THE RACE RACE

With details of the 2001 Census now leaching out, it’s clear, in one prime area, that there has been some change. That area? Re-balancing of our society.

            In 1991, incomes in black households were 29% below incomes in white households. In 2001, it appears that incomes in black households are 22% below the incomes of white households. Anyway you look at it, that’s an improvement. A 10% improvement. Black households have done some catching up. One of the bad effects of Bermuda’s past is beginning to fade away. But at this catch-up rate it’ll be another seventy years – a whole generation – before blacks reach parity.

            However, there’s a danger lurking on the sidelines. That danger stems from the difference in the return on investments made in education.

            Bermuda is now an economy that relies heavily on selling its intellectual – not physical – services. Result? Bermuda needs a greater percentage of its workforce trained and educated in higher grade skills. With continuing improvements in technology and greater use of micro-chips, Bermuda needs fewer and fewer technicians and artisans. So does all the rest of the world. So, globally, there’s less of a demand for plumbers, masons, carpenters etc… Still a need. Still a demand. But less of a demand than 50 or 25 years ago.

            The demand now is for ‘brain’ workers. ‘Brain’ workers tend to require education past the secondary level. ‘Brain’ workers need some kind of quality tertiary education. Maybe not university, but certainly some kind of post-secondary skills, vocational, or academic training.

            In order to get a quality tertiary education, the pre-requisite is an adequate primary and secondary foundation education. It’s here that a difference shows up. The majority of white households send their children into private education. The majority of black households send their children into public education.

            Bermuda’s white households invest heavily in education. The Census says that 3 out of every 4 white children are in some kind of private education. White households who use private education systems, still pay into the tax base for the public education system. For education, these white households are paying – investing – twice.

            Bermuda’s black households do not invest as heavily in education. The Census says that 3 out of every 4 black children are in public education. These Black households only pay into the tax base for the public education system. For education, these black households only pay – invest – once.

            Private education delivers a generally high quality education. The private education system makes sure that its students regularly qualify to international standards and regularly gain entry to first class institutes of tertiary education.

            The public education system delivers a lower quality education. Its students do not regularly qualify to any recognized international standard. Its students do not usually qualify for entry into first class institutes of tertiary education unless they have some kind of remedial education.

            Thus, in the absolute and unforgiving race to produce ‘brain’ workers, black households are handicapped – not by their race – but by their choice of system, and by their priority of choice. The choice made by black households results in their being handicapped by the reality that the education system that they use is inferior to the private system.

            But don’t black households earn less than white households? Yes. And the Census confirms that. However education enables incomes to improve. So choice of educational process will determine whether or not a good product or an inferior is received, and thus whether or not income earning potential can or will increase. Since choice is driven by a combination of priority and affordability, it’s clear that lack of money can lead to a lack of choice – even if do priorities exist.

            So richer white households find private education more affordable and place a high priority on it. Black households, with less money, may find private education less affordable – but may also place a lower priority on education.

            In this national – indeed global – production race, Bermuda’s black households are further handicapped by their inability – or refusal – to change and improve their clearly inferior but extremely well-funded public education system.

            In this national – and global – race for economic place, it’s possible for black households to catch up, but not if they remain handicapped by the education system that they pay for and use.

            Race isn’t the problem. It’s years of inferior education that creates the molasses in the black guys and gals running track. It’s years of superior education that creates the spikes in the shoes of the guys and gals in the white lane.

            It isn’t race. It’s choice. It isn’t a black and white issue. It’s a results and priority issue.

            There’s little point in black folks sitting in the moaner’s pews wailing and moaning about the past. The past is past. The power has shifted. Every power, every tool, every device that’s needed to get rid of that black track molasses is in the hands of black Bermudians.

            In 1972, black people in Bermuda grew big afros, wore dashikis, complained about racial discrimination, and talked about Black Power. Back then they had no power. It’s now 2002. Black Power has arrived. Real Black Power exists.

            Got it! Use it!

QUID PRO QUO

Basing a teachers pay on the college degree that the teacher has is a curious development. Despite the temptation, I won’t deal with the comedic aspects of the proposal.

            But I do think that teachers should get more pay. So, if teachers are asking for a higher than normal pay raise – give it to them. BUT, in exchange, insist that all teachers produce results.

            Right now, neither Berkeley nor Cedarbridge regularly produce classes of students who are able to pass internationally accepted examinations.  Right now, both Berkeley and Cedarbridge have difficulty in regularly producing classes of students who reach the adjusted – and lowered – standards of the Bermuda College.  Right now, neither Berkeley nor Cedarbridge regularly produce classes of students who are able to win local academic scholarships in numbers proportionate to their overall size [Berkeley and Cedarbridge together have about 55% of the total Bermudian pool of secondary school students]. Right now, neither Berkeley nor Cedarbridge regularly produce classes of students who gain freshman year places at competitive entry universities and colleges.

            This is not a new state of affairs. It’s been like this, in some instances, for more than twenty years.

            Saltus, Warwick, BHS, BI, and MSA regularly produce classes of students who meet international standards such as the GCSE[UK], IGCSE, and US High School diploma requirements. Saltus, Warwick, BHS, BI, and MSA regularly produce students who win a disproportionate share of Bermuda’s more than $1,000,000 worth of academic scholarships. Saltus, Warwick, BHS, BI, and MSA regularly produce students who gain freshman year entry to the most selective universities and colleges.

            Between them, these five private schools have expanded and now absorb almost half of all Bermuda’s high school students. There’s also been a proliferation of ‘home schools’. Parents who don’t send their children into Bermuda’s private system also send their offspring to public and private secondary schools in the USA, Canada, UK, and the Caribbean.

            Bermuda’s parents, black and white, are heeding Malcolm X’s advice. They are using “every means possible” to get their children out of the already paid-for public system in order to send their children into what amounts to a ‘twice-paid-for’ private educating system or into a home-school – either here or abroad.

            Why do these parents do that? Because these parents see that Bermuda’s public educating system doesn’t succeed. These parents see that it isn’t working now. They see that it fails to produce results that match the dollars spent on it. They see that, through the years, it hasn’t delivered a good output.

            So why pay the teachers more? Pay them – but demand results. Pay them – but insist that the current trend changes.

The trend? Tests show – AND HAVE SHOWN CONSISTENTLY FOR MORE THAN THIRTY YEARS – that Bermudian students who are in the public system score well when they’re five and six. That they score less well – are falling behind – five years later when they’re ten and eleven. And that they have clearly fallen further behind when they’re fifteen and sixteen.

This process of deterioration – dis-education? – was first shown by the ‘old’ California Achievement Test [CAT]. The CAT was used from the early 1970’s until the 1990’s. Now the ‘new’ Terra Nova test, in use since the 1990’s, displays the same phenomenon.

            In plain language, this means that Bermudian children who are schooled in the public system; who spend their whole twelve [now being upped to thirteen] years in the public system; who get as many dollars spent on their education as does a student at Saltus [the most expensive school in Bermuda’s private system]; will not improve – and won’t hold his or her place – over those twelve [now thirteen] years.

            The ultimate reality is that a Bermudian child who spends twelve [now being upped to thirteen] years being schooled in the public system will not do as well as another Bermudian child who spends exactly the same period of years in the private system.

            But, over those twelve years, the same amount of dollars – more or less – will be spent on that child’s education.

            So why spend even more on teacher’s pay? Spend it, but demand, require, insist on, results.

            Each year, every year, for the entire public school system, publish the results achieved. Publish those results by school. Let Mr and Mrs and Ms Public know and see which public schools achieve good results. AND WHICH SCHOOLS DO NOT.

            Give the Principal of an under-performing public school the right to get rid of under-performing teachers. In exchange for more pay remove – from the Union agreement – any tenure clause that guarantees that Union Rules will provide untouchable job security for a mediocre or bad teacher. Take out those clauses that enable a bad or mediocre teacher to lay back in expensive mediocrity or harmful non-performance for all of his or her teaching life. And, obviously, the Principal of a consistently under-performing school will find it wise to seek another career in another field – before being moved on by parental or Departmental pressures.

            Teaching does require a strong personal commitment. Teachers in the private sector, all of whom are teaching to international test standards, either make that personal commitment AND ALSO succeed at teaching, or they get out, or are gotten out. How long would the Trustees of Saltus [or BHS or Warwick or BI or MSA] keep their present Head if end of year results plummeted or fell, year after year?

            How long would a private sector teacher or Principal last if – annually – he or she trotted out a well-crafted, almost poetic, recitation of reasons for failure – “drugs, family problems, breakdown of the family unit, disruptive students, lack of parent support…”.      Doesn’t happen does it? And, over the last twenty years it hasn’t happened. Not in the private sector.

But it has happened – is happening now – in the public sector. Each year, a poetic recitation of reasons. Each year, no decent results. But each year, the dollar cost rises, and the negative social impact increases. Georgia Assemblyman Julian Bond points out: “Violence is …children going to school for 12 years and receiving 6 years’ worth of education.”  So, from Julian Bond’s perspective, our own Bermudian public educating may be “doing violence” to our own Bermudian children.

            If one considers that a child actually goes into the paid-for public system at age four [4], then it will cost more than $100,000 to educate that child over the [now] fourteen years that it will spend in the total public system. It costs about the same – perhaps just a tiny bit more – if the most expensive school in the private system is used for thirteen years.

            No person or family that shells out one hundred thousand hard-earned dollars  [$100,000] for a product should be cheated out of that product, or receive a bad or faulty product that cannot be returned or exchanged. The private system delivers a full product. Full value. The public system delivers a faulty product. Less than full value.

            Pay them! But they must deliver! Deliver! DELIVER!

            Every year publish the results! Publish! PUBLISH!

SAUL AND PAUL

Defining moments are moments such as Saul of Tarsus had on the road to Damascus; or the USA on “9/11”; or the UBP and the PLP on “11/9”. In our Bermuda, there was another such moment on October 3rd 2002, the day that David Allen was buried. Since that day, the still bubbling reaction from Bermuda’s minority has veered between the mild consternation shown by this paper’s Tom Vesey to the almost venal responses of Tim Hodgson at the Mid Ocean News and of that writer in the offshore newsletter whose comments Tim Hodgson chose to reprint in his Mid Ocean News. These continued rumblings highlight the gaping gulf that continues to separate the two dominant cultures that co-exist on these Isles of Rest.            

This gulf had been uncovered before. On several occasions, emotions generated by the social and cultural history of Bermuda’s majority were fully and expressively voiced at the public forums during the public discussion phase of the Long Term Residents issue. On one evening, in April 2001, angry squadrons of Bermuda’s minority ‘white brigade’ charged into the salons of Government House where they vented the emotions generated as a result of their – different – Bermudian cultural and social history. On these occasions, each side waved its own different coloured rag of history. The same thing is happening in the aftermath of David Allen’s death and burial. It’s clear that David Allen meant different things to different people. To me, and thousands like me, he was a man who lived by a set of principles that I understood and accepted as right and good. It seems that to others – Tim Hodgson, that writer in the offshore newsletter, and to Tom Vesey – David Allen might have been no more than a loudmouthed renegade. That writer in the offshore newsletter wrote of a Bermudian non-observance of the death of another Bermudian man. But each of our two Bermuda communities places a value on a person that is likely to be proportionate to the value that person was seen to give within and to that community. Thus ‘Jack’ Tucker [was he a Saint or a Sinner?] might have been viewed differently than ‘Freddy’ Wade [was he a Saint or a Sinner?]. David Allen and his life meant more to some of us than to others of us. David’s value was determined by the realities of our Bermudian cultural and social history. I saw David as a brave and special man who had made some personal sacrifices that benefited me and thousands like me. I felt that the style of his burial was appropriate and that it reasonably represented my feelings and my values.  The general colour of the crowds who gathered, the little knots who watched, the packed-out church, all showed how black Bermudians valued and respected the man being buried.          

 I accept differences in opinion. I accept differences in values. I accept that some may think that Saul of Tarsus should really have converted to Islam or Buddhism – and not to Christianity. But I do not accept that David Allen’s death and style of burial were unimportant irrelevancies or overblown tributes. The particular style of burial was that of black Bermuda. Black Bermuda’s burying style is now different – with far more public ceremonial – from white Bermuda’s more private burial style. In black Bermuda, the family [however temporarily] buries all hatchets, ensures that everyone’s name is listed in the funeral notice, gathers in or outside the church, and then walks, in procession, into the church, where they all sit together ranked in order of family closeness to the deceased. But before that stage there will have been a ‘viewing’ – a custom common in black funerals. Some Bermudians may see ‘viewing’ as a black Bermudian custom. But it isn’t. It’s customary in black and some white American funerals. It was once customary throughout the UK. It’s still common in much of Europe. It’s still the norm in much of Africa and Asia.  Long ago, viewing was the norm in white Bermuda. But here, in our Bermuda, as a consequence of population changes, some subtle shifts in some of our cultural and social behaviours have managed to re-define funeral ‘viewing’ as a ‘black’ custom. David Allen’s death and burial meant more to black Bermudians than it did to white Bermudians. Since his burial, there has been significant comment – mostly from white Bermudians – on the manner and style of his burial. These comments, still bubbling up, show that, in many ways, the two major communities on our 13,000 acre atoll are as separate and distinct – but still as joined and blended – as Saul who became Paul. 

Two Bermudas. One black. One white. On October 3rd 2002, for that one occasion, our two faces and our two cultures and two histories were plainly visible. And in the funeral’s aftermath and in this noisy shouting match between Burgess/Scott/Webb and Dennis/Zuill/Barritt – our differences are again highlighted. People on the periphery of this latest public slanging match call for an end to the noise and a return to the peaceful Bermuda of old. But that peaceful Bermuda of old was a Saulian Bermuda. A Bermuda in which one – and only one – set of values dominated. Our 9/11 in 1998 was a defining moment. That day saw the incarnation of a new, Paulian, Bermuda.  It’s the nature of every democracy that it is a society in which the values of Saul and Paul exist within the same national human community. This results in a national schizophrenia. The controlling mechanism for this national schizophrenia is the style of government. Our Bermuda style is closely modeled on the UK Westminster style. The Americans have their different, sometimes less partisan style. The Russians have their unique mix of styles. The French? One really never knows.         

In this new Bermuda, those calling for one community living in peace and harmony are calling for the impossible and the undesirable. The best, the very best, that we’ll ever do is create a society in which the inherently schizophrenic relationship between Saul and Paul is always under control. In our Bermuda, that controlling mechanism is that messy, noisy, confrontational, “Churchillian”, thing called Westminster style democracy.  And it consists of rule by a majority. Yesterday, Saul. Today, Paul. Tomorrow, ???.
           

OLD PROTOCOLS MUST GO

A November 2002 Bermuda Sun poll said that 39% of respondents thought that the previous government issued contracts based on political connections. Sir John Swan commented, in 1995, that there were no ‘black businesses on Front Street’. Until 1960, Bermuda was a segregated society in which the lion’s share of economic activity was controlled by whites and in which almost all the ‘profit’ flowed into Bermuda’s white community. It had been like that since the first blacks, donors of free labour, arrived in Bermuda.

            Fast forward to 1979 to the years when Sir David Gibbons was Premier. In the book “Partners in Peace & Prosperity[*]” there’s this insight: “Premier Gibbons had cabinet members handle other issues with similar expediency and result. Another example of government working…was with discrimination in the tendering of government contracts. Black contractors complained that all government contracts were allocated among a select group of white, mainly UBP-supporting contractors; none of the contractors that won bids was black. …Then, in January 1979, [Ralph] Marshall [at the time a Cabinet Minister] announced an amendment to the Tendering Procedure for Public Works [now Works and Engineering]: Bermuda’s largest contractors would no longer be permitted to bid on projects worth less than $350,000. In addition, all bids on government projects…would be opened in public, thereby eliminating any appearances of underhanded favouritism.”

            Fast forward again to October 2002 to the freshly issued Auditor’s Report [**] on the Berkeley Institute project. Auditor Larry Dennis highlighted two paragraphs. Neither of these highlighted paragraphs has elicited any public response. But both paragraphs are extremely pertinent to now and the future.

            On page three, Dennis highlights this: “Based on purely technical and objective criteria and the minimization of Government’s exposure to risk, we would recommend that bidding could be restricted [my bold] to BCM McAlpine, Somers Construction and the Bermuda Tech/Ellis-Don alliance.”            Go to page four where Dennis highlights: “However we appreciate that it may be politically desirable to allow [my bold] Pro-Active and Tristar, with their associated firms, with an opportunity [my bold] to bid on the project. If Government is prepared to assume the additional risk then we would suggest that bidding be solicited from all five firms…”

            Now sit down…put your feet up…count to 20…and start thinking!

            Look at what Larry Dennis highlighted. Recall Sir John Swan’s 1995 comment. Consider what Sir David Gibbons admitted in his book. Think about the whole history of this island. Think, particularly, of the post Emancipation history of black business and businesses and general economic endeavours, by blacks, on this island. Think of the disappeared Quality Bakery, the defunct Recorder, the vanished Bermuda Times, the swallowed up ZFB… think!

            Think of Ralph Marshall’s 1979 protocol which left the already established ‘big boys’ – none of whom were black – to take on the multi-million dollar projects; while the ‘small boys’ – some of whom were black – were allowed the privilege of bidding on the small jobs. Think!

            The essence of government is that a government is not a business. Government isn’t in the business of making widgets or anything else. The assumption of risk is a government concern and is the responsibility of Ministers of Government. These Ministers are elected by the people. Thus the ultimate risk takers are the people.

            Do the people of Bermuda want to take what some people may call a risk?  Think about it. Think.

            I believe that the men and women who ‘look like me’ are as bright and as intelligent as any others. Clearly, others disagree. I and those who ‘look like me’ came down one stream of history. Others who ‘don’t look like me’ came down a different stream of history. Those ‘who look like me’ have a different perspective, sometimes different values, and certainly some different aims and objectives, than those who ‘don’t look like me’.

            The perspective on the Berkeley Project is that this is a multi-million dollar project. According to the 1979 protocol, it wasn’t a project for the ‘small boys’. It was supposed to be reserved for the ‘big boys’. Larry Dennis has just pointed out that this hoary [whore-y?] old protocol, or its ethos, was still being invoked 22 years later in the year of our Lord 2001. But the change in 1998 was a change in values.

            The changed values affecting decisions on the Berkeley Project are that men and women who were once lowly valued and who were once openly and deliberately barred from some economic activity, were going to be accorded the right – not privilege, not permission – the RIGHT, to bid on all projects.

            One of the changes desired and demanded by the majority of Bermudians is that there should be a re-balancing and a freeing-up of our economy. Re-balancing should result in all those who were once excluded being granted the right and being given the opportunity to take part – equally and fairly – in every economic endeavour or activity.

            Further, where a new endeavour needed a ‘hand-up’, there was an expectation that it would receive some help. Thus where a new endeavour lacked the 45 year business track record of a favoured BCM or BCM McAlpine; and lacked the 45 year track record of a credit liaison with Bermuda’s two banks; and lacked an administrative infrastructure that had acquired 45 years of organizational experience; it was reasonable to expect that a new Government, in following a new open-door policy, would work with new organizations in the pursuit of its broader aim.

            And what’s that broader aim? A freer and more open society.

            If Bermuda is to be a freer and more open society, some past practices and old protocols must be thrown out. Some, indeed, may need to be smashed. What some may call risk is, for others, the price of change. With any change or new initiative, there’s risk. But change. Change. Above all else, change and progress.

Progression from that 1979 protocol. Change from that 1995 statement. I’m prepared to accept all the reasonable costs – which others may call risk – of making that change. Others must adjust to change.
([*]Pages 97-98 – Partners in Peace & Prosperity. A Premier and a Governor in Bermuda 1977-1981. Allison Moir with Sir Peter Ramsbotham and Sir David Gibbons.)

            ([**] The Auditor’s Report is free and is available to any member of the public who asks for it.)

OF ELEGANCE AND INELEGANCE

Though the shrillness and volume of delivery may be unpalatable to some – if not most – the message that’s conveyed is still a message that needs to be heard.

            In the normal rough and tumble of a true democracy, each one of Bermuda’s four groups grabs for whatever power it can get in order to achieve what it considers to be in its own best interests. This grabbing for power has always occurred and is occurring now. In the mighty USA, the Republican Party has just completed a successful grab for power. Republicans now control the White House, Senate, and Congress. They have total power.

            In our Bermuda, power of this kind was once wielded by the UBP and its predecessor – the Party of Independents [the PI – Pee-eye]. 

            Over 348 years from 1620 until 1968, the PI showed the most remarkable voting consistency. The PI party, in 1957, even as Ghana was gaining its independence, was still maintaining, in Bermuda, a strong segregationist policy which would have been lauded by Vervoerd”s South African Nationalist Party or the USA’s Ku Klux Klan.

            PI party policies favoured white Bermudians, white non-Bermudians, and extended some small favours to a small element of Portuguese-Bermudians. PI policies did not treat black Bermudians equally or with the same kind of favour as shown to  white Bermudians and white non-Bermudians. PI policies were aimed at, and succeeded in, not enfranchising black Bermudians; barring black Bermudians from full participation in the economic life of this island; and socially distancing black Bermudians from mainstream culture.

            PI policies succeeded. They succeeded right up until 1968 when the PI recognized impending change. In 1968, with the small successes that black Bermudians had thus far won [ending legal segregation (1960); formation of a political party that represented mostly black interests and the first extension of the vote (1963); the advent of universal adult suffrage (1968)]; the PI saw that they would need to change.

            So change they did. Safely cocooned inside Bermuda’s House of Assembly, the all-white PI – caterpillar-like – metamorphosed into a two-colour UBP. In turning itself into the UBP, the PI took on black members – something it had never done before.  Not in 348 years.

            In taking on black members, the PI, now formally flapping its wings as the UBP, successfully grabbed for power. The UBP power grab consisted of attracting, then holding on to, then increasing its membership of blacks. From 1968 to 1998, this power grab succeeded. From 1990 on, however, it was clear that this black membership was having less and less impact on the UBP’s ability to retain political power.

            The anomaly in all this grabbing for, and holding on to, of power was that in a full democracy, the natural majority tends to hold sway. But here, in our Bermuda, this tenet of democracy was skewed by the combining of our political, social, and economic histories. The result? Bermuda’s majority population was treated – in all ways – as if it was a minority. This was the result of the success of the UBP power grab. A power grab that was done under the rules that exist in every democracy.

            Until 1998, Bermuda’s natural majority had been kept marginalized by the UBP coalition of minorities. This coalition was made up of old PI people, thousands of new status Bermudians from Europe and North America and the Azores, and a tiny few from the Caribbean. That coalition of minorities acted along the same lines as the old PI, with the same barring of persons from Bermuda’s natural majority.

            In 1998, Bermuda’s majority woke up. Woke from a deep sleep that had lasted 184 years. Nine times longer than Rip Van Winkle had slept!

            In 1998, Bermuda’s wide-awake majority grabbed for power. Grabbed for it and got it! For the first time ever, Bermuda’s natural majority was under natural majority rule.

            In 1995, then-Premier Sir John W Swan pointed out that there were no ‘black’ businesses on ‘Front Street’. In 1996, Bank of Butterfield CEO Norman Tugwell and sociologist Dr Dorothy Newman wrote and spoke of bad or negative racial imbalances. Underlying all of these personal, professional, political, and scientific observations were the raw numbers of Bermuda’s 1991 Census. All these observations combined to display the true colours on the canvas of our Bermuda life scene.

            Even as late as 1996, it was evident to all except the willfully blind, that Bermuda’s natural majority had remained a majority that was partly disenfranchised and discriminated against.

            Sir Winston Churchill offered that: “…democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried…”. For Sir Winston, democracy had, indeed, been a rough and tumble affair. He had suffered its roughness. He had been tumbled. And he had even been humbled.

            In the rough, some ideas get expressed with some inelegance and sometimes in tones not suited to the languid lounges of lords and ladies. That’s the rough. In the tumble, some things fall and a few things – feelings mostly – get hurt or broken. That’s the tumble.

            However, from deep within the soul of Bermuda’s natural majority, there is a desire, first, for real change; and second, for that change to continue.

            Trouble is, Bermuda’s natural majority, since its power grab of 1998, is still getting its hands on, and is still digesting something that it has never had – or tasted – before.  It’ll take more time for those hands to get more comfortable. It’ll take more time to start swallowing and become comfortable with the tastes and textures of power. It may take even more time before rough ideas are tumbled out with ‘Churchillian’ finesse.

            So when you hear those shrill decibels about “people who look like me”, accept that even though inelegantly expressed, the idea and feeling is absolutely sound and is a reality of democracy. Recognize that this thought and this feeling is but one outcome of 348 plus 30 years of one-sided domination that actively suppressed Bermuda’s natural majority. Recognize also, that as inelegant as it is, it’s still a sign of the workings of a democracy  of ‘Churchillian’ quality and style.

            One significant recurring reality remains. This thought, absolutely common in all of majority Bermuda, does not percolate or bubble through our Bermuda media.

            Like the rhythmic beat from our gombey drums, the expression of this feeling can be filtered out, or not let in. Not by any deliberate censoring. Just by ignoring it. But this non-percolating, this non-bubbling through, shows, yet again, the inability of our media to tap into the stream of ordinary emotions and the flood of feelings that flow through the veins and arteries of the many channels of communication that – for more than 380 years – have survived and that still exist amongst this majority population.

IN DEFENCE OF CHICKENS

That front page Royal Gazette picture of a Bermuda cow and several wild chickens set me thinking. With Bermuda’s cows cowering from attacks by squadrons of wild chickens; with the Royal Gazette headlining that political slogan made famous by British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan that: “We’ve never had it so good”; it’s obvious that nowadays, in Bermuda, things are different.
In 1928, US Presidential candidate Herbert Hoover promised his fellow Americans that there would be “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage”.  Herbert would be proud of our Bermudian ‘silver spoon society’. Us ‘silver spoon’ Bermudians are so rich that we look down our Bermudian noses at chickens and their eggs and don’t bother to put chickens in pots anymore. Kentucky Fried and Four Star are easier and Stouffer’s and Swanson’s are quicker. A car in every garage? Our national Bermuda complaint is that we have too many cars. But ours is a strangely rich society.
Our Bermuda is being terrorized by ‘tailed bands’ of wild chickens, led, I hear, by Chief Chicken “Eggsama bin Layin”. Persons in government, perhaps thinking of themselves as little Dubya Bush’s, are contemplating mounting a ‘chicken war’ to get rid of this “Al Croweda”. Apparently we’re not planning to eat them. We’re just going to kill them. Exterminate them.
In other parts of the world, in other times, chicken is, or would be, a sought after food. Their eggs would be a means to help ward off hunger. Chickens certainly wouldn’t be treated as pests. They’d be considered a valuable food source. But here, in our ‘silver spoon’ Bermuda, we have choices – strange choices.
I recall fishermen blowing their conch horns and wheeling their fish-filled wheelbarrows through my North Shore neighbourhood. I recall accompanying my mother to see what the fisherman had for sale that day. My mother would sometimes buy a lobster – or two. But lobster wasn’t her first choice. In those days, lobster was considered a low grade eating item – almost a ‘trash’ fish. Lobster generally sold cheap.

I can remember my mother tying up the lobster and dropping it in the pot. So, as a boy, I ate lobster. I ate it because it was cheap. I liked lobster. Nowadays, even though we’ve never had it so good, I don’t eat lobster. It’s much too expensive. Quite a flip from a long time ago.
Cars? The just out people census and the always out TCD vehicle count tell us that Bermuda now has more motorized vehicles – cars, trucks, vans, big buses, medium buses, minibuses, motor cycles, scooters, and mopeds  – than people. And we have fast ferries…and slow ones too!
So here we are. Sitting pretty. The world’s only ‘silver spoon society’. From the ethnic cleansing of Tucker’s Town in 1920 to 2002, we Bermudians have enjoyed more than eighty unbroken years of economic prosperity and growth. Despite an intervening and bloody World War, despite a long Cold War, despite the evils of segregation and racism; we Bermudians have had more than a lifetime of unparalleled growth. And we Bermudians have the ‘silver spoons’ to show for it.
So amidst all our Christmas bonhomie, and during our traditional political Christmas truce, let’s all count the chickens – and our blessings. Don’t just go ‘potting’ the birds! First drive or ride around and count ‘em. This scourge of wild Bermuda fowl is living proof that we’ve ‘got it good’.  Real good.