Calls for unity

I must say that one of things I found annoying in the run-up to Hurricane Igor, were the speeches by the politicians. Specifically this theme which the PLP hit on multiple times, firstly the outgoing Premier and then the PLP Chairperson:

Despite the issues that divide us, the ideologies that separate us and the many challenges we face, we know that when a threat arises, our people unite as one.

Regardless of our differences, each of us will face the threat of Hurricane Igor together and we will overcome this challenge together as Bermudians.

and then:

After the storm, it's time for Bermudians of all political parties to put aside our disagreements and come together to rebuild our island home.

Seriously? Do these two really think that Bermudians are as consumed by political disagreements and ideology as to not support each other after a major hurricane?

This sentiment is incredibly condescending and out of touch. Incredibly.

The central conceit is that it treats Bermudians like children who need to be told to behave after a major crisis. I mean, really?

It suggests that the general public are constantly at each others' throats. It takes the arrogance of a politician to imply that a PLP neighbour won't help their UBP neighbour, or vice versa.

The Bermudians I know don't live our daily lives like politicians, addicted to drama and political theatre with their petty games and button pushing. For the PLP to act as if Bermudians need to be instructed to behave and not engage in trivial disagreements...after a potential catastrophic event...is stunningly condescending.

It's more believable in reverse.

The politicians are the ones who need to be told to cut the crap out on a regular basis. They are the ones who are constantly fabricating controversy and trying to pit groups against each other. Most people are just getting on with life and are not wondering who they can call a 'racist dog', or threaten with violence on the floor of Parliament.

So please, in the future, spare us the sanctimonious lectures about 'unity'. It goes without saying that Bermudians work together after major crises. The problem is that the PLP's electoral math is built around division, while the UBP's is about addition and right now the BDA's is about subtraction from the UBP. The PLP are so consumed with differences and division that they think this kind of statement is profound and required.

Of course, it's also a way to reinforce the political tactic that Bermudians are by nature segmented as a community, and that we need to temporarily pretend we're not. It's the political equivalent of a backhanded compliment: "And don't forget, because a huge hurricane is coming it's ok to set aside just how terribly divided we all are. Just for a few days. So go out and help each other. We'll get back to be being divided shortly."

But setting aside the issue of whether the statement was appropriate, it also raises the question of why people should only come together and face challenges together after a traumatic event.

Why shouldn't that be the default?

And right on cue, while I was thinking about writing this post today, there was an announcement of the committee for selecting National Heroes, which notably contains no UBP or BDA MPs.

This couldn't be more illustrative of the lack of bi-partisanship in daily political life.

Why should rebuilding post-hurricane be free of political rancor, but something as important as selecting National Heroes is stacked with partisanship. The only non-PLP representative is current Independent and former UBP MP Darius Tucker - and he appears to be mostly in the PLP camp now, even playing in the outgoing Premier's Gala Golf Event.

I'll declare that I'm not a big fan of this whole National Heroes concept - beyond the cheesy name - because it's simply an extension of the move to brand all things around the island after the PLP. I don't really like naming public buildings after political figures; they are by nature partisan, and public institutions should be free of implied political affiliation.

This National Heroes Day committee is window dressing in response to the public sort of scoffing at multiple years of one National Hero, and a highly centralised political decision making framework. This committee confirms that the event is highly politicised and not geared to predetermined outcomes. It's designed to give the impression of a bottom up community driven selection process, in spite of it being a top down political exercise.

I don't think anyone who is honest about this really believes that National Heroes Day isn't a political propaganda exercise. The lack of non-PLP involvement in this committee undermines any credibility for this to be seen as a true community honouring exercise.

But if we are nominating National Heroes, I can suggest a couple off the top of my head:

Stanley Ratteray, a member of the Progressive Group who were the driving force behind the Theatre Boycott and the ending of segregation. He was also a long-time Cabinet Minister and Minister of Education, and a truly class act. Stan was one of the genuinely great people that I had the opportunity to meet late in his life.

And, a more out of the box suggestion, Bob Clements; the recently passed father of the Bermuda reinsurance industry. Every Bermudian has benefited from the industry that his vision created and he has shaped Bermuda's economic and social past, present and future.

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