Lost: our ocean of consciousness
“Would that the philosophers were the kings of the earth, or that the kings of the earth were driven by the spirit of a philosopher. When baser things that cause men to rival against one another are caused to be put aside, then and only then will we begin to see the light of day”
In a couple of weeks, we will memorialise the death of Stuart Hayward known foremost for his work with Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce. He had such an adaptation to the environment; I recall many years ago predicting what his discourses would ultimately detail. Yet not only was he committed to the environment but also to how people interacted and afforded value to each other.
In our meetings, on his insistence we would use the talking stick method, which meant only the person who had the stick could talk and one had to wait a few seconds before another could speak. (A Code of Conduct was presented and signed by the Speaker of the House in and around 2000. It was the product of Stuart and a group of us called the Bermuda Leadership Forum.)
That method is the bedrock of respect in dialogue that affords value to each person as a contributor. Expand upon that idea and we would generate the same kind of respect in a community and a little more in the country. So, naturally, the politics of Bermuda was anathema to Stuart when we see debates in the House of Assembly, which is our highest circle of debate, reduced to Members denigrating each other rather than finding meaningful solutions.
The House of Assembly is meant to be the place where issues pertaining to the country and people are tabled and decided, but more and more it seems that things are as in the days of old — decided elsewhere and rubber-stamped by Parliament.
Stuart was a meditator who followed the school of Maharishi Yoga, which means he saw himself as an instrument in a vast ocean of consciousness. He had a purpose and a cause to defend the environment and the rights of every living being. Therefore, democracy in its fullest and most applicable form was what he could only advocate. I can recall the former senator Arnott Jackson arguing much the same about parliamentary etiquette.
While philosopher kings is a medieval idea, society has not lost the memory of John F. Kennedy or the Reverend Martin Luther King, both of whom talked about a better day, virtues and coming together for the common good.
In one of Dr King’s speeches, he said “one day this country will live out the true meaning of its creed”. Unfortunately, Bermuda politics has been impervious to ideas, fixed on power and control of wealth.
In Bermuda, we will be hard-pressed to find a meaning or a creed unless we resort to the old slogan that is often touted — “it’s the economy, stupid”. There is lots of evidence to back that assertion, back in the days of the oligarchy when the powerful leaders met in private quarters and clubs sealing the deals and then washing them through Parliament.
The United Bermuda Party was an enhanced follow-on that was afforded a Cabinet with big lawyers in the background who neatly preserved their niche. When the Progressive Labour Party came around and took the wheel, it fumbled for a while driving around the yard cautiously a few times until one of them put his foot on the paddle and found that it worked and immediately headed for the highway with no speed limits. It also was confronted with “it’s the economy, stupid” but determined to have absolute access and discretion to it.
There is honour among thieves and the old system reflects much of that — families intermarrying to help preserve the founding families’ fortunes within circles. Not to suggest there were no shenanigans happening because for some of our former wealthy leaders, adding to coffers of between $10 million and $50 million would be scarcely noticed — particularly when we understand the incestuous relationship between the former government and commerce. It was all business as usual. It is when a poor guy takes the helm living in a studio apartment and suddenly lives in a palace that the eyes pop out.
Michael Misick, of Turks & Caicos, was charged with corruption for having $35 million after only five years in office, if true, is a clear example of that systemic ability of the leaders to siphon funds from every aspect of government services. Many small Western jurisdictions are susceptible to that type of political abuse because the system allows it.
Truthfully speaking, “it is not the economy, stupid” and as long as the economy takes centre stage, the philosophy of governance and the ethical order of the society will lay in chaos and any kind of goon will govern.
If I had a criticism of Stuart Hayward, it would be that his message was not comprehensive enough to show how sustainable economic development works. Nevertheless, his type of person will be missed. As we look around, there are fewer voices to be heard when there need to be. We now live in an era of absolute “party member” dominance the ideals of democracy lost in the winds.
The PLP has a support base of nearly 20,000 but fewer than 300 pull the shots and have a real say. The other established reality is that 90 per cent of that voter base has no intention of ever joining as a bona fide member. The problem is the PLP hierarchy does not mind that, perhaps even enjoys it, because it gives control.