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We replaced one oligarchy with another

October 15, 2013

Dear Sir,

It's so easy to be critical of others while laying blame, after all, the mirror is meant only to show us how beautiful we are and to help us hide the blemishes. Until it becomes painfully obvious, we hardly recognise the fact that we are ageing but at the same time we can clearly see others who have aged. I began this line because I have been critical lately of institutions like the Corporation of Hamilton along with other political organisations which historically had structural positions that prevented inclusion. But in the full spectrum of what it would take for full and positive socio/economic redirection in our country, we need to take a long hard look in the mirror and that look is absolutely necessary.

Over the last 50 years it's not just the white institutions that have needed change. Much of our black activism has taken aim at white institutional racism and has either become blinded, has ignored or downplayed black institutions who have contribute to the lack and even retardation of growth in the black community. The revolution was against the white oligarch but in real terms if it were about principles that revolution should also have been fought on our turf as well. From the early to mid-1900s we created institutions out of a need for solidarity around issues such as a right to education, benefits for labour and voter enfranchisement. We also created social organisations like workmen's clubs and churches with guilds all to advance the quality of life. However we have not been self-critical enough to ascertain whether these institutions actually served the purpose intended. We know the rhetoric but what about the substance?

We formed a political organisation while in a protest mode with scarce attention to the principles of democracy. Political power became the golden objective and is heralded above political inclusion in spite of the fact that lack of inclusion was the reason at the core that led to the progressive movement. What began as a black progressive initiative aimed at empowering the entire electorate resulted in a 1,200 to 2,000 member's only club led by an executive that aside from determining who benefits from the public purse, controls who is allowed to run for political office. That's the summary of 60 years of black political activism.

The ostensibly black labour struggle culminated in a unionism that initially gained solidarity and gave representation to the concerns of labour then became institutionalised and supported by an undemocratic structure. It defined its course as also political but its own modus operandi is styled by an executive with powers to reappoint itself than ratified by a general body. The floor or base membership cannot embrace or nominate its representatives, the succession options are predetermined by the hierarchy.

Our workmen's clubs which were started by a middle class who pooled their resources and fulfilled a valuable need within the community have lost pace with current needs. Women play as much roll in the economy of families and the community while clubs have remained essentially unsustainable male facilities. The clubs no longer have the support once held of their communities and the membership and leadership are drawn from a small pool. They can still play a valuable roll but need inspiration.

Our politics and unionism has not evolved from the days of protest and will need an internal revolution to come up to speed with the practical and intellectual needs of society today. Bermuda, unlike for example, the Azores, has no domestic product to trade and is entirely dependent on the attitude of foreign investment.

The long term viability of our country hangs on international perception of our social and economic stability. One simple observation that discloses the type of leadership and their vision or lack thereof that forms the dynamic of Bermuda is what they see and it is cloudy at best. Determination of Leadership is the natural responsibility of the entire electorate.

That progressive principle and right that lies behind determination of leadership was with us at the very beginning of the struggle. It is that natural inalienable right to participate that was denied our forefathers which we are now denied under the present system. We have effectively replaced one oligarchy systemically with another.

Our country will not move forward with total investor confidence until we fully democratise and have the ability to draw more talent into leadership positions. We need to draw talent that can reshape our political, labour and social clubs and organisations and give them a fresh outlook and change them into modern open and functional entities.

As Michael Jackson put it in song “I'm looking at the man in the mirror” we must find the courage and the wisdom to pick up what began as a humble struggle by our forbearers and bring them each to a level of intellectual dignity. This is our inconvenient truth and we must deal with it or lose place in the world.

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Published October 17, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated October 17, 2013 at 10:48 am)

We replaced one oligarchy with another

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