CHOOSE YOUR WEAPON

Men used to walk around with rapiers and duel one another. Later, it was flintlock pistols. Then revolvers. Nowadays, all these weapons are banned. Nowadays, you can’t even walk around with a kitchen knife, or baseball bat, or machete without some officious person in a blue uniform wanting to stop you and arrest you under some section of some Act for breaking some law or other that says you can’t possess an ‘offensive weapon’.

I guess things had to come to this. After all, it’s just not nice to go around mashing people up with guns and knives and baseball bats and crash helmets etc… It seems, though, that today’s best weapon may be your car or your bike.

The way Bermuda’s Magistrates are building Bermuda’s case law, it seems that the best way to manage a confrontation with someone would be to run that person over – several times – with your bike. Or, kill her with your car.

Whatever you do though, don’t slap her face or hit her with your crash helmet.  That would be a SERIOUS crime!

 

THE REAL ISSUE

“Don’t get your knickers in a twist” is how the Brits would say it. For Jamaican’s, it’s “Hol’ yuh cool.” However it’s said, the message is the same.

            Alpha Phi Alpha took umbrage at what I’d written. What did I write?  Alpha Phi Alpha is a ‘black’ fraternity…”

They are. Alpha Phi Alpha’s history says that seven black men – “jewels” – started the fraternity.  The fraternity adopted its first constitution in December 1907.  It opened its ranks to whites and others in 1945. In 2005, their own chapters describe themselves on their own websites. In 2005, Alpha Phi Alpha is ‘black’ in the same way that the AME church – certainly an international, interracial, and Christian organization – is still a ‘black’ church. Alpha Phi Alpha is still a ‘black’ fraternity.

            Did Alpha Phi Alpha invite all six senior schools to participate? Their follow-up complaint in the Royal Gazette says that they did.  The original “Bermuda Sun” story said Alpha Phi Alpha only asked five of the six schools to participate.

            If Alpha Phi Alpha were seeking to find as many young men as they could, I’d expect them to ask all six senior schools. Whether or not they asked five or six is entirely their own business. 

            If, however, they did leave out one school – which school was it? In the same free world that Alpha Phi Alpha lives in, I’m free to wonder why? I’m free to ask. I’m free to comment. I did.

From census and education statistics, at the senior school level, counting just one age-band of Bermudian boys, there are about 250 black male students in that one age-band. About 180 black male students would be in public education and 70 in private education.

Alpha Phi Alpha’s offer may have been to every student in that age-band in Bermuda. That was excellent. Alpha Phi Alpha’s response in the Royal Gazette obscured the fact that I’d said – quite clearly – that their offer was not fully taken up. That was no fault of Alpha Phi Alpha. The fault lay elsewhere.

Bermuda’s two ‘public schools’ contain the overwhelming majority of black male students. Neither of these two publicly funded schools ensured that at least two of their 180 eligible black male students completed Alpha Phi Alpha’s challenge. Three ‘private schools’ share 70 of these male students.

The real issue – the important issue – the fundamental issue – that really bothered me was this. Why did neither of the two publicly funded public schools complete the challenge? This was the critical issue.  

It bothered me. I thought it would bother everybody else. I hoped it would bother everybody else. That’s why I pointed it out.  That this excellent opportunity wasn’t fully subscribed still bothers me.

A large part of a very real problem, shown in this little spat and spread throughout much of our Bermudian life, is a Bermudian propensity for too many of us Bermudians – certainly individually and sometimes nationally – to focus on the smallest and least important fragment of a much bigger and far wider problem.

Far too many Bermudians work themselves up into a frenzy over one or two niggling points and completely miss the big red monster blob.

Come on people: “Hol’ yuh cool!” See the real problem!

 

GHOST TOWN

In town the other day, I got a feeling that there not many people were about. It seemed to me that a certain vibrancy was missing. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. It was as if some of the throb had gone out of the town. It wasn’t a rainy day and Reid Street just didn’t seem as ‘busy’ as I seemed to remember it usually was.

            That set me recalling how dead Hamilton became – especially at night – when Bermuda General Theatres finally gave up and closed the Rosebank Theatre. For months thereafter, Hamilton, at night was a ghost town.  Hamilton didn’t come alive until the BIU opened the Liberty Theatre and Raymond White followed with the Little Theatre. These two businesses acted like a blood transfusion and colour and life flowed back into what was looking, increasingly, like a dying city. Pubs and bars got a new lease on life and night-time restaurant business went up.

            With Trimingham’s closure, the overall effect is that of an anchor store in a big shopping mall pulling out. First, there’s a noticeable reduction in people flow. This sparks the pullout of just one more anchor shop. Then the mall implodes. There’s an exodus of smaller shops and the mall dies. It gets rejuvenated by becoming a place where low margin shops and offices can operate but it has lost its ability to pull in masses of people. It’s a shell of its former successful self.

            I have the sense that Hamilton – as it did all those years ago – is losing people again.

            Over and over, I’ve suggested that Hamilton’s City Fathers – the mayor and the ‘businessmen’ and that lot who’ve plunked themselves on the Corporation of Hamilton – should float a bond and borrow sufficient funds to turn Reid Street into a traffic-free shopping and entertainment and eating and recreational area. They would be able to pay off that bond from increased revenue from increased people flow and increased retail activity and an increase in service providers and an increase in entertainment activity.

            Such a move would pull people into Hamilton and, as on Harbour nights and Christmas shopping nights, people will come, people will hang, and people will spend. The businesses that the City fathers own will all have an excellent opportunity to pick up more custom from a greater volume of people traffic as more people come out to where the ‘action’ is.

            I now rescind that advice.

            Instead, I now recommend that the City Fathers get themselves a wide banner that will take six foot high letters. They should hang that banner from their City Hall. Before hanging their banner, they should have a sign writer write on it – in six foot high letters – and it isn’t a spelling error  – “FARTERS IN CHARGE.” 

            Then they should all shut up their shops and go home – forever.

 

FINITE OR FINESSE PART ll

Richard Galant of Newsday:  Now, though, Bermuda faces a storm of a different kind. Bermuda-related companies are caught in the web of a wide-ranging investigation by spitzer and the securities and exchange commission.” So, if everything seemed board-room, offshore, and not relevant, just consider these easy-to-see connected realities.

            Guilty pleas. So far, ten executives have entered guilty pleas. Four from AIG

, three from M&M, one from ACE. So 80% of the guilty pleas involve big insurance entities with a major presence in Bermuda.

            Marsh&McLennan, a major player in Bermuda’s insurance world, has already paid a penalty of $850m and cut its global staff. Jeffrey Greenberg [son of Maurice ‘Hank’ Greenberg] was required to ‘step down’ as M&M’s CEO. Insurance broker AON has paid a $190m penalty. That’s $1.04bn, so far, in penalties.

            AIG, the biggest player in Bermuda’s insurance world, is under investigation for questionable accounting practices that may go back fourteen years. AIG has admitted to ‘irregularities’. In its 30th April 10-K, AIG will admit to a new accounting loss of $1.77bn. To avoid harsh legal action, Maurice ‘Hank’ Greenberg [Jeffrey and Evan’s father] had to step down as CEO. Michael Murphy and four other Bermuda based AIG executives have made hasty departures.

            ACE, highly visible in Bermuda’s insurance world, has had 43 subpoenas – so far. ACE’s CEO is Evan Greenberg [Maurice’s son and Jeffrey’s brother]. In connection with Spitzer’s investigation, ACE has fired two top execs and, like AIG, remains under investigation.

            PwC [PricewaterhouseCoopers], the Bermuda-based global accounting and audit firm, profitably audited AIG’s books for thirty years. Accusations of accounting legerdemain, especially if they stick, have the potential to place PwC in the same embarrassing position as Arthur Andersen was with ENRON.

            Finite Risk Insurance. Bermuda leads in the development and sale of this new insurance specialty. However, this particular insurance product, as it is actually applied in the marketplace, is causing accounting headaches and difficulties and is upsetting some investors and oversight agencies.

            Investigations. USA state investigators, the SEC, and the Federal Justice Department, are investigating everything thing I’ve written about. They are now probing deeper and wider, and are questioning even more insurers, transactions, and accounting statements. ‘Hank’ Greenberg, under increasing pressure, invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and was less cooperative than Warren Buffett.

            Ultimately, what does this mean to us – to you – here in our Bermuda?

            It means that pressure on AIG will continue. AIG and its subsidiaries may downsize as they ‘adjust’ and ‘restate’ dollar numbers in order to ‘correctly state’ true values. AIG could slide from its current position as the world’s biggest insurance entity.  The web of inter-connected companies that do huge slices of their business with AIG could all have reduced incomes, lower profitability, and lower levels of employment. Even if, because of the magnitude of difference, AIG remains as the world’s largest insurer, it is still likely to emerge a leaner entity. 

            With ‘finite risk insurance’ taking this major hit, Bermuda’s whole insurance industry could shrink. Bermuda could find that employment of both local and permit workers could fall.

            In the global elephant fight, the Irish are happily knocking back extra Guinnesses as they contemplate a possible flight of ‘insurance’ capital from reputationally damaged Bermuda to ‘cleaner’ Ireland.           

            Already, some Irish websites are touting that Ireland has no term limits on work permits, is “a couple of times cheaper” than Bermuda, has more affordable housing, a good family environment, and more parking. Ireland does admit though, that it doesn’t have Bermuda’s warm and sunny climate.

            Lastly, regulatory agencies in the EU are planning to apply a new set of insurance regulations for all insurers and insurance transactions in the EU. The New York Times reports: “A European Union directive currently under discussion and scheduled to take effect next year [2006] will establish a regulatory framework spanning the 25-country union.”

            As a dependent territory of the UK – now the seventh state in the EU – it’s possible that under our current constitutional arrangement, these regulations can be made to apply to us in Bermuda. If there is any kind of dispute in this matter, then, under current constitutional arrangements, resolution may well lie within the EU’s supranational judicial system, and not within our own island system.

            On 19 November 2004, I wrote: “The stronger of Bermuda’s two national pillars is now under attack and the assaulting forces are still forming-up and massing their resources. The main assault is yet to come.”

            Four and a half months later, the main assault has begun.

 

LET US BE THANKFUL

Fellow columnist Stuart Hayward commented [20 Apr 05] that he did not like the wastage of talent and the discord that seems to be a concomitant of our Westminster style Parliamentary system.

            I agree that the system does seem to occasion wastage of talent. However, I disagree with his view that the adversarial style is unnecessary and avoidable. 

            I believe that rule by the majority can be decidedly unhealthy; and is always unhealthy when majority rule is accompanied by a quiescent opposition; or an accommodating, accepting, population.

            To the simple minded, majority rule always conjures up the vision of the majority of people being in agreement with the ruling power or, at least, accepting the ruling power’s edicts. However, this view must be tempered by the reality that ruling powers have POWER.  This power – the vital differentiator – gives them the ability to stifle, quash, and even punish dissent. It also allows the power to be unfair and to use or even abuse its legislative authority to sustain that unfairness.

            Rule by polite consensus carries the same potential for abuse. From Emancipation to 1959, Bermuda was ruled by a system whose hallmark was a polite and unchallenged consensus. From 1959, voices of dissent were heard, then more insistently, then more stridently.  Now those voices are heard vociferously.

            . Consensus – both global and national – kept Apartheid alive in South Africa. Consensus shores up Robert Mugabe’s power in Zimbabwe. Consensus took the USA into Iraq. Consensus maintained Jim Crow in the USA. Consensus maintained segregation in Bermuda.

            Disagreement – expressed in Parliament, in the voting booth, in the media, in ‘town hall meetings’ – is the hallmark of a true democracy.  Democratic disagreement usually results in some degree of non-cooperation. Balanced structured non-cooperation is the hallmark of the Westminster system.

            With all of its wastage of talent, I still prefer today’s noisy and inefficient Westminster system. I do not yearn for any return to consensus. I love the clash of opinion. It’s my only guarantee that differences do exist and that differences can be voiced.  Never again the genteel politeness of that old Bermuda when the ‘Forty’ ran it out of the RBYC.   

            I do wish though, that the quality of public debate would rise and deliver repartee that is more intellectually pleasing. Perhaps comments like “Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them, the rest of us could not succeed.” [Mark Twain – a frequent visitor to these Isles.]

 

LITTLE THINGS

Something’s not working. It shows up again in the picky detail of an ad about Bermuda’s First Mathematics Olympiad.

            The Olympiad is a Mathematics competition set by a Canadian team. It seems that every child in Bermuda, publicly educated, privately educated, or home school educated, was eligible to enter. It appears that the age-range for participants was 10 – 17. That’s eight age cohorts.

            Bermuda has about 6,500 youngsters in that age band. Of these, roughly 35% – that’s about 2,300 – are in some kind of private or home schooling. The remainder, about 4,200 are in the public system.

            The public system has fifteen primary schools, five Middle schools, and two High schools. The private education system has the statistical equivalent of three primary schools, two middle schools, and one High school.

            Why, then, did private schools have such a huge proportion of the named ‘winners’?

            Outnumbered and outspent, why did the private schools a [40%] minority have such a huge [74%] majority of the thirty-eight named ‘winners’?

            Saltus Grammar School – ten.

            Warwick Academy – eight.

            Cedarbridge – seven.

            Somersfield Academy – four.

            Bermuda High School – two.

            Sandys Secondary Middle School – two.

            Downe House School, UK – not a Bermuda school – two.

            Bermuda Institute and another – overseas – UK school – one each.

            Clearwater Middle School – one.

            In the 15 – 17 age group, Berkeley Institute did not place at all. In the 13 – 14 age group, Dellwood Middle, Spice Valley Middle, and Whitney Institute Middle – all public schools – did not place at all.  In the 10 – 12 age group, there were no names – at all – from any of the fifteen public primary schools.  Mount St Agnes Academy, with pupils in all three age-bands, is not mentioned.

            Cedarbridge’s seven shows what can be done.

            Where are the rest? What didn’t happen?

 [By the way… the ad said:  Top 13 winners. Ages 10 -12.   But only 12 names.] 

FEAR

In the past year, there has been an outpouring of feelings. Ira Phillip’s history of the BIU; Rosemary Jone’s “Bermuda Five Centuries”; ex-MP Bill Cox’s Bermuda Sun columns; many letters to the editor. Then there is that petition asking for a referendum.

            Bit by bit, word by word, piece by piece, this literature, in all its forms, is re-fashionong the fabric of our Bermuda society. It’s a slow process. It’s also a necessary process.

            Rosemary Jone’s 2004 history book closes the gaping hole in Terry Tucker’s 1983 history book:  “Bermuda, Today and Yesterday”.  Here’s how Terry Tucker deals with the 1959 Theatre Boycott: “…it was a year that saw Bermuda at its best and its worst. Amid the almost continuous celebrations, there had been the first labour troubles of any note: tensions, strikes, boycotts, and an unprecedented wave of violent crime…. That same year saw the voluntary end to segregation for dining and dancing in the island’s major hotels….”

            Contrast Terry Tucker’s literal dismissal of a seminal event with Jones’ description of the 1959 Theatre Boycott.  Jones starts on page 208 and finishes on page 211.  These two descriptions show the gulf that separates and the information that joins.

            Black and white Bermudians can and do have different perspectives on their social, economic, and political histories. Unsealed archives in London, Ira Phillip’s history of the BIU, Randolf Williams’ biographies of Dame Lois, “Jack” Tucker, and “E.T. Richards”, all combine to give us small sips of the waters of the deeper rivers of emotion that run so steadily, so deeply, but so invisibly, through all levels of society in this tight little community. 

            Since 1998, there has been a sea change in the social values extant in this community. The aging members and younger descendants of the old ruling minority are learning to deal with a new layer of previously suppressed feelings. These feelings had gone unexpressed mainly out of a fear of retribution.

            As black Bermudians push their historic perspectives to the front, and as white Bermudians learn more about the current feelings of the black Bermudians who surround them, some white Bermudians seem to have become newly uncomfortable. As these feelings unfold, I sometimes sense a discomfort – or is it fear? – coming from the likes of ex-MP Bill Cox, letter writer Phil Cracknell, Gazette columnist Christian Dunleavy, and others.

            For me, the post-1998 society that we now live in is a freer society. That’s how the overwhelming majority of black Bermudians view it.

            If, though, significant numbers of white Bermudians now feel newly intimidated or freshly fearful, then our Bermuda society may simply have flipped. If so, it’s not good and it should be fixed.

            But why would there have been a flip? Why would an old black fear be replaced by a new white fear – of exactly the same kind?

            Granted, there are some loud, crude, and insensitive blacks who have favourite rants. But blacks got used to living with loud, crude, and insensitive whites who had their favourite rants. The ultimate black response was to engage and discuss – not withdraw and sulk. That’s what must happen with whites. As blacks learned, the process of engagement can be painful and unpleasant, but the prize is worth the effort.

            The prize? A free and completely open society where ideas stand and fall on their own merit. Where individuals are free to express themselves knowing that there will be no retribution of any kind.

            Bermuda’s first completely free and open public discussion on any matter was over the issue of ‘Long term Residents’. That issue uncapped a gusher of emotions. Each of the meetings saw some loud heated arguments and some below-the-belt interchanges between people speaking from the floor. These exchanges displayed all the raw roughness of new grass roots democracy.  These exchanges were different from the genteel and over-controlled exchanges that prevailed under the old oligarchy.

            The handling of that first issue really showed Bermuda’s new democracy at work. It seemed to work well, though roughly and noisily.

            Now, in 2005, in this post-1998 freer society, we should all feel completely free to openly and freely discuss or tackle any issue. If some of us feel less free, then we have a problem.

            Am I right? Do some Bermudians feel less free now, in 2005, than before? Is this new fear a significant factor in the Independence and other public debates?

            If so, why?  What fears, threats, or retribution loom so large? What? Where?

 

AGAIN

There it was again. This time tucked away in the middle of an excellent story [Bermuda Sun – 08 Jun – p7]. Topping the story was a big picture of three fine young men. Each dressed in a tuxedo. Each with a confident look on his face. Each was black.

            But you’d expect that. After all, they were the winners in a scholarship scheme run by Alpha Phi Alpha. Alpha Phi Alpha is a ‘black’ fraternity born out of the black American experience. So I would have been surprised – pleasantly surprised – if all or even one of the young men had been white. After all, in an era of racial equality, that would have been perfectly correct and entirely fair.

            But they were young black men who had just been awarded scholarships. The scholarships were awarded not because they were exceptionally bright academics [often referred to as ‘nerds’], nor were the awards coming because they were impoverished students from poor families.

            The awards were for academic worth combined with clear evidence of personal striving in non-academic pursuits. Between them, the three young men received a total of $10,000 towards their further education.

            The story underneath the picture was filled with hundred of words telling how the young men had performed as musicians, mentors for younger students, Candy Stripers, and sportsmen.

            Hidden amongst those fine words were some nasty little facts.

            “This year’s scholarships…started six months ago when organizers asked five secondary schools to each nominate a star pupil.”

            That was the first fact. 

            “Only three students completed the program…”

            The second.

            “Mr Williams, who attends Warwick Academy…..Mr Woods… who attends Saltus Grammar School….  Mr Manders…who graduates from the Bermuda Institute”.

            The third, damning, fact.

            There are only three other secondary schools. Mount St Agnes Academy. The Berkeley Institute. Cedarbridge Academy. At least two of these must have been “asked…to nominate a …pupil.” One of these three was not asked.

            Three questions. First. Why were Alpha Phi Alpha so selective? Second. Why didn’t all the schools who were asked to participate ensure that their students completed the process?  

            Third. Is it right, in 2005, even given Bermuda’s bad racial past, to exclude young men of another race from competing? Is Bermuda’s current racial balance so badly askew that exceptional racial ‘tipping’ is still so necessary, so easily permissible, and seemingly so acceptable?

            There’s another issue. This time with the public education system. Why was there no participation – I stress participation – by young men from the public educating system? Why? What’s not working?

            If Cedarbridge can garner seven good results in the open competition of the Maths Olympiad, why couldn’t they get just one young man to at least stay the course in this local Alpha Phi Alpha process?

            Could it be that the Principals and faculties at Cedarbridge and Berkeley don’t want to identify young men as ‘star pupils’. Maybe they want to bring all their young men along at exactly the same level and pace. If that is what they are trying to do, they are trying to do exactly the opposite of what nature always does.

            Across humankind, there are always differences in people. Some people are brighter – others not so bright. Some work hard – some not so hard.  Some can run fast – some can’t. Differences in human ability and capability always exist. These differences are ineradicable and are a key part of the reality of humankind in all its sameness and all its diversity.

            The purpose of education is to give each individual all the tools that he [she] can use in order to allow herself [himself] to develop to his [her] maximum. Each individual must be her [his] own ‘star’.

            That neither Berkeley nor Cedarbridge had one young man complete Alpha Phi Alpha’s process is sad and wrong. It is also unfair to each one of the hundreds of young men in those two institutions.

            Under-prepared, under-educated, testosterone-filled young men who pass out of the public system are simply ticking time bombs. The ticking time bombs already released into this community as under-prepared, under-educated, testosterone-filled young men who can not readily fit into Bermuda’s complex society, are now blowing up all around this community.

            Like the ticking or explosion of a time bomb, the situation and result inadvertently shown in this story should concentrate our national attention. 

WAITING TO EXHALE

The school year is ending. Exams are over. Teachers – waiting to exhale – are about to give out a huge sigh. Students are looking forward to summer activities. I’m waiting for results.

            What did this year’s graduating crop of students achieve? How successful were the teachers in imparting knowledge? How did students absorb that knowledge?

            By October of this year, I’ll know what Mount St Agnes has done. I’ll be told what Saltus and BHS and Warwick Academy have done. Bermuda Institute will have published its results.

            Will the two senior public schools do anything other than put lots of pictures of students in the paper and say that they’ve ‘graduated’? Will these two schools publish exam results so that we can see what happened, and make comparisons?

            It’s said that education is not a competition. That test results don’t tell the whole story. That the public schools don’t get a ‘good’ selection of students. The litany goes on and on…

            Reality? Once a young Bermudian male or female puts on that gown and mortarboard, walks across the stage, accepts a senior school certificate, then walks on past the VIP who handed them that certificate; that now ex-student walks right into a cruelly competitive world.

            The instant that student passes that VIP, and becomes an ex-student, he or she goes into direct competition with eighteen year-olds from India – the Philippines –  the Caribbean – North and South America – the EU. In fact, every country in the world.

            Bermuda now has a global workforce. Canadians infuse Bermuda’s construction industry. Indians and South Americans are embedded in Bermuda’s hospitality industry. People from the EU and North America flood Bermuda’s ‘international business’.

            Six thousand workers at the Rover Cars plant in Longridge, Birmingham, UK lost their jobs because Rover Cars stopped making cars.  Over in Japan, Japanese workers still have jobs making Toyota cars.

            Mighty General Motors, the US car manufacturing giant, lost a billion dollars last quarter. In order to increase sales of their cars, GM now offers an ‘employee discount’ to every potential customer. Meanwhile, over in Japan and all over the rest of the world,  Japanese made Toyota cars are still selling like hotcakes.

            Look at the ‘made in’ labels in your Liz Claibornes or Pulitzers. Check your cellphone and see where that was made. Once, the only wines were ‘French’ or ‘Italian’. Today?  French and Italian wines fight for shelf space with wines from Australia, Chile, Hungary, and a score more of new wine-growing countries.

            Reality? Everybody is in an open competition with everybody else.

            The other reality – especially for us Bermudians – is that no matter how much prattle there is about the need to defend and protect the students in the public school system; all those efforts evaporate the instant that student passes that VIP. At that precise moment, that public school ex-student goes into a head-to-head, toe-to-toe, knock-‘em down, drag-‘em out competition with the students of Saltus, BHS, Warwick Academy, MSA, Bermuda Institute.

            When ex-students turn up in personnel offices looking for work, or when they seek admission to colleges, they all compete on exactly the same harsh terms. No more protections. No more soft landings. Just cold uncaring reality.

            The school year is ending. Exams are over. Ex-students are entering this hard knocks world.

            We all know the public schools have not been doing as well as the private schools. The job-hiring market reflects this. Look around, see it. Listen, hear it.

             The real results that the two public schools do achieve – whatever they are – must be published. Not publishing them is dishonest and does not conceal the reality that the job-hiring, scholarship awarding, and college admitting processes do ultimately and so blatantly display.

            Publishing today – or in the next two months will publicly and definitively deliver a temporary unpleasant reality. But the job-hiring, scholarship awarding, and college admitting processes have been delivering longer-lasting realities – every year – for over twenty-five years.

            Publishing concentrates essential information in an easy to see format. This enables everybody to see the problem.  This enables and encourages everybody to push towards real solutions.

            Not publishing maintains a national dishonesty and stupidity.  It’s like telling Rover Car workers to keep coming to work making their Rover cars even though no one is buying their cars and – ultimately – no one will be able to pay them for their work.

            Publish and compare the Terra Nova results! Publish and compare the BSC results!  Or damn us all, one more time, by throwing away one more precious year!

Three interesting days

Thursday 19th, the Bromby brothers took to the air on the afternoon Everest DeCosta ‘talk show’ to put their side of the Bromby/Talbot court case. The magistrate had ruled the Bromby brothers guilty but had awarded ordered an absolute discharge. The decision was unpopular and there was widespread public comment that there was a racial bias in the decision.  Amongst the feelings expressed was that the Brombys had ‘gotten off’ because they were ‘white’.

            When the Bromby brothers went ‘live’ on the afternoon ‘talk show’ they set a Bermuda precedent. They used their freedom of speech to put their side to the wider court of public opinion.

            Next day, Friday 20th, there was uproar in the House of Assembly. It seems that the Opposition wanted to put up a matter for debate. It appears that the Governing party disagreed with the process. The Speaker of the House – whose word is supposed to be ‘law’ in the House – was unable to achieve a satisfactory resolution of the matter. So the Opposition stalked out of the House.

            Following the arcane rules of the House of Assembly, it seems that there was a problem with the ability to get something debated. Like the Bromby brothers, the Opposition took to the streets and to the air-waves to put their case to the wider court of public opinion.

            If indeed, the opportunity for debate was killed, the Opposition may have won a significant victory. If the matter was killed, they’ll be able to successfully argue – for a long, long, time – that there is no real freedom of debate. The Opposition will also be able to successfully argue – for a long, long, time – that the Governing party won’t listen to dissenting views. They’ll be able to successfully argue – for a long, long, time – that constituents and voters with grievances are being shut out of the discussion process.          Saturday night, the 21st, at the National Stadium, politicians and ‘Drumline’ organizers took to the stage to make grand speeches and presentations. On the eastern side of the field, the audio was not good.  So whatever the politicians were saying could not be heard. The people sitting in the $20 seats got the backs of the politicians and the worst of the sound.

            As the politicians waxed lyrical, saying wonderful things that not everybody could hear, the people in the $20 seats – who couldn’t hear anything at all – got impatient. They started a ‘mexican wave’. The people in the $50 seats joined in. The politicians, finding themselves ignored, seemed to come to their senses, and – finished or not – scuttled off the stage.

            This was a unique display of ‘people power’. It is the first time that I have known a Bermudian crowd display what many Bermudians would describe as ‘rudeness’. That wasn’t the end of it though.

            The stage layout showed that the stage had been ‘set’ for the people sitting in the $50 blue seats.  It seemed that all the band performances were presented for the people in the $50 seats.

            However, everybody, whether in the $20 or the $50 seats, had come to see the promised show – ‘Drumline’. The people in the $20 seats quickly cottoned on to this imbalance.  First, they muttered. Then they shouted comments. Then, as individuals in the crowd recognized a common issue and common purpose, the individual feelings massed into a crowd reaction. The grumbles about watching the ‘backs’ of performances translated into a clear and loud demand that the performances should be re-shaped to include all spectators. But especially the people in the $20 seats.

            This discontent, so clearly expressed, brought the Minister Dale Butler – at speed – to arrange a change. He succeeded. The last band, the Howard University Band, started its performance by playing to the $20 people. In the midst of all this though, spectators lost the performance of the Livingston College Band.

            The most interesting fact was that a Bermuda crowd was acting and reacting with a common voice for a common purpose. By its actions, it was causing change – rapid change. This crowd – made up of thousands of ordinary Bermudians – learned a new lesson in power.

            The crowd won’t forget it. That’s the nature of human beings.

            Three interesting days.  Three days watching, learning, seeing, hearing ordinary Bermudians using new powers in new ways. 

            The small man is flexing his muscle. Big men had better watch out.