THE NEW POWER

Mass the forces. Launch the bombers. Loose the media mavens. Then sit back and watch as “the good guys” smash “the bad guys“. It looked so simple. But it seems that the decision-makers either under-estimated or chose to ignore the growing power of “the people with no names“.            Who are the “people with no names”?            They’re the millions of people whose faces and names don’t fill today’s TV screens. They are not the Donald Rumsfelds, George W Bush’s, or Jacques Chirac’s. Neither are they the embedded reporters describing combat operations in Iraq.            They are your neighbours across the road. The demonstrator outside the White House. The marchers in Melbourne. The rioters in Cairo. And the sniper or suicide bomber from some difficult to pronounce place or clump of buildings or new pile of rubble on some patch of earth somewhere in this world. Maybe Palestine, or Basra, or Grozny, or …            Half a century ago the black American poet, Langston Hughes, observed that people were rising up and throwing off ‘downpressing’ regimes. Hughes wrote: “The folks with no titles in front of their names, all over the world, are raring up and talking back to the folks called mister…”[*]            In the 1940’s the voices of the “people with no names” were unheard. But the “people with no names” talked back at Dien Ben Phu in 1954, in Montgomery Alabama in 1955, in Algeria in 1960, in Zimbabwe in 1978, at the Berlin Wall in 1989…            All over the world, the “people with no names” have continued talking back and wrenching more and more control of the world from the people called “mister”.            Now, the voices of the “people with no names” connect and fly through the Internet; their massed faces are seen on our TV screens; their thoughts stream out of fax machines and pour into ‘talk shows’.             But their individual faces still don’t fill the TV screens. That’s still done by the hired ‘talking heads’ who look back at us while they earnestly analyze or report some minor incident of the moment that some TV news producer has decreed is ‘headline’ or  ‘breaking’ news that must be brought to us ‘live’.              The still unfolding story of this western toss of the dice into the sands of Iraq shows that the feelings, values, and opinions of ordinary people are having a direct and profound effect on all the combatants involved in this dusty gamble.              It’s a long way from the Second World War fire-bombing of the German cities of Hamburg , Dresden, and Cologne.             Now, in 2003, the world’s most powerful nation finds itself fighting a war in which it must so arrange its actions that it does not simply obliterate “targets”; or even rough-up civilian populations.            The world’s superpower cannot be prevented from tossing its smart bombs at will. But it is now forced to weigh ‘target’ value against world opinion.            As the black clouds and bright flashes of destruction of this gamble in Iraq are presented to us by TV’s ‘talking heads’, we are also seeing the power of mighty missiles being blunted and reduced by the growing power of the “people with no names”.            When the shooting ends – perhaps I should say when the shooting dies down – the world’s only superpower will find itself in a new world where its power to act is still not limited by any adversary who possesses equal combat power. Rather, it will find its military power limited even further by something called ‘world opinion’.             You may think that this sounds all fuzzy and ephemeral. But consider this. In February 1945, the Allied Powers mounted a one day thousand bomber raid on Dresden and destroyed that city, killing over 100,000 German civilians as a by-product – what’s now called ‘collateral damage’.            Now, in 2003, using bigger and even more powerful modern bombs and missiles, superpower USA can easily mount a 500 bomber 500 missile one-day raid on Baghdad.  US armed forces, acting alone, can completely obliterate that city and kill an even larger number of Iraqi civilians – in far less time, and with much less risk, effort, and expense, than it took to destroy Dresden, or Cologne, or Hamburg.            But superpower USA hasn’t done that. Superpower USA won’t do that. Why not? World opinion!            And what’s world opinion? It’s the amassing of the opinions of all those millions of “people with no names”. It’s the emerging hidden power that no one sees – but everyone recognizes.            Even Dubya and the whole mighty power of hyper-power USA.             

[*] From the collected poems of Langston Hughes – “In Explanation of Our Times”.

 

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THE NATURAL TEAM

I’m a father. That means that I have at least one child. Actually I have two. I’m also a parent. This suggests that I share the task of fathering with someone else. I do. I co-parent with my wife, the mother of those two children, and to whom I’ve been married for more than thirty years.

            Because I’m a parent I love our two children. But so do most normal parents. So I’m at least as normal as any other normal parent.

            However, because I’m a parent, and, I believe, only because I’m a parent, I have, at times thought certain thoughts, felt certain feelings, and have been impelled by certain impulses. In all of this I think, again, that I’m normal.

            There have been times – but only for split-seconds – when I seriously considered taking the life of one, or other, sometimes both, of my progeny.  And when, during those split-seconds, I also contemplated the consequences of my actions, I thought that the Chief Justice himself would step down from his seat of judgment, throw his arms about me, and congratulate me for my actions. For he, too, would have seen the wisdom of my deed. And if the twelve ‘good men’ of the jury were parents – they would have understood completely.

            There were other moments when I wondered if the Good Lord had sent these two as special punishments for some grievous sin I’d committed in some previous sojourn on this particular – or some other – cosmic ball.

            There were yet other times when, even though I was sure that they were the seed of my loins, I had cause to doubt that; believing – if only for nano-seconds – that they were the offspring of the One called Lucifer.

            But ninety-nine point nine-nine-nine-five percent of the time, I loved those two children. Especially when they were babies, and even when they were teenagers I loved them. I still do. I believe that my wife may have loved them even more than I and she may not have suffered those momentary lapses of which I speak. But then, she is a woman, and as a woman, she is biologically designed, specially built, and intellectually set up to care more than I – a mere man.

            So, as one half of a parent team, I think that I understand something about double parenting. But, never having been a single parent, I confess that I don’t know much about single parenting.           

            In my ignorance of single parenting, I wonder how single parents cope. I wonder who they turn to when those primeval urges well up. But, perhaps, these urges don’t happen with single parents. Perhaps single parents have different children who are always obedient, eternally thoughtful, and who always consider the results before they commit their childish actions. Perhaps single parents are singularly blessed with perfect children.

            But if their children are not perfect, how do they cope? And do single parents cope as well as the natural team of father and mother?

            Judging by the number of persons in Westgate who share a common denominator of mother present, father absent, single-parenthood; it may be that certain aspects of single parenthood may be indicators of future problems.

            Why then is single parenthood chosen more frequently today than before?

            I guess that one of the reasons may be that there’ve been lots of books written – by experts – and many theories expounded – by experts – on child-rearing. Many of these books give the impression that child-rearing is easy. I confess that I’ve read a few of these books. However, I must also confess that, with hindsight, I think I’d have gotten better use from these books – especially the thicker ones – if I’d used them as bludgeoning devices in my unrelenting battle to maintain an upper hand in the continual inter-generational warfare in my household.

            These books and theories so often suggest that there are simple rules, which, if followed will guarantee success in child-raising. However, the only simple rule that I found that always worked was: “Strike first!”  Punish! Then ask!

            This invariably provoked an inter-generational discussion of varying intensity. But because I had already seized the high ground, I discussed from a position of strength.       With the hindsight from two decades of child-raising as part of a natural team, I now know – not believe – KNOW that the natural team is the best team. That all other child-rearing arrangements are creaking substitutes.

            So why would someone – anyone – choose single-parenthood?

            I understand that single-parenthood can happen as a result of ignorance and inexperience, condom slippage, pill failure, wrong rhythm, or just plain trickery. I accept that when this happens, one is left with no real choice.  But I am puzzled by people who knowingly choose single-parenthood.

            By this I mean those persons who choose to rear a child when they know they are not part of a natural team. Marriage is one way to form a natural team. A steady long-term cohabitation can also make a good natural team. But where neither of these two adult relationships occurs, it’s unwise – stupid even – to attempt to successfully rear one child, or two, or three, or more.

            If my experience is anything to go by, those primeval urges will come, and if not properly handled, the children can be damaged. I believe that many children of single parents are damaged. My belief is supported by Bermuda’s national social statistics.  It is also supported by the statistics of many other countries whose people care enough to study these things.  And Bermuda does, after all, have the world’s seventh highest prison population. Which means that 193 other countries are doing better than us.

            What to do about it?

            Support the natural team! Join one or form one! Don’t go single!

 

AN ODE TO SOCKS

One of life’s still unsolved mysteries, yet to turn up on cable TV’s Cold Case Files is: “Why do socks come up un-matched?”

            Ever since I can remember, I have always had one or more singles of socks. That’s one sock when I should have had two. Or two socks – of different colours – when they should have been of the same colour. And texture. And design.

            I believe that I’m not alone in this. I believe that one or two, and maybe more, men share this problem.

            I go into a retail establishment and thoughtfully buy a carefully and properly paired pair of socks – two socks – of the same colour, texture, design. I pay for this pair of socks. Bring them home. Put them in my sock drawer. I take them out of my sock drawers. Put them on my two feet – one sock on each foot – and wear them. I later take them off and at this point I still have two – matching – socks.

            Then this carefully matched pair gets into a wash process.

            And what comes out? One sock! Or two unmatched socks!

            How does that happen? So regularly?

            The wash process itself has modernized from the old days when we washed clothes in big galvanized tubs with glass washboards and bars of yellow Sunlight soap. Now we use machinery. Now socks get put into a washer. The washer lid gets closed. And in the darkness, spooks and detergent microbes do their stuff.

            Because modern washing takes place in this primeval darkness, I have the feeling that primitive and ancient forces are at work. Perhaps all the whirling and whirring of modern washers comes from the frenzied actions of sock-eating spooks. Spooks with tastes both peculiar and particular.

            Peculiar and particular because they only consume socks. Not shirts, or pants, or boxer shorts.

            It probably isn’t socially acceptable to go around speaking of spooks and stuff. It may upset some people. But the continued disappearing of my socks tells me that spooks are real, alive, and kicking. And stealing!

            So if anyone wants to join me in a spook hunt, come along. However, if it makes you happy, we’ll call the spooks something else. But before you come, make sure your socks match.

            On the other foot – hand? – I think there may be some merit in us men wearing tights. At least that’ll get rid of the eternal problem of finding and matching two socks.

            Of course in our strongly conservative Bermuda society, eyebrows and hackles will have risen already just because I’ve suggested it.

            But consider this. In the good old days – when people who looked like me worked for free – even the Kings of England and Republican Americans used to mess around in white tights. Now you can’t get more conservative than those guys.

            However, now that I remember, George lll and George Washington, both of whom wore tights, went to war. So did that Louis the some-teenth guy and Napoleon Courvoisier – oops! – Bonaparte.

            Do Dubya and Rumsfeld wear tights?

 

RESURRECTING DEMONS

In the 1950’s and 1960’s the sons and daughters of working-class black families attended the Berkeley Institute. They went to Berkeley because they couldn’t go to Saltus, or Bermuda High School for Girls [BHS], or Warwick Academy, or Mount Saint Agnes Academy [MSA]. They couldn’t go to these other schools because these schools didn’t accept black children – even if they were academically qualified, and even if their parents could pay the fees.

            In the 1950’s and 1960’s these sons and daughters of working-class black families, after five years at Berkeley, sat the same ‘external’ examinations as the children of Saltus, BHS, and Warwick. In the 1950’s and 1960’s these sons and daughters of black families passed these external exams. Often – most of the time – they got better results than the ‘other’ kids at Saltus, BHS, and Warwick.

            Racial integration and the 1970’s arrived. Some sons and daughters of black families began attending Saltus, BHS, Warwick Academy, and MSA. But white children did not begin turning up at Berkeley.

            In the early 1970’s the government-of-that-day closed the Bermuda Technical Institute [‘Tech’] and began to introduce the Bermuda Secondary School Certificate [BSSC]. The BSSC was intended as a replacement for the Cambridge School Certificate [CSC], set by Cambridge University; and the General Certificate of Education [GCE], set by London University.

            By the mid-1980’s, Berkeley, still a 99.98% black school was having less success at the newer GCE’s and GCSE’s which were replacing the old CSC [Cambridge] and GCE [London].

            Had the students entering Berkeley become generically and genetically less able? No. Not at all. Nor had they become less capable. But the trend in results in these external exams had turned downwards, continually downwards. Finally, in 2000, Berkeley stopped regularly entering its students for these external exams. Berkeley’s decline had reached bottom.

            During all this time, Saltus, BHS, and Warwick Academy, whose students had not become genetically superior, had continued preparing their students and entering their students for these external exams. Their students continued to pass these exams.

            By the mid-1980’s, Berkeley students were no longer entering first rate universities and were fading from the ranks of local scholarship winners. Their places were taken by students from Saltus, BHS, Warwick Academy, and MSA.

            Cedarbridge Academy has no record of past success. Berkeley Institute, in this new millennium, does not produce the quality of product that it produced for most of the old millennium. Within twelve months, further up the hill from the present Berkeley Institute, there’ll be a brand-new building which will also be named as the Berkeley Institute.

            Will this expensive new building be used to house failing policies, shelter under-performing students, and provide jobs for a teaching faculty that delivers a product that is markedly inferior to the product coming out of Saltus, BHS, Warwick Academy, and MSA? If Bermuda’s public education policies don’t change – and change fast – the ‘new’ Berkeley Institute will continue to produce an inferior product.

            White Bermudians have already abandoned Bermuda’s public education system. In the 1980’s blacks began to drift away from publicly funded secondary education.  In the 1990’s, this drift turned into a stream. If this black shift continues, it will turn into a black flood and the expensive ‘new’ Berkeley Institute will fail, and will fail in the same way, and for the same reasons, as the present Berkeley.

            It’s now blatantly and nationally obvious that in the 1970’s two wrong policies were formulated and then implemented. The first was the policy decision to do away with the Bermuda Technical Institute – the ‘Tech’. The second was the policy decision to start replacing the CSC and GCE external exams with an internal exam – the BSSC.

            Both policy errors have resulted in a degrading of the quality of public education that is delivered to those Bermudians who can only afford public education. It has also resulted in the non-delivery of adequately prepared middle level [semi-professional and para-professional] workers for our radically changed workplace.

            Both policy errors have also contributed to the now perceptible increase in certain kinds of social tensions and social pressures. These pressures show up in the increase of the massing of young men into their own separate social groups – ‘gangs’; in stronger competition for lower cost housing; and in the growing disparity between the grand lifestyles and wide choices of high-end income earners and the less grand lifestyles and fewer choices of low end service providers. 

            The full effect of these two failed educational policies is that the 55% of Bermudian students who only ever use the public education system, have a lower starting point when they leave this education system and enter Bermuda’s job market or try for tertiary education.  They start one or two steps behind. They start one or two levels below their peers who’ve gone through, or who switched to, the private education system. Having started behind or below, many never catch up or even have a fair chance of catching up.

            Statistical information as well as our everyday experiences tells us that in 2002, we were ‘under-educating’ 55% of our national Bermudian population. We were under-educating and therefore under-preparing this huge percentage of our national Bermudian population in a Bermuda that, in 2002 and 2003, is a global player in a harsh and uncaring global environment. Both ‘Tourism’ and ‘Business’ operate in an environment of global competition. Both industries need to be staffed by people able to win in a competition against millions of well-educated or better-educated people everywhere else in the world.

            Some may – many will – see this difference in the delivery of education as a narrow black/white issue. It isn’t. It’s a much broader race-neutral national issue. The reality, though, is that the overwhelming majority of the people who are being under-educated are black. Because this black majority receives a second-class education, it is in danger of being consigned to permanent or quasi-permanent second-class status. But this inferior status will be a result of their second-class education. Not their skin colour. Even though the vast majority will be black.

            Left unchanged, these failed education policies will take us backwards and will re-segregate Bermuda. But Bermuda will re-segregate on bad new education lines – not the bad old colour lines. However, it will appear as if the segregation is colour-based.[*]           But despite this verifiable reality, the parallel and consequential reality is that re-segregation will resurrect and re-energize the almost buried ‘race-hate’ demons.  Demons that all of us have worked hard at capturing, killing, and burying.  

            Dr Eva Hodgson’s book “Second Class Citizens, First Class Men” [1964], accurately described the Bermuda of the past. The book’s title – re-worded – accurately describes today’s public education situation. It’ll be ironic – damned ironic – if this book’s title just as accurately describes the Bermuda of the future. [**]    

            Given the passage of thirty years; given the clear evidence that Bermuda’s public education system is delivering an inferior product; given the need to avoid more and growing national social tensions; it’s time to admit past errors and make future changes.

            Even superpower USA had to humble itself, acknowledge its mistake, bury its 58,000 American boys, and retreat from Vietnam. Former US Secretary of Defence, Roberts S McNamara, enlightened by twenty-two years of hindsight, admitted that US involvement in Vietnam was wrong. But he did admit it.

            We Bermudians have to do so much less. All we Bermudians have to do is display some good sense and acknowledge past Bermudian mistakes. We’ve no dead to bury. Not yet, anyway!

            So when I opened Tim Hodgson’s weekend newssheet [24th  December 2002] and read that persons from the Ministry of Education were looking at the possibility of bringing back external exams for students in the public system, I thought – Hallellujah!  My people have seen the light!  Some good sense’! It’s fifteen years overdue but  it’s here now!

            By the way, our very public and frenzied ‘fussing’ over the Auditor and the angry words and the accusations and the money and the contract and the builders and the building of the ‘new’ Berkeley reminds me of Rome blazing while Emperor Nero played Bob Marley reggae on the electric guitar – or was it a Handel largo on an electric violin?…

            What concerns you? The fuss or the future? What’s important? The building or what will happen inside the building?

           

 [*] Ask yourself this question: “Has re-segregation been happening already?” But before you answer, examine the relevant data in the 1991 and 2000 Census Reports. [**] Dr Hodgson’s 1964 book was sponsored by the Amalgamated Bermuda Union of Teachers – an ironic twist.

PLP WIN!

This second PLP win at the polls marks the real turning point in Bermuda’s 394 year social history.

            In November 1998, when the PLP won its first election, Bermuda’s majority population reached the level of maturity that showed that it was ready to take charge of its own affairs, make its own decisions, and carry its own responsibility. This time around, those three factors were back in the mix and once again, Bermuda’s majority made a conscious decision.

            There will be many other next times.

            Five years from now, the question of who will be elected will be more wide open. The electorate will be more sophisticated.  In the new 1,200 voter single seat constituencies, brighter ‘sparks’ will realize that a Parliamentary seat can be won by garnering a mere 350 – 400 votes. Provided, of course, that diehard PLP’ers and till-death-do-us-part UBP’ers insist on still voting their party lines.

            Now, in 2003 and into the future, the world can see that Bermuda has moved from a benign oligarchy to democracy. Even us Bermudians can now see that rule by majority is here.

            That’s the real impact of this election win.

            Berkeley? BHC? Drugs? Crime?  Buzzwords for political campaign planners. Not real issues. The real issue was always beneath the skin. That’s the Bermuda reality.

            What now for the PLP?

            The PLP must change. If Bermuda is to remain a successful national entity in a world of big superpower ‘bruisers’, then Bermuda’s whole population must become involved in those issues that are of real national importance. What are these real issues?

            Immigration and work opportunities.  Education and work opportunities. Housing availability and mechanisms for achieving that. Safeguards for our total Bermuda social and natural environment. National alignment with International bodies – CARICOM? OECD? EU? Independence?  

            For the future, the PLP’s old style of decision making in relative seclusion must change to decision making moved to the wide open halls of a broader public forum.  For this the PLP needs to look at its methods for engendering the style and quality of debate that the country needs; and for how it can encourage yet still manage that debate.

            For this, I believe that the PLP needs to alter its style of national leadership. The current leader group must alter its styles in order to better lead this more mature nation into the new ‘e-world’ that’s emerging from our PC’s, cellphones, and TV’s.

            For the party, the joined positions and tasks of Party Leader and Leader of the Government must be separated. One is a task for a shirt-sleeved visored ‘apparatchik’. The other for a national Leader. One requires attention to picky and mundane detail. The other requires broad forward vision and wide strategic insight. One is world stage. The other is back office.

            Going into this new ‘e-world’ this densely populated but isolated coral atoll needs good forward vision and farsighted management. We – all of us Bermudians – have a very delicate balance that we all need to understand and have to help maintain.

 

NUMBERS. JUST NUMBERS

45k through radar? No problem! 65k? You’re ‘off the road’! Just numbers and the effects of numbers. That’s happened with some things in our Bermuda.

            Right now there are about 240 male Bermudians locked up in Bermuda’s prisons.

            Is 240 a big number? Not when you consider that England and Wales have about 63,000 male prisoners.  63,000 is a big number.  Much bigger than 240. So we could just say that they have more people locked up than Bermuda has.   

            There are about 52,000,000 people in England and Wales. But suppose they only had a population of 52,000. If that happened, and their prison numbers fell by the same ratio, then England and Wales would only have 63 male prisoners. That’s right. Sixty-three.

            So, making a comparison of us 49,000 Bermudians to a population pool of 52,000 people in England and Wales; Bermuda still has an actual count of 240 Bermudians in prison. Go the other way? We’d have 254,000 male prisoners if there were 52,000,000 of us Bermudians.

            Either way, it means that we have three times as many of our male nationals in our prison system as does England and Wales.  So we Bermudians have an incarceration rate that’s more than three times higher. And they have Europes’s second highest incarceration rate [Portugal is top].

            But does that really matter to us Bermudians? Is it important?

            Well, if you leave your house unlocked at night, don’t lock your car when you park it, aren’t bothered by gang fights and shootings and stabbings and daylight robberies by armed groups; then I guess it doesn’t matter – to you.

            But if you are bothered by the incidence of crime, then it does matter. So if you’ve wondered about crime and what can be done about it, you might need to consider this.

            In 1971, Bermuda’s whole prison population totaled 131 people. That’s right – 131 people. About 110 were Bermudian males. Thirty years later, in 2003, Bermuda’s whole Bermuda-born male and female prison population is about 300. About 240 are Bermudian males. So, since 1971, the number of ‘locked up’ Bermudian males has more than doubled.

            But from 1971 to now, the percentage of male Bermudians in the age groups that actually commit most serious crime went DOWN. That’s right. In 2003 there are relatively FEWER males aged 15 – 45 [the prime crime committing ages] than there were in 1971.

            What’s more, Bermuda’s total Bermudian population did not balloon. There were 42,000 of us Bermudians in 1971. Thirty years later, there are about 49,000 of us lot. So population-wise, we Bermudians only grew by about 16% over thirty years. That’s snail-like population growth.

            But over the same thirty years, our prison numbers ballooned by more than 200%. It more than doubled from 110 males locked-up then, to 240 males locked-up now.

            It seems as if we spent thirty-two years locking people up faster than they were being born. “Look!..  There’s another one!.. Quick!.. Lock him up!”

            So what really happened between 1971 and now? What caused our prison numbers to run up so fast so high? What?

            We both know the same facts.

            I know that people are not born ‘bad’. So do you. I know that over fifteen, twenty, and thirty years, societal factors cause a sweet new-born baby to become a dysfunctional member of society. So do you.

            So we both know that some values in our Bermuda society changed. We both know that one result of this shift in values was that from 1971 to now, we actually ‘locked up’ our own Bermudian people faster than they were being born. Now, with 240 Bermudian males locked-up, we have a problem.

            With recidivism as high as it is, what happens over five years? Well, over five years, more than 2,500 Bermudian men go in then out then in then out then in then out…of prison. It never stops. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. In.

            Now you’ve seen numbers in absolute terms and in proportion. By itself, 240 is not big. In proportion, 240 is HUGE and is screaming evidence of a dysfunctional society. But a five year running total of over 2,500 Bermudian men cycling through our prison is worse. It’s earsplitting testimony to dysfunction.

            Dysfunction is still dysfunction even if it is concealed within pretty cottages behind oleander hedges edged by pink beaches.

            Something went horribly wrong! It’s still wrong! Whatever it is, it’s still affecting us.  All of us.

 

MALLS AND PALLS

In February 2003, Bermuda’s Chamber of Commerce will put out the figures for December’s retail sales. These figures are unlikely to show any significant increase in local spending. Admittedly, retail sales seem to be down in all western economies, so it’s arguable that Bermuda is simply following a global pattern.

            That may be true. But it’s also true that Bermudians do a helluva lot of shopping overseas and on the Internet and through service providers such as Zip-X; and through other means. And not much of this kind of shopping is tracked or recorded.

            The odds are that nationally, Bermudian spending is generally higher – perhaps significantly higher – than last year. The odds are that while nationally, Bermudian spending is significantly higher, direct Bermudian spending in Bermuda’s on-island local retail market is down; or not significantly up.

            Why?

            Because overseas shopping and Internet shopping offers a variety of choice that local retailers would be – actually are – hard-pressed to match. Then, with UPS, Fedex, and Zip-X delivering goods in two to five working days; there’s also a high element of convenience.

            Whilst a three day wait may seem a long time, it needs to be set against the reality that the selection and choice and purchase arrangements are made in the comfort of one’s home, at a time of one’s choosing, and without the hassle of driving, parking, walking, and then hunting, and – often – not finding; all followed by more walking and driving. For many of these imported items, the final price is unlikely to be much higher than what would have been charged for an over-the-counter local sale.

            Bermudians are a sophisticated people. They are accustomed to the ambiance of modern shopping malls and shopping precincts. They are used to wandering amongst vast choices; wandering without vehicle traffic; wandering and able to stop and eat, or stop and rest; just wandering in a shopping area that’s full of people and people friendly activities.

            Designers of modern shopping malls and precincts now understand that they are not just delivering measured selling space to a retailer; they are also delivering ambiance and atmosphere to shoppers. Retailers in these malls take care, nowadays, to ensure that their mall and precinct managers cultivate an atmosphere and support activities that will attract and hold people.

            That’s what happens overseas. In Canada, the USA, the UK, the European continent, in the Islands.

            But not here. Not in our City of Hamilton. Not here. Oh no! Not here!

            With great and sustained effort, Hamilton’s whole merchant community, has actively resisted – and continues to resist – the kind of change that is necessary for their own economic survival. Hamilton’s merchant community persists – insists – on maintaining a retail environment that is NOT people friendly; that does NOT invite wandering; that does NOT encourage people to come and tarry awhile.

            Hamilton’s merchant community persists – insists – on maintaining a retail environment that requires – demands – a narrow and focused ‘hunt and seek’ style of shopping. And that’s stupid. Damn stupid.

            Hamilton’s retail centre of gravity is probably a point near Frankie Brewster’s Pro Shop. If you stand there, you’re probably at the centre of Hamilton’s major shopping area. If you measure out from there and go 150 metres [500 feet] east and west, then 150 metres [500 feet] north and south; you’ll find all the major shops. But this whole area is just about the same area as a medium size [new] mall in North America or a shopping precinct in a mid-size English town.

            But oh, how inconvenient! Cars, bikes, trucks. Parking and double-parking. No convenient eating places. No convenient sitting or resting places. And when it rains…  Oh forget it! 

            So here we are. The Bermuda Monetary Authority said there was $91,000,000 in circulation at Christmas. We’re a sophisticated population with money to spend. A cosmopolitan population that is renowned in East Coast malls and factory outlets for being free-spending shoppers. A free-spending population that saves to spend.

            Yet, in February 2003, local retailers will complain that Bermudians didn’t spend as much this year as last.

            Perhaps local retailers need to examine the ambiance that Hamilton delivers. Perhaps local retailers need to create a shopping precinct that attracts, holds, and services people. Perhaps local retailers need to appreciate that their ability to attract dollars depends, ultimately, on their ability to attract – and hold – people.

            Perhaps local retailers need to move fast to push the traffic out of town and pull the people into town. Perhaps they need to rip up that long strip of dead asphalt that knifes through Hamilton. Give it over to grass and flowers, or tile and flowers, or cobblestones and flowers; and walking and sitting people, and commercial services that cater to walking and sitting people.

            Imagine what would happen if one of those North American malls suddenly decided to let people drive and park their cars right on the main mall walkway. Can you imagine that? It should be easy. It’s exactly what the local retail community has been doing for years, and is still doing now.

            But in February 2003, in an ironic twist, the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce [Retail Division] will speak for Bermuda’s retail community and will comment on low retail sales!  

            Come on guys. In this New Year, take your fingers out from where you’ve got them so firmly stuck, put your wooden heads together, talk to the four banks and to this government, float the bonds, and make the changes.

            If you don’t, you’ll be Zip-X’ed, Fedex’ed, UPS’ed, Amazon’ed, J C Penney’ed, Land’s End’ed, King of Prussia’d…  out of existence.

            But why should I and anybody else care? We should care because our whole Bermuda environment is affected by this steadily reducing choice. This reduction is driven by the lack of profit that can’t provide funds for re-investment and improvement and that helps to further reduce future choice…

            I and my 48,999 fellow Bermudians are all part of the problem. If I and you and  government and business and retailers work together, we can all help enhance choice, improve ambiance for both locals and tourists, retain and increase retail jobs, improve profits, and back to where it started – enhance choice.

            That’s if we work together. But if we stay separate, consumers will go on seeking variety and silently complaining – by withdrawing their custom – about the lack of ambiance. Retailers will go on watching their market shrink. Tourists and International Business will find Bermuda to be even more unjustifiably expensive. And all of us Bermudians will eventually find that our whole quality of life will have declined to where Bermuda becomes an extremely expensive but unattractive living environment for everyone from Local to Tourist to Businessman.

            It isn’t that I want a mall. I want a growing future. Not the declining future that I see looming. So all of us – customers, merchants, business community, and government – need to invest in change – NOW!