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Political promises are empty without the ways and means

Protesters gather across the Chicago River from Trump Tower to rally against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Photograph by Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

Campaign rhetoric and slogans versus governance and performance. “Repeal and replace Obamacare” was not just a campaign slogan, it was a seven-year mantra that ended as a no-show on the floor of the House. This was a clear example of the rubber meeting the road, when theory meets reality. In this case, trying to privatise healthcare, particularly with the view of making it more affordable, is truly a lofty ideal.

Yet such is the case with much campaigns and partisan rhetoric that provide only a popular message without providing the ways and means. Still worse is not even knowing the ways or means, but saying it anyway, if it gets you elected. Given the facts are that they have an Affordable Care Act that is not working properly, why didn’t they come together as a bipartisan approach and fix the problem rather than grandstand with a notion of repeal and replace?

Bermuda has its own political drama of dancing around some basic societal needs. The largest and core problem at the heart of so many social problems is the wealth gap and disproportionate economic activity in the marketplace. The situation fuels poverty, the shrinking middle class and the broadening base of a socially at-risk sector pinned at the bottom.

We know there is a correlation between health, life expectancy and wealth. We know there is also a correlation between criminal and antisocial behaviour and wealth. After 40 years of reports, beginning with the 1977 Pitt Report, we do not need any more investigation to determine what we already know. What we need is an approach that actually brings a workable resolve to reverse our dilemma and to set society on a path towards a brighter and more equitable future.

Government is not the sole answer for a market-based problem; wealth creation is rightfully the domain of creativity in the marketplace. However, the Government is the regulator and sets the environment for economic participation. The Government is also the consumer and the largest institution of spending. With everything from capital projects to buying schoolbooks, its discretionary spending is a significant factor in shaping what the marketplace looks like and who participates.

Without any need for qualification, the shape of the marketplace for the past 60 years of responsible government is the direct result of the Government’s discretionary spending. The banks also played a leading role, but even their participation was heavily a mirror and influenced by government discretions.

So it is easy to promise to fix the wealth gap and inequality, but how? In contrast, it may be even easier to promise nothing, but again why? Is there a bridge between those two extremes or are we by fate held to ransom, to be governed by empty promises or benign neglect. Neither of those positions are good, and both can be remedied with true attention and a will to visualise a better world.

Over the years, my actions have been symptomatic of a political agnostic. Being born in the black experience had a proclivity towards emancipatory words of the Progressive Labour Party, which inherited the efforts of the struggle for black inclusion. However, through the years, too often the position of the leadership was the antithesis and actually opposed the very stated goals. Being more dedicated to the aims of inclusion and less beholding to parties, I have ventured into the camps of those whose legacy was status quo, with the unsuccessful attempts to influence their more appropriate market ideology to be more accommodating to ideas of inclusion.

Entrenchment is not a Bermudian, American or British characteristic; it is a universal characteristic of greed and control. The first attribute needed in leadership is “care”. When we have leaders who can look beyond their own desire and comfort zones, and take on the role of serving the needs of all, only then will the road to a better society and world begin.

Trying to develop a better, more equitable world should not be a secret agenda. It is a goal that can be stated from the highest pulpit, hung as a sign over a parliament or designed in a flag. The issue is how and by what means should the format take so that it can gain a fuller and more appreciable support in our leadership and be embraced by society. This is not a Utopian idea; it is fundamental to a better world. So let’s begin the subject with the goal of a more equitable society and end the subject with a road map of how we get there. Naturally, if we hear none of this, we understand the entrenchment we are under or whose jailhouse we prefer.

Affirmative action was rationalised and adopted in the United States in the mid-1960s, which had some limited success, particularly evident in places such as Atlanta, but it did not live up to expectations nationwide. Self-determination is an essential part of the equation. You cannot hand out self-determination or personal initiative; either you have it or you don’t.

When Marcus Garvey visited Cape Breton in Canada, he addressed a crowd at a black church after frustrated meetings with some black leaders. His comments in a speech made from the pulpit was: “I cannot help you or your situation if you are not prepared to help yourself.”

He went on to say the legendary words “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds”.

Self-determination is a universally accepted principle. As beleaguered people, you do not need to ask for a hand up. All you need to demand is open doors so that you can walk in.