It is not a political revolution we need – but a cultural one
Let’s do a straight talk, assuming such dialogue is possible. Every leader has strengths and weaknesses. Bermuda’s leader, David Burt, certainly has some visible strengths, particularly his oratory skills, which have been very useful of late in the international business arena.
He has been able to wield his influence within the ranks of the Progressive Labour Party to effectively hold a grip, which some will argue is strong but steadily weakening. His rise to power after being in the shadows for many years is testimony to his cunning. The discounting factor is the party’s nucleus, or base support, is very small as a percentage of the electorate and infinitely smaller on an organisational level. He did not have to convince too many people to be given the role. However, the question in Bermuda, particularly today — with the complex issues of the economy, youth dysfunction and a general lack of confidence in governance pervading the majority of the community — is what does strong leadership mean or what should it mean to Bermuda?
A community of our size, with only 21 square miles and a first-class fully international economy with its diversity in today's world, needs to be united in purpose. We need to mobilise all of our available talents to employ the best minds in every area of need. It should not be, as is the case at present, where good minds stay away from politics for fear of victimisation. Where freedom of speech is paper rhetoric, but so far from reality. Where one expresses an opinion at their peril.
Unfortunately, Mr Burt’s weaker side is that he is not a unifying figure, but rather the opposite; nor is he the role-model type towards whom youth should aspire. The burden of leadership has eclipsed partisanship. No longer, with no disrespect to both organisations, can it be left to the motion of party favour at the polls to resolve Bermuda’s ills without having at the helm a leader that can weld the country together and set a proper tone and direction for its youth. The economy will not self-correct and, without confidence in the leadership, it will implode. The future option is stark differences; it is either a higher version of Switzerland or a brand new Haiti.
At times, it comes down to DNA and culture; Bermuda has its own unique culture, which informs our subconscious reactions or responses to situations. Just like our physical bodies will reject foreign substances, cultures work the same way. Bermuda has been struggling for decades to come to some sense of identity up against an onslaught of attacks. There was a song sung once, Bermuda is Another World, and while it is also true that much of what happens in the world happens to Bermuda, we truly are another world — not Britain, not America, not the Caribbean.
People carry their innate culture with them; it is inextricably linked, almost like a DNA. We understand the British effect and we understand the American effect. For many years the AME Church fought to gain Bermudian cultural control over its churches from that of the American ministers and that battle continues. One would have to be blind or naive not to recognise the West Indian domination of Bermuda’s politics today and the cultural push to have governance and behavioural attitudes that are more Caribbean.
To the extent that this is subconscious, therefore generating implicit bias, persons are usually unaware of their effects. I recall an exchange that happened with Dame Lois Browne-Evans about Bill Cox. When the Dame said Cox is a proud man and she added “the reason why he is so proud is that he is connected to history and he knows he is connected to history", she then went on to say, ”One day, perhaps 100 years from now, we will be connected to history, too.“
Bermuda, we need to dive into her comments and bring out what she was actually saying — and this is on tape and part of recorded history, not just my memory. What about the thousands of Bermudians she failed to mention that are connected also to that history? She was not talking about them. She was talking about an emerging group who one day could look back over the history they are making now. She was not aware that she was dismissing the largest segment of Black Bermudians because it was implicit bias speaking.
Never intending to be religious, but the Koran says “we will raise up leaders from among the people”. This was also implicit, but coming from the universal order. It is only natural that each culture will produce from the essence of its own experience leaders that speak to that experience. Looking at it historically, even Hitler, as bad and infamous as he was, was able to evoke pride in his people. Even Donald Trump, a more contemporary example, was able to tap into some national pride.
Who can build that sense of Bermuda self-pride, enough to make them work and fight for a better Bermuda, but one who comes from the bowels of its history and experience?
If the Premier cannot do this, he may not be the best person for the job today, with no disregard to his ability. Every civilisation that has brought itself back from despair, self-indulgence and loss of pride has done so because a person from “among them” has restored that self-pride and dignity. Mahatma Gandhi did that for India, Mao Zedong did it for China. OK, yes, big names but the idea was simply they had the cultural content to make it happen.
We have been told by everyone, from the British on down, who would say we were not “proper” enough. From the Americans, we are a small town and don’t know anything; from the West Indians, we have no culture except theirs. It has been upon that disinformation and dysfunction that Bermudians, like a phoenix, must re-emerge and rise from the ashes. In other words, it’s a cultural revolution, not a political revolution, that we are after. The cultural revolution must precede the political; if you embrace the cultural aim, the politics will follow automatically. A cultural revolution in Bermuda will unite Black, White, Portuguese and others like a family or tribe because truly they are.
We are remnants of our nativity that began 400 years ago. Some would have us believe the struggle began from Monk to Mazumbo and dismiss the heritage of the collaborations for freedom by the Scots, Irish Native Americans and Africans, which provides the genesis of St David’s back in the 17th century, or the revolts defeated in the 18th century, or the march from the Methodist Church in Warwick to Southampton led by Anthony Darrell — leader of a free society — in and around 1844.
Politics is about people. No individual can stand alone to bring change; it takes people to make social and political change. Culture is not about colour and is a better ocean to sail through. Power is about lots of people, and you need the power to bring effective change.