There’s no polling flat-earthers
Over the past two weeks, we have seen poll results that should horrify anyone who gives a hoot about Bermuda’s future. As you will have read last week, a survey conducted in the first week of December 2023 said that of residents polled, 48 per cent said they may consider planning an exit strategy to find better job opportunities and a higher standard of living elsewhere. Only one third said they intended to live in Bermuda for the rest of their lives. Twenty-four per cent said that they were already considering leaving the island.
Of huge concern is that the young made up the majority of those looking to leave our beautiful shores. The survey showed that those in the 18-34 age category were more inclined to leave, while those approaching retirement age were more likely to stay.
This week further data was released on the fourth quarter of 2023. Of those polled, half said their greatest concerns were around the economy. Only 8 per cent of those surveyed believed Bermuda’s economy was better off in 2023 compared with the previous year. The survey also revealed that fewer than half of residents said Bermuda is headed in the wrong direction, with 30 per cent feeling that the island was stagnant. Not in bad shape – but stagnant! Only 14 per cent of respondents perceived Bermuda to be heading in the right direction.
Does data like this set off alarm bells in the corridors of political power? Apparently not. Instead of accepting the data, the authenticity of the data is questioned. Seeds of doubt are sown on the basis that the sample sizes are not big enough, or that perhaps the “right” people were not polled, or that the polling company is somehow linked to the Opposition. Even if there was a margin of error in double figures, the numbers are still utterly atrocious.
The deniers of the obvious never cease to amaze me. In the face of overwhelming evidence, including the polls above, economic data, posts online and in conversations, it is abundantly clear that a majority of residents believe that Bermuda is headed in the wrong direction. When I read what the deniers say in the face of such evidence, I feel like I am talking to flat-earthers — yes, there are actually people who believe the Earth is flat. They are so blinded by their absolute belief in the Earth being flat that their brain does not allow them to see an alternative view.
While it may be tempting to dismiss those with beliefs different from what is obvious as harmless eccentricities, it is crucial to recognise the potential dangers they pose to the fabric of Bermuda society, especially if left unchallenged. It is important to examine the spread of misinformation, and the broader societal consequences that arise from their beliefs.
Like deniers of the obvious economic failings in Bermuda, at the heart of the flat-earth movement lies a fundamental rejection of facts. Flat-earthers actively choose to ignore centuries of evidence, observation, and experimentation that support the spherical shape of Earth. This not only undermines the progress of scientific knowledge but also hinders critical thinking and rational discourse.
There are those still that suggest Bermuda does not need to encourage immigration. Yet even the Minister of Economy and Labour has said that Bermuda needs 8,000 new people on island! And, yes, we need to encourage of fellow Bermudians to return home, but without economic opportunities through direct inward investment from overseas, it just won’t happen since there will be no reason to do so.
The deniers of the obvious, like flat earthers, often rely on cherry-picked data, pseudoscience and conspiracy theories to support their claims that immigration is not required. Again, the similarities with the deniers of Bermuda’s failings are strikingly similar. When evidence is presented to the deniers of the obvious that clearly and unequivocally demonstrates what they say is false, the messenger of facts is actively undermined, their loyalty to Bermuda is questioned and ideas dismissed.
The respective dissemination of misinformation by flat-earthers and the deniers of the obvious leads to confusion among the general public. The misinformation has far-reaching consequences by promoting a culture of scepticism that extends beyond, say, the shape of the Earth or the need for immigration. In other words, the nonsensical and erroneous arguments made to deny the obvious are destructive and harmful to our economic recovery.
So, to the deniers of the obvious, let’s look at this birth data, which is written on a white board in the maternity ward of King Edward VII Memorial Hospital for all to see:
The data clearly shows that births at the hospital are down over the past three years. Deaths in 2021 and 2022 are higher than that.
In November 2023, Polaris Holding Company Ltd — the holding company for Stevedoring Services — reported that the volume of cargo is 20 per cent lower than that in 2018. The deniers of fact will say, “No, it is just more people are using air freight” or “People are importing less”. That, too, is a flat-earther argument. Imports are down, births are down and deaths are up. Period. These very clear facts should speak for themselves. We are losing our numbers. The young wish to leave and the old want to remain (see poll information above).
There are many other facts and figures that show the trajectory we are on.
I have explained that the Cayman Islands is our greatest competitor — even in the past week, we have seen news that the Cayman regulator issued 40 insurance licences in 2023, with 12 under review. In 2022, Bermuda issued 62. So, the gap is closing.
Again, instead of examining why this is the case, a flat-earther would say, “Well, Bermuda is still issuing more”, while ignoring the clear and present danger of having been overtaken as the jurisdiction of choice.
So where am I going with all this?
In short, the Bermuda deniers of facts and figures are the Bermuda flat-earthers. I would urge the flat-earthers to accept our reality. Only then can we row in the same direction. Distractions such as Caricom membership, Dubai conferences or irrational criticisms of international business are doing little to turn our economic fortunes around — unless the immigration issue is going to be solved with free movement of people via Caricom.
Come on, flat-earthers. The world is round. Once that is accepted, we can move forward. Maybe then the horrifying polls numbers will turn around. I hope so.
• Michael Fahy was the Government Senate Leader and Cabinet minister in the One Bermuda Alliance government from 2012 to 2017. Thoughts or comments to email@example.com