THE VILLAGE

The Royal Gazette’s front page picture, and the Bermuda Sun’s page three picture, described him as of “no fixed abode”. 

            At age sixteen?  In our Bermuda? Get right to the nub. Why is a child of sixteen without a home?  In our Bermuda?

            I keep hearing: “It takes a village to raise a child”.  But where is this village? Where? How is it that a sixteen year-old boy – not yet old enough to leave school – is “of no fixed abode”? How come?

            The answer lies in the reality that Bermuda is no longer a “village” in which children are raised by the people of the “village”. Bermuda may be a conurbation. It may be a suburban state. It might even be a city state. But Bermuda ain’t no village.

            Sixteen years and nine months ago, that sixteen year-old boy was dangling in some man’s testicles. That man was – and still is – his father.  Sixteen years and three months ago, that sixteen year-old boy was curled up in some woman’s womb. That woman was – and still is – his mother.

            That sixteen year-old boy’s biological mother and biological father have their own – different – father and mother combinations. Thus that sixteen year-old boy has two sets of biological grandparents. That’s four people. Four people in at least two separate households. So that boy has a direct biological connection to at least six other people. Six people in at least three households. But given the social realities of our Bermuda, these six biological connections could actually be in as many as six different households.

            Yet this sixteen year-old boy is of “no fixed abode”.  And this in a land of over-employment where well-dressed well-paid well-housed people go around saying “it takes a village to raise a child.”

            There is something wrong. Horribly, terribly, wrong!

            What’s wrong is that we Bermudians are lying to ourselves and to our children. Maybe we Bermudians have been too long in the tourist business. Maybe, since tourism began, we have spent far too many Bermudian lifetimes telling the world that “Bermuda is another world” of special peace and love.  Maybe we’ve been saying it so long and so often that now we actually believe it.  But we sure don’t live it.

            I accept that the sixteen year-old boy who made it to the Royal Gazette’s front page and the Bermuda Sun’s page three, may have ‘issues’.  I accept that he may have behavioural problems of one kind or another.  But this boy’s ‘issues’ didn’t suddenly materialize at one minute past midnight on Saturday the 1st  February 2003. Nor did this boy’s ‘issues’ appear only when he was away from the care of the two adults whose momentary sexual union caused him to appear on this earth.

            That front paged sixteen year-old boy is the product of his environment. His values are the values that he has learned. Or that he was taught. Or that he acquired. His values were formed in the sixteen years between his popping out of some woman’s womb and his picture popping up on page one of the Royal Gazette and page three of the Bermuda Sun.

            That sixteen year-old boy is the result of the workings – or non-workings – of the whole community of Bermuda.  More particularly though, he and his values come out of that household – or households – in the Bermuda community into which he first appeared as a cute little wrapped-up babe-in-arms.  In that community, he then grew from infant to toddler to pre-schooler to primary school student to middle school student to senior school student to his present status as a ‘star’ on page one of the Royal Gazette – and page three of the Bermuda Sun.

            Was there a village for him? Is there really a village? Or is it all just a pretty eight word sentence?

            Ten months ago [*], in this newspaper, I commented:

            Young men who – either inadvertently, accidentally, or deliberately – arrive in their teens, ill-educated, undisciplined, and unprepared for taking their place in normal society are like hand grenades.  But hand grenades with the pin still in.            Expelling a young man from a system designed to prepare him for his place in society is like pulling the pin on a hand grenade.            Once thrown, dropped, or otherwise discarded, that grenade, unless defective, will go off and will seek to do what it is designed to do. It will kill or maim.            It seems to me that, recently, there’ve been a lot of grenades ‘going off’. All over the place. Have you been hearing them too?”

            I’ve certainly heard them. Several at the Ice Queen.  Many on Front Street. One at the Southampton Post Office.

            Haven’t you heard something? Or are you in the “village” but making sure that you keep yourself all closed up and closed off in your air-conditioned sealed-off pod?

            But whether you hear them or not, “…Grenades are designed – purpose designed – to deal out death and destruction.”

            As an ex-professional soldier, I am aware that one of the techniques taught in house-clearing operations [street fighting or urban operations] is first toss in a grenade, then enter the room – or should I say ‘pod’.  In an average room – or pod – that grenade will kill or maim everyone in that room and it’ll be easier and safer for a soldier to enter and take the next step – a few quick bursts with a submachine gun, or fast shots with a rifle…  It is the most efficient way to kill people…and clean out a pod. Any pod.

  

[*Bermuda Sun – Opinion column – Wednesday 3rd April 2002.]

[See, also, the Royal Gazette’s headlines of Wednesday 3rd April and editorial comments by the Editor of the Royal Gazette on Thursday 4th April 2002. ]

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