Some call it ‘hump day’, others Wednesday. It’s the middle day of the week with as many days before as after. It’s that way now for the next election. Of course, under our Constitution, the next election could be next month or any three weeks from now. So I’m looking way down the down road when I say that January 2006 is ‘hump month.
Only one person really knows when the next election will be called – and he ain’t telling; but if this Parliament does go the full five, January 2006 will be ‘hump’ month.
This particular hump month, about the ninth ‘hump month’ that we’ve had since the 1968 Constitutional Order, finds a situation that’s much changed from those first eight humps.
Hump one, way back in 1970 found this island still a tightly run oligarchy – not a true democracy. The 1968 election was the first election in which there was universal suffrage for anyone twenty-one and over. The UBP, then just two years old, had a stranglehold on the government The PLP, just five years old was struggling to attract votes from a population that eight years earlier, had just begun dismantling some parts of a system of legally supported segregation.
This hump finds some people seeing all that as ancient history – as distant and remote as dinosaurs and mastodons. However, in human affairs, the past does tend to leak into the present. This happens here, and it’s best seen in the huge contrasts between Hump Day One – in 1970; and Hump Day Nine – in 2006.
Then, a relatively quiescent population. People, generally, were not inclined to be too vocal or too demanding. Now, this community is a huge and wide-open ‘talking shop’ with a much wider range of sometimes pungently expressed opinion as part of its steady daily diet. Then, people tended to be circumspect. Now people are direct.
On that Hump Day, black Bermudians were looking ahead hoping to be able to gain a wider participation in Bermuda’s economic and political life; and seeking some social gains. On this Hump Day, black Bermudian capital is buying up businesses once considered to be white-owned.
Then, Trimingham’s and Smiths – both the shops and the names – were business and political powers. Now, gone.
What was once a tight little controlled community is now almost a ‘wild west’ town. Looked at another way – it’s as if we were all sitting in Sunday School in 1970 and in 2006 we’re all at a booze-up with a ‘dark and stormy’ in each hand.
That’s how big a change I see.
With that change has come a subtler deeper change. On Hump Nine, all Bermudians – excepting only those whose heads are stuck in the sands of the past – now know, for sure, things that they didn’t know on Hump One.
Now Bermudians know that change is not disaster. They know that if you change political parties and those political parties change leaders, the sun will still rise and set in the same place each day. They know that big businesses can go bust, and that other businesses can arise, and the ocean rollers will still roll. Most importantly, Bermudians have now learned, through national experience, that sometimes what appears to be change isn’t really change at all. That a new voice coming out of a different mouth is often delivering the same message.
Hump Nine finds a community in which the fear of the 20th Century has been replaced by the openness of the 21st Century. On Hump Nine, the small Bermudians who used to be cowed and silent are now large and vocal. On Hump Nine, the once small men and women who used to sometimes squeak like mice, have now developed the roar of the lion. A once quiet electorate has grown up, it has flexed its muscles, and it has seen the effects and impacts of its actions. This Hump Nine electorate is a now a changed and different group. More confident. More willing to argue – and argue back. More ready to consider more change.
Just half a generation on, Hump Nine finds Bermuda a free-for-all wide-open more individualistic community that is forging its own new rules and is clearly unafraid of change.
The little man has grown up, got himself the big sticks of confidence and knowledge, and he’s not afraid of the bogeyman anymore…