Without fear or favour
There is more to this story than meets the eye. Please bear with me as I gather my entangled thoughts here. It’s good to have thick skin. I am using my own initiative, beyond Somers Playhouse, to support Sophia Cannonier with her goals and objectives for midwifery, parenting, learning and the performing arts. I have also offered to assist her former landlord with his final concerns — a matter that is not unconditional and is still a subject of practical negotiation.
The Somers Playhouse is a national treasure in this recovery process — a symbol of our potential to collaborate on a global stage where Unesco itself is a potential part of the process. What does “freedom” mean from the perspective of the “mother lodge” to the Cup Match tradition? How should Bermuda — and St George’s — enter the final year of the International Decade for People of African Descent in 2024? Did we learn anything from our mass protest for Black Lives Matter in the midst of the pandemic?
It was always a part of our long-term development strategy to work with contractors cultural ambassadors such as Sophia Cannonier to capitalise on this landmark opportunity. At the same time, however, I’m also the beneficiary of many, many people who have entrusted me with their wisdom beyond the Playhouse project. I’m equally obliged to speak on their behalf and to represent their silent outlook on the failing Bermuda miracle that has only accelerated and deepened during the pandemic.
Sophia has challenged us all to speak up — without fear or favour. I genuinely love her spirit and spontaneity. Having studied her approach to the courts and natural justice, I’m confident that she is the ideal role model to help many others navigate their own journey from silence into the sunlight of public scrutiny. The universal principle that “an unjust law is no law” is especially pertinent in times such as these.The state of emergency arising from the pandemic — and now its economic aftermath — has obliged us to consider whether the proverbial cure was, in fact, worse than the disease. We were all participants in one of the most invasive and divisive policy experiments in living memory — a huge violation of public trust in which the courts are the now last bastion of accountability for future generations.
It is easier to destroy than it is to heal. It has not been easy for me to enter into the public arena with Sophia, in this regard, precisely because I question my ability to absorb the painful truths that are simmering in our minds, let alone speak “truth to power”. I have therefore moved my own personal goalposts beyond the narrow “legal” duty of property management into the broader “fiduciary” duty of the friendly society movement — an artefact of “history” that has been disavowed by many, if not most.
We conveniently forget or disparage the sacrifices that were part of bringing rudimentary tools of protocol, property, education and insurance into the emancipation process. Then there were the betrayals of trust and the proverbial fall from favour around politics. I am cautiously optimistic that we can yet learn from the harsher conditions that were faced by these countless forebears. Our beloved and dilapidated Somers Playhouse is itself a living witness to the fractured civic values that we now treat with hypocritical disregard at our own peril.
What is the benefit of celebrating “freedom” at Cup Match if we forget the cardinal Oddfellow virtues of “friendship, love and truth” that helped to build the Cup Match experience in the first place?
The immediate goal of this partnership with Ms Cannonier is to help bring the leadership community out of the denial and despair stage of the perennial “crisis theatre” that has become the new norm. We are moving into cultural renewal for 2024 with a shared awareness and acceptance of the many administrative mistakes that were perpetrated under extreme duress during the pandemic.
I am confident that watchful dialogue in the public arena is one of the preconditions for national healing to begin. Hopefully, we can use our differences of opinion to enable mutual respect to bloom. I’m very mindful that healing is like a mysterious lotus flower at the heart of Devonshire Marsh — the tangible presence of beauty in the midst of an apparent swamp.
• Corin Smith is a member of the Emperial Group