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The ritualistic dance of politics

Bob Marley, a man of rare vision who left this Earth too early

Politics is not a sport for the faint-hearted or those seeking instant gratification. Bermuda is, and perhaps always has been, driven by a level of elitism. The political parties in more recent times have shaped what is fashionable for their political consumers.

Values such as individual liberties, self-autonomy or sovereignty over one’s self have not been born yet at any measurable level among the electorate. If not a quiet, passive follower, then it’s a vociferous one, but the commonality is “follower”.

I know it has been often said there is a problem when there are all chiefs and no Indians, but it is not necessarily better when there are all Indians, either, because without a criterion, any fool can stand up to become chief.

Political parties generally start from some form of populist sentiment and tend to morph into a few persons of a group, mimicking a cause that had long since passed, while the masses for whom the cause is meant lay dormant. Politics becomes a mere ritual, void of any real substance or meaning.

It is useful to start with the principle of all people being equal and no one as the boss over any except by their consent. Society has fallen so far from that principle, and it has given those who by some process have become leaders the assumption of their entitlements and stations as leaders that far exceed what is healthy in human society. In such cases, society loses its function as a living organism of actively participating and thinking beings, becoming instead a graveyard for minds. Party politics without progressive reform has contributed greatly to that mental graveyard.

People become reluctant to offer their opinions, and it is even rarer to share a vision. In that regard, age is no factor; history shows it is the rare ones that do stand out. Bob Marley made his contribution and exited at the age of 37, while the most popular man in history, Jesus, was only 33.

While these were exceptions, when there are older contributors who should be enjoying a relaxed senior life but then are have to jump back into the fray, it is a more foreboding sign that there is a dearth of active participation among the population. When we see that phenomenon, it reveals there is a systemic and structural political problem in the country.

Corey Butterfield reached back to find one of my great-great-great uncle Thomas Godette’s intellectual work about the negative effects of party politics back in 1850. It was probably intellectually safer to talk about five generations past because it avoids dealing with the ignorance and rejection of the same ideas being expressed more contemporaneously. It is too often the case when writers and speakers evoke the names of Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X and others that they do so rather than making their own stands. Oh, but they were only using examples; yes, but the examples used are dead and what is needed are living examples of today.

Marcus Garvey told an audience in Cape Breton: “I can’t help you if you don’t help yourself.” Later in the same speech, he coined the phrase “How long shall they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look?” (Made popular by Bob Marley’s Redemption Song). It wouldn’t matter if the example were Jesus because he said, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you can accomplish more than me.” The point here is those people to whom Garvey was talking 100 years ago are still in the slump now.

There is a need for someone to stand tall and lead this movement towards something better in Bermuda’s political evolution. It will happen when someone is darned with an acceptable and creditable voice with known historical credentials that fill the void because the truth is invisible. Unfortunately, our society is not filled with seekers of truth or reason. Our society is outer-directed by trends, and what can be made popular, and needs, as it were, icons to set the trend.

Many are called but few are chosen. This opportunity has been sitting there waiting for someone or something to take the ball to the centre of the court. No one had until Sir John Swan stepped forward. The question now is, who else sees the need for reform and is prepared to stand and assist that reform?

Rolfe Commissiong, as a former Member of Parliament, has given a bit more than tacit support to Sir John's call for political reform. Marc Bean was seemingly pulled into this vortex created by Sir John, and the message from Bean and the Free Democratic Movement will be telling because enthusiasm for political parties is at an all-time low.

One possible outcome is that the Progressive Labour Party may stall the General Election until January 2026 in the hope that the new hype fizzes out or Sir John — who shows no sign of tiring — quits. Another consideration, should it be the last hurrah for this PLP administration, is that the ruling party may wish to enjoy the final benefits. A last supper, if you will.

Whether anyone stands or not, those given to reason, optimism and a desire for change must be patient and celebrate each step towards truth knowing the arc — although moving ever so slowly — bends towards truth and justice.

Philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke looked deep into human nature — the nature of man and society. They could see that a man in their natural state saw no authority over them. They had to collaborate to co-operate. A whole politic developed on that principle which Locke termed as a republic, where every person was entitled to defend their liberty. Where freedom was not only legal but where there existed an urge to fight and raise arms against a tyrant if necessary.

The term “give me freedom or give me death” was not an aberration; it was a principle for life.

Again, we are a long way from being truly human, but the role of civilised leadership is to make participation easier. We cannot force participation, but must make every provision to ensure it.

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