices. This is where most movements failed to properly transition.

Structurally, for too many countries including Bermuda, the vehicles for change were too narrowly formatted. Small party with even smaller branches, leading to a hierarchy of party officials hardly changing year after year. Members whose faces can be seen around the leadership table for a generation — in some cases more. For them, it has become traditional and an accepted norm, where the vast population has become far removed from the parties and shares no responsibility for governance, which is welcomed by those who enjoy remaining unchallenged by a populace.

There was never the equivalent of the 1787 constitutional convention, which with an abundance of foresight set out the new Constitution for the US. Not to suggest what we and other islands needed was anywhere near as elaborate. They needed something of a thinking exercise that would set out the goals of a society and how it should look and operate.

The fact is, nothing of the sort that could have laid a pathway or vision, or even the basic rights such as a bill of rights, ever happened before or after the party was formed. The Progressive Group started a dialogue in the late 1950s, but it never galvanised to become a political group. There were thoughts within the party on how to fill the branches and have them more participatory, but the organisation broke up before that could happen. So the organisation limped along and continues up to this date like a creature missing important body parts.

Crisis brought the reality for those in Cuba, revealing there is a layer between those who govern and the people. It often takes a crisis to show the disparity between those who govern and those who do not. In Cuba, they know that the leadership class has the health benefits to help them through the Covid pandemic. The concern is a simple one: what about us?

For those who think it was a stroke of brilliance or culture, or the movement of the people that caused their rise to leadership stock in Bermuda, just look around and you will quickly discover there was no brilliance and no movement of the people. Rather that someone in the family who hung around the table as part of the club had more to do with it.

As it was in the beginning, so will it be at the end.....it began with the people.

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Published July 21, 2021 at 8:01 am (Updated July 20, 2021 at 3:18 pm)

It began with the people

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