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Bermuda is divided as much by class as it is by race

Progressive Labour Party supporters celebrate the General Election victory in 2017. Khalid Wasi argues that the PLP represents a political elite (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

I never thought I would reach the stage when I would question the efficacy of democracy. This is not to suggest that the voice of the people or the majority is not worth seeking, but to question whether liberal democracy and freedom are actually attainable.

Certainly as an ideal and aspiration it is hard to argue against the rights and freedom of all and the right for an individual to enjoy personal liberty. The United States of America is a great experiment for testing and understanding all the nuances of how to achieve balance in a democracy. Over the past five years and right up to today, Donald Trump in particular has thrown up questions that are testing the very limits of its efficacy and durability.

The American Revolution brought to light an inspired thought, which allowed humanity to go beyond the dogmatism of religion. It placed the elements of morality such as "thou shalt not steal or kill", etc, under a judiciary, hence the separation of church and state.

That kind of arrangement facilitated freedom of the individuals who now are considered as equal human beings regardless of their beliefs or sense or regard for notions of morality. It further recognised the potential for the tyranny of the majority and tried to structure a legislative and electoral environment to achieve some balance. None of the ideals can be achieved without the spirit, if not the conviction, to achieve what the founding fathers envisioned within the constitutional construct. All of this may be esoteric for Bermuda.

I can fully subscribe to freedom of thought and belief, because there should be no compulsion for religion. But the reality of freedom sets the stage for any majority to advance a construct that can support an evil. Constitutionality is meant to bring human society above personal or tribal bias. Constitutionality, however difficult, is meant also to create a level playing field where the status of equality and participation reaches everyone. How is that status of equality protected and how is reason able to prevail if a majority can institute policies or rule that circumvents it? Shouldn't there exist an authority where an appeal can be made to address and repeal an evil or injustice or something that defies reason?

In our and other systems, that is partly what a Senate is meant to be, but one simple answer may be found with human rights commissions and ombudsmen that are created for those purposes. However, as the structural remedy systemically and legislatively enshrined, can they properly fulfil that function if they are appointed and beholden to the very governments as instruments that represent that majority? They would need to be totally independent and not dependent on the appointment of the ruling governments.

The issue of equality and fairness transcends political opinion or parties. The ability to seek justice and equality should also transcend politics and needs to be available as a feature of freedom from tyranny.

Bermuda has historically been plagued by a type of tribalism. We have focused on race, but class divides have been a deep and insidious problem that continue up until this very day. If we were to put aside race, we would see an unbroken chain of classism since our inception.

There has never been any sense of egalitarianism. The whites among the whites understood elitism and pedigree through different families based on wealth and attitudes of status dating back to the "landed gentry".

The blacks among blacks today are divided by proximity to political power. Racism is not our biggest abiding problem. The PLP is not a party that represents the Black cause. In reality it represents a class within a class when you examine who gains the privileges.

The very belief that the PLP represents the Black population is a marketable ideology that sells and is used much as propaganda, but the reality is that it represents a political elite that has created a class of its own whose privileges are afforded by adherence to a doctrine that they are the benefactors to the Black population.

The real truth is if there were no white people in Bermuda, there would still be a huge problem of class, and equally, if there were no Black people, the historical problem for Bermuda would again have been class.

The only way up from this form of this tribalism based on either race or class is adherence to constitutionality and principles of conduct that are equitable.

That truth is a universal phenomenon, where we will observe that mankind has evolved out of religious tribalism and culture with tribal gods to that of universal ideas based on one ultimate source and one human family. We have evolved religiously to the understanding that truth and access to that source is available to all and not by adherence to a culture.

Evolved democracies have copied that reality and created a structure for society that can be a reflection of that higher truth beyond their tribal impulses. Such a constitutional adherence should provide freedom and justice for all simply because you are a human.

Bermuda will remain a tribal community until there arises from among its people a similar adherence to a constitutionality based on principles and not tribal and cultural affiliation.

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Published December 30, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated December 29, 2021 at 4:55 pm)

Bermuda is divided as much by class as it is by race

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