US AND THEM

Hawaii. Jamaica. Bermuda. Three tourist ‘destinations’. Each competes in the same global marketplace for a slice of the market. Each tries to sell something to the same people – more or less.

            In the ‘good old days’ days when Brits in white Panama hats and linen suits spent their British winters in Montego Bay, swimming at Doctor’s Cave Beach, and sipping imported Gin mixed with imported tonic; there was, as far as I can tell, little effort made to highlight all the natural colours of Jamaica.   

            Advertisers of that time, presented Jamaica as a land of flowers and verandahs and writers like Ian Fleming and Noel Coward. But no dark-skinned people. Dark-hued people were kind of not there.

            Now, Jamaica heavily advertises its people. Dark-skinned bare-chested dreadlocked men, are stuck up front in Jamaican tourism ads. So are cute little dark-skinned girls in pretty Sunday dresses or neat school uniforms. And still there’s the flora and fauna.

            The change was with the people. Jamaican people stepped out of the imposed invisibility onto stage centre. Jamaica now sells Jamaicans. For Jamaica, it works. But it also works for Hawaii, Seychelles, Kenya, South Africa, and you-name-it…

            All over the world, tourist destinations sell their flora, fauna, and temperatures [low in Alaska and high in Barbados]. Above all else though, all destinations – nowadays – recognize and emphasize their culture and their people.

            All, that is, except our Bermuda.

            Which leads to the question: “What is Bermudian? What makes us unique?”

            I’m clear on those things that define me as a Bermudian. The things that make me NOT an American, or Canadian, or Jamaican, or anything else. Just a Bermudian.

            But are you as certain of your Bermudian-ness as I am? Do you know, instinctively, what your Bermudian uniqueness is and where it lies? Do you?

            I’m irritated by Tourism ads for Bermuda that don’t feature Bermudians. I don’t like advertising audio that isn’t Bermudian. I like Ras Mykkal, Bootsie, EDC, David Lopes, Stuart Hayward, and Tom Vesey. I don’t always agree with these guys, but they’re my people. Mine.

            I like Jonathan Smith. I think some of the people who serve under him are pretty bloody useless, but I still like Jonathan. And Wayne Perinchief. And Grant Gibbons. I think Michael Dunkley – who, by the way represents my old Devonshire South constituency  – is a damn good politician. I revere the ‘Dame’ and am fully aware of all that I and other “people who look like me” owe to her.

            I start feeling closed in when I’m in a big country and can only ever see land and more land and more and more land and buildings and more and more buildings. There are moments when I need to see a clear horizon where a blue sky meets a blue sea. Where I can feel just me, the sky, and the sea.

            I’ve lived in the dead white stillness of a Nordic winter where no birds fly and trees don’t sway in the wind. But I revel in the ever-changing sea that surrounds me and my island home. As a boy, I used to hear the low rumble of the South Shore surf. On a quiet night, when the wind is right and with sound systems turned-off, I still can. Sometimes. 

            I accept the way us lot always personalize every issue. It infuriates me when the argument needs to be moved to the abstract. But I understand that because we’re such a small community of individuals, “who said it” is still so important simply because we’re still individuals.  So as furiously infuriating as it is, it’s actually what helps to make us unique.

            Worldwide, there are only about 48,000 of us real Bermudians. So there are more elephants, more hippopotamuses, but fewer humpback whales, than there are real Bermudians.

            Those animal species are considered endangered or protected.  So us 48,000 Bermudians, must also be an endangered species in need of protection. What’s more, there’s only about 12,000 white Bermudians. So they’re not just endangered, like us black Bermudians. They’re rare. So we must look out – even more – for our white ‘brothers and sisters’.

            All that is just a part of my Bermudian-ness.

            As we get more comfortable with ourselves, like those other ‘destinations’, we can invite people to visit us and enjoy our island home and special island community – as paying guests.

            We gotta’ treat ‘em right though. The way we used to.

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Bermuda is another world

Bermuda is ‘another world’. Hubert Smith, a great Bermudian songwriter, composed and sang a song that has this title.  It’s also the logo on the personalized license plates that TCD issues.

            The implication is that there’s something so special about life in our Bermuda that we are ‘another world’ where things don’t happen as they do in other countries.

            If our Bermudian ‘another world’ assertion is true, then it’s possible that the connection between Under-educated and Under-skilled and Under-class doesn’t apply here in our Bermuda.

            But read what Bob Herbert, writing in the New York Times of Thursday 6th February 2003, says as he looks at the people in a city in his America: “You see them in many parts of the city, hanging out on frigid street corners, skylarking at the malls or bowling alleys, hustling for money wherever they can, drifting in some cases into the devastating clutches of drug-selling, gang membership, prostitution and worse.

            …This army of undereducated, jobless young people, disconnected in most instances from society’s mainstream, is restless and unhappy, and poses a severe long-term threat to the nation’s well-being on many fronts.            …Education and career decisions made during the late teens and early 20’s are crucial to the lifetime employment and earnings prospects of an individual. Those who do not do well during this period seldom catch up to the rest of the population.            …Our ability to generate family stability and safe communities is strongly influenced by this…            …When you have 5 ½ million young people wandering around without diplomas, without jobs and without prospects, you might as well hand them T-shirts to wear that say “We’re Trouble”.
            …Without help, they will not become a part of a skilled work force. And they will become a drain on the nation’s resources.  One way or another, the rest of us will end up supporting them.”

            IF – If – if Bermuda is ‘another world’, then the connection that Bob Herbert sees between Under-educated…Under-skilled…Under-class won’t apply here in our Bermuda.

            However, it’s my view – and I suspect that you share my view – that the American Bob Herbert’s description is directly applicable to Bermuda. That everything that Bob says is happening in America happens in the same way and has the same effect here, in our Bermuda.

            I do not believe that Bermuda is ‘another world’. I know – and so do you – that Bermuda is one of two hundred countries on this earth.  I know – and so do you – that us 48,746 Bermudians are not genetically different from any of the other 5,999,951,254 people who also inhabit this globe. I know – and so do you – that what happens in other countries and communities tends to happen in Bermuda. And as proof of this, 193 other countries have – proportionately – fewer people in prison than we do.

            That means that what that American has said about the people in his country is likely to be just as true for us Bermudians. And it is. I know it. You know it. We all know it.

            Bermuda is just another country – one of two hundred countries on this galactic ball.  Bermuda people suffer and react the same as people in all these other countries. Bermuda is not ‘another world’.

            But Bermuda is our special world and we should all work harder, and more thoughtfully, to make it a better place for all of us to live in.

 

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[The quote is from an article written by Bob Herbert, and published in the New York Times of Thursday 6th February 2003. Title of the article:- “Young, Jobless, Hopeless”. The city referred to is Chicago, Illinois, USA. Population of the USA is ~278m. What’s 5 ½ million unemployed ‘young people’ (people aged 16 – 24) compared to our Bermuda population? Pro-rated, it’s about 1,000. Now take a peek at the 2002 Census figures, and take a long look around you in the ‘other world’ of our real world Bermuda.] 

TO TELL A TRUTH…

A British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, noted that: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

            It’s rare to find all three elements in one statement. But it’s happening right now.

            Where? In this snippet – attached to other longer segments – that scrolls up in a Royal Gazette internet website. The lie? “Bermudian elected legislators… (Most) don’t have listed telephone numbers at work or at home.”

            Arthur Andersen auditors, Saddam Hussein’s propagandists, and Satan himself would be professionally proud of this well-crafted, prominently displayed, and truly magnificent untruth that is presented as a fact.

            The statement is a specially crafted lie. A definite untruth presented as though it were a fact.

            There are 40 elected Parliamentarians. Eight of them do not have direct “work” or “home” telephone numbers that are listed in the current BTC directory. That’s eight out of 40. That’s 20%. One in five. Eight out of 40 is not “most”.

            Of the eight who do not have listed direct numbers; common, ordinary, grassroots Bermudian knowledge would enable any ‘local’ to get four of these numbers. Easily and effortlessly.

            For instance, Kim Young [MP, UBP, Paget] does not have her number directly listed. Is this a problem? Not to a local.

            We all know she’s married to Ward Young. So we look up Ward’s number, call Ward’s house, and ask to speak to his wife – Kim Young, MP.  Simple. Dead simple.

            In this way, 36 out of our 40 elected parliamentarians can be reached. Thirty-six out of 40 is 90%. One must be mathematically moronic, incredibly incompetent, or preposterously prejudiced, to turn 4 out of 40 – that’s 10% – into “most”.

            Besides, if us Bermudians do actually call our parliamentary rep, our parliamentarian may even answer the phone himself; which means we won’t have to go through secretaries and receptionists and ‘nosey parkers’ who might put us off, or who might want to pry into our ‘business’.

            Bermuda is unique in the actual availability and accessibility of its government. Unlike Number Ten Downing Street, Bermuda’s Cabinet building isn’t closed-off.  No phalanxes of gun-toting Secret Servicemen keep Bermudians from the Premier. You can bend Minister Terry Lister’s ear when he’s walking along Parliament Street. You can e-mail MP Arthur Hodgson at his BTC listed email address. You can page MP Dr Brown on his BTC listed pager. You can get MP Michael Dunkley at any of six declared points of BTC contact. You can stop by any of their unguarded houses on any day. You can ‘wave them down’ as they drive themselves around.

            Bermuda has always enjoyed this very high and regular accessibility to its elected parliamentarians. It hasn’t changed.  I hope it never changes.

            But why did Keith Forbes, identified as the author of this website, choose to write an inaccuracy [lie]? Why did the Royal Gazette – with thousands of hours and the professional journalistic duty to verify facts – choose to allow, and thus bless, the inaccuracy [lie]. Why bless? Because this website was last updated on 31 March 2003 – just ten days ago!

            When one reads all of the other stuff that Forbes has also written on this website, with all of it copyrighted to the Royal Gazette, one is left to think that those managers at the Royal Gazette who are responsible for accuracy of content are blasé [just don’t give a damn] about truth and facts.

            Or that all of these managers are on a ‘crusade’ against the government-of-the-day. Or that all of these managers are just incompetent and unprofessional.

            It leaves us readers and net-surfers to conclude that we ought to give even less credence to the stuff that appears in the pages of the Gazette and on its website.

            I wonder? Is the individual named Keith Forbes following a highly personal agenda? Using the tools of highly subjective opinion and deliberate falsehoods, is Forbes – and the Royal Gazette – targeting and seeking to destroy some of our unique on-island systems and customs?

            In a free society, men who have individual gripes and personal agendas have the democratic right to voice and pursue them. I acknowledge that.

            But I would have thought that professionally competent editors and managers would see to it that people such as their website writers do not so affect their news-sheets, that their product is dragged, pushed, or pulled into an intellectual wasteland and is turned into ‘bum paper’.

            I would have thought that. But, in April 2003, I have no reason to.

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. ]

STREETS OF MEMORIES

Sometime soon [as you read this, it may already be happening], thousands of American soldiers will flood across the borders of Iraq. Maybe some Brits will too. They’ll probably fight a short sharp shooting war, with some collateral damage to the civilian population and buildings, after which the shooting will cease and the sun will rise on a new day.

            But the sun won’t rise on a set of new problems. Instead, the sun will rise on a new arranging of old reality. The old reality is that Western cultural, religious, and economic values will have been inserted – at gunpoint – into the cultural, religious, and economic mix of a grouping of peoples whose histories and cultures are little understood and, until now – even now – have received little attention.

            But those little-known histories are just as important as they were in Robert S McNamara’s Viet Nam.

            We know of Chechnya today, because events in Chechnya were deemed – by CNN  news editors – to be of interest to us Westerners. Thus Chechnya – its peoples, its problems, its history – was pulled out from under the blanket of ignorance and disinterest and the electrons brought it into our purview in our western living rooms.

            But the people of Chechnya have been at war with their Russian overlords since more than 400 years. Yet Westerners only became aware of the people of Chechnya and their struggles in the 1990’s.  So, today, Westerners see the ‘Chechnyian problem’ as a new problem. But Chechnyians have known four centuries of unremitting struggle.

            The same sort of thing applies to Ruanda where Westerners see the 1995 genocide but aren’t aware of the century’s old system of tribal domination of Tsutsi over Hutu. Or the Kurdish peoples multi-century’s old war for survival. Or Fiji’s one hundred years of friction between native Fijian and imported Indian. Or Canada, where First Nation people seek rights and some redress against new Canadians. Or Palestine, where the brand new state of Israel was created out of the bloodshed of their 1948 War.

            In all of these examples, old histories, past histories, and remembered histories, are as alive today as are the soldiers who await their start orders.

            Once the borders have been crossed and the shooting war has been fought and won, the importance of those many histories will rush to the fore. The deep emotions that keep those histories so vibrantly alive will rise up and little daily frictions will accumulate. These frictions, resulting from the differences in history, differences in religion, differences in cultural values, and differences in social systems, will accumulate and will blow away any chance for the kind of peace that some world leaders have used as the justification for starting a shooting war.

            The leaders of Britain, Spain, and the USA represent less than seven percent of the world’s population and less than two percent of the countries of this world. The other ninety-three percent and ninety-eight of this globe’s inhabitants have not expressed overwhelming support for a shooting war against Iraq. This much larger percentage is made up of peoples whose histories – throughout Africa, much of Asia, and parts of South America – are replete with examples of necessary struggles against invading cultures.

            In our globally connected world, the stockbroker who goes to work on the 85th floor of a skyscraper in any world financial centre is within the reach of any angry activist who – driven by his history – plots against the force that he sees as invading what he feels is his cultural or national domain.

            The Chechnyian, seeking independence, fights the Russian; the Palestinian, seeking to regain landspace, fights the Israeli; the Israeli fights to ensure that no-one – ever again – devalues and maltreats the people of his faith; and the First Nation peoples of all of North America agitate to be treated as complete equals. All of these actions are carried out with degrees of lethality and non-lethality. All of these actions are driven by other actions taken sometime in the past.

            Once the shooting has stopped in Iraq, the next shots to be heard will be the opening shots in an ongoing ‘war of history’. But given the strong religious overtones to this American-led operation, it’s unlikely that the shots in this ‘after-war’ will be kept within the borders of Iraq.

            I believe that there will be a new surging wave of resentment against Westerners. I believe that this new wave will come, not from national leaders – all of whom will utter the correct combination of syllables – but from what CNN and the other Western media have taken to calling ‘the street’. The Arab ‘street’.

            But not only the Arab street.  From many ‘streets’ all over the world.

            I believe that there will be a long “Street War”. This war will play out in an increase in many incidents directed against American [and perhaps British and other] institutions, corporations, and people – who just happen to be close enough, or vulnerable enough, to strike at.

            I believe that it will be a long war. But, lacking the glamour of a high-tech camera-ready war, it will be a war that will not garner much media time.

            It will, though, draw blood and take lives. Many lives. And it is a war that can be avoided, if diplomacy is allowed to play out.

            But it looks as if some modern leaders are so insulated from their own ‘streets’ by their own selected advisors and supporters and by a media process that is driven by a hunger for either a new story or a new angle on an old story; that they do not see the basic human realities – all those ineradicable remembrances – that underpin every political process.

            Today, as in the past, ordinary people do have feelings. The millions of anti-war marchers who loosely coordinated their global activities show that.

            However, today, ordinary people have far greater access to far more power than did their grandfathers and fathers. Today, one man in ‘the street’ can have as much power as a whole army division. That is proven by the carnage at New York’s Ground Zero and the complete shutting down of all US airspace.

            Most importantly and right around this globe, today’s ordinary man is now aware – and has been for some time – that he has this new power. And he isn’t afraid to use it.

 

THE MAN IN THE MIRROR

So how did we get so many young males living in what looks like a separate sub-culture?

            From 1960 – 1994, as Kim Young, UBP, MP wrote, we were “keeping up with the chairman of the board”. We were so busy making money, building houses, and taking trips that we never did what Michael Jackson sang about.

            We Bermudians never looked at the man [or woman] in the mirror.  Because we didn’t look at ourselves, we didn’t look at our neighbourhood – the village. Because we didn’t look at our village, we didn’t look at our country.

            Now, with guns popping off, baseball bats batting people instead of balls, and an obvious sub-culture and underclass in our midst; we’ve ‘suddenly’ started to see something.

            What we’re seeing is the result of a human failing. None of us likes to see messy and unsightly stuff. Frequently we try to mask it. If that doesn’t work, we ignore it.

            Then, when it’s completely unavoidable – our longtime Bermudian habit has been to stuff some dollars in the pockets of a foreign ‘axpert’ and launch him at the problem.  Generally, the ‘axpert’ manages to perfume the problem and mask it for a little longer.

            Then, one day, our well-perfumed mound explodes into a stinking mess. Then we Bermudians really react.        

            But we could – should – have seen it happening. How? By looking in the mirror that every – other – society seems to have.

            Look at the past five decades of Bermudian visual art. One thing stands out. There’s damn few Bermudian pictures showing ordinary Bermudian people. There’s lots of sea, scenery, and sunsets. But few people. It’s the solid evidence that we – as a whole country – didn’t even look at or see ourselves.[*]

            Additionally, up to the very early nineties, very few books were written by and about ordinary Bermudians. Writers perform the same function as visual artists. Writers create word pictures. Musicians create sound pictures.

            But not only artists.  Statisticians, whose mission is to collect numbers and identify relationships and trends, seemed to spend all their time following the flow of tourist people and dollars. Statisticians didn’t collect and highlight population numbers and social trends, and their relative values and importance. For statisticians, this is supposed to be their raison d’etre.

            By not looking at ourselves in these different ways, we were placing a low value on our human community and on our individual selves.

            Because we didn’t see ourselves as we actually were, we didn’t see what was actually happening. We didn’t see the under-educating, the under-training, the under-employing, and the consequential displacing. We didn’t ‘see’ the predictable social trend away from certain jobs. We didn’t ‘see’ the forming underclass with its predictable underclass subculture. That’s how we got here.

            In getting out, the value placed on Bermuda’s majority population is of primary importance. In past years, this population was not highly valued.

            So, first action?  Unpleasant and ‘politically incorrect’ it may be, but we’ll probably have to continue ‘writing-off’ some people. Not shoot or Zyklon them. Instead, as we started doing in the 1970’s, we’ll have to carry on serially ‘warehousing’ them in the ‘new’ correctional institutions specially built for them; and go on ‘warehousing’ them until they die out.

            Second action? Properly educate, properly train, and then employ every able-bodied Bermudian. However, even with heightened Bermudian employment, accept that our peculiarly narrow and uniquely shallow Bermuda job market will always require that part of our Bermuda workforce will always be foreign-born. Also, as we go forward, accept that some of our Bermudian people will always have to work overseas in jobs that suit their skill-sets and dispositions, but jobs that do not – and that cannot – exist in Bermuda.

            Third. Most important. Start, and never stop, looking in the mirror so that each of us sees Bermuda as it actually is, and ourselves as we really are.

            That means that those Bermudian voices and fingers and brushes that are beginning to create those mirrors need to be nurtured and encouraged.

            If we cannot see ourselves as we really are, then we’ll quickly fail as a national economic entity. Why? Because all we’re really selling are our human selves living in our complex social system set amidst our God-given 11,000 acres [don’t forget that the ‘Yanks’ gave us the other 2,000 acres].

            If we Bermudians upset our own – our very own – ‘delicate balance’ – which, nowadays, we can do so much easier – we’ll have only ourselves to blame.

            Ain’t nobody here to mess up but us! 

  

            [*] Don’t believe me?  Talk to Tom Butterfield at Masterworks!

PIECE OF THE ROCK

‘Piece of the rock’? Every Bermudian understands that. Every Bermudian also understands that a ‘piece of the rock’ is very expensive. 

            According to Coldwell Banker JW Realty: “…the average price of a home was…$965,000…”.            In a Bermuda Sun story a manager at the Bank of Bermuda: ‘…her bank would require a household to take in excess of $12,000 a month ($144,000 a year) in order to buy a million dollar home on a 30-year mortgage.’

            In other economies, a household [at least two adults] will pay from two to five times its annual household income if it chooses to buy, instead of rent, its own housing.            In our Bermuda, a two-adult household will need an annual income ranging from a LOW of $144,000 a year – buying at seven times annual income; to a high of $482,500 a year – buying at twice annual income. In our Bermuda, that’s what’s needed in order to buy ‘an average single family dwelling’.

            Ridiculous? It is. But it’s a Bermuda reality.

            The 2001 Census says that the median income for Bermudian households is $70,777. That means that exactly half the households in Bermuda have an annual household income that’s more than $70,777 a year – and the other households have a smaller income.

            Obviously, then, half of all households in Bermuda cannot possibly buy ‘an average single family dwelling’. To do so, they’d have to spend more than thirteen times [that’s right!] their annual household income. OR, they’d have to get TWO more jobs – have four incomes – in order to double their household income to [$70,777 x 2 = $141,554] and even then still spend SEVEN times their total doubled annual household income.

            So, no two income family here. Nope. This needs a four income family. Two adult persons, each working two jobs – and the kids packing groceries at the supermarket.

            Family life? Kiss it goodbye! Children? The “village” will have to raise them! Community activity? When?

            But there’s another side to our high prices. Every Bermudian who owns a ‘piece of the rock’ boasts of its value. You will not – absolutely NOT – find any Bermudian anywhere on this Island who’ll admit to living in a $100,000 dwelling.

            The only place where Bermuda residents dwell in property worth less than $100,000 is in the graveyard. And graveyard plots are damn expensive!

            The 2001 Census Report says that the median value placed on ‘a single family dwelling’ is $493,446. So a family earning the $70,777 ‘median’ income will have to spend SEVEN times that income to buy a ‘median’ priced dwelling.  

            Of Bermuda’s total of 9,764 owner-occupied dwelling units, 8,336 are said to be worth more than $350,000. Only 1,428 of all of Bermuda’s owner-occupied dwelling units are said to be worth under $350,000 – which is five times the annual (median) household income of $70,777.

            What’s happening to those 1,428 units? Their owners are doing – or planning to do – all that they can to raise the value of their ‘piece of the rock’ to the highest level possible.

            That’s the free market working with all its brutal efficiency. Everybody’s trying to get the highest possible price for his [or her] ‘piece of the rock’. The most common method of raising the price – the value – of a Bermuda dwelling?  Add on!

            By adding more bits to the house, the owner hopes to push up its value by one or two hundred thousand dollars. That way a shamefully low-value $350,000 single dwelling becomes a socially acceptable higher value $550,000 single dwelling.

            That’s the real estate reality.

            Yes, people do wail and gnash their teeth about a lack of affordable housing. These wailer’s are not homeowners. But once these wailers and gnashers can be converted into homeowners – they do exactly as I’ve just described.

            A recent Royal Gazette story. A young couple managed to find a house for $365,000. What are they planning? Yup! Add on! So this $365,000 ‘find’ will become a $465,000 or $565,000 ‘value’.

            Does Bermuda have a Housing problem?  Perhaps not. The reality?  Bermuda may have a ‘free market economy’ problem. In this ‘free market economy’, everybody really desires a $500,000 ‘piece of the rock’ and nobody – absolutely NOBODY – wants a simple $100,000 ‘affordable’ single family dwelling?

            If any Bermudian family or household manages to get its hands on a $100,000 single family dwelling – they’ll add on anything to take its value up as high and as fast as they can.

            Isn’t that the real Bermuda?  Really?