The toxicity that whataboutism engenders
Whataboutism: the act or practice of responding to an accusation of wrongdoing by claiming that an offence committed by another is similar or worse (Merriam-Webster dictionary)
Anyone who follows politics globally or locally will know how common the practice of whataboutism is by some politicians. It cheapens discourse and robs the people of true transparency. I have no say in global politics, but I can and do demand better locally.
Bermudians are constantly subjected to whataboutism, causing many to view politics as toxic and not something they wish to engage in. They see two sides constantly at each other’s throats, playing the blame game. Why is our political discourse like this?
Many say it’s the Westminster system, which by design pits parties against each other. I concede that is part of it. However, I believe it is amplified by the Progressive Labour Party, which uses this as strategy to deflect and distract so that it can avoid public scrutiny whenever possible.
Two sides should not be pointing at each other constantly. The role of the Opposition is to question the Government for the people and obtain answers, so the people know their government is being properly scrutinised. It is the job of the party that is in government to lead the island and to answer questions from the Opposition and the populace. Trouble begins when the Government points the finger back in the opposite direction.
The Government points back because it is seeking to shift the focus away from its decision-making. However, this redirection of focus causes the community to take its eye off the ball — looking away from the decision that is being taken by the Government.
Why can’t the PLP get out of election mode and start answering the hard questions? Is Bermuda happy with this “well at least we are better than the other guys” attitude?
I know that many people simply want real answers and a vision from the PLP that does not involve dragging the One Bermuda Alliance’s record through the mud. Our people want hope and the best way to provide hope is to offer real solutions, decisions that are backed with clear reasoning, thought-out numbers, and, most importantly, are transparent. The PLP has been unable to deliver on its grandiose promises for the past five years, even with a supermajority that grew to 24 seats after the 2020 election.
Yes, reviewing past decisions is essential to learning and making better decisions; we must always have an appreciation for the past. However, pay attention when someone tries to shift the dialogue from present decisions by bringing up another past decision. Focus on the matter at hand. What is being decided now must take precedence because you cannot change the past.
I urge Bermudians to scrutinise the Government’s decisions based on their merit. The next time someone says but “what about”, don’t fall for it. Otherwise, we will miss what is right in front of us while looking into the rear-view mirror.
Let’s improve the standard of our discourse. Let’s re-engage our population in informed political discourse. An informed and engaged population will produce better and more capable candidates for politics, thus providing us with a higher standard of representatives. This must be the goal: to be constantly improving and cultivating our next generation of leaders.
• Dwayne Robinson is a former senator and is the One Bermuda Alliance candidate for Southampton East Central (Constituency 30). He can be reached at email@example.com