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.