That now infamous bogeyman of modern Bermudian politics, ex-Premier Dr. Brown, is back in the headlines today, with his speech at a Caymanian seminar series, speaking on the relationship between the UK and it’s overseas territories.
Dr. Brown’s speech can be broken up into, I think, four separate parts, and below I will try and and give my thoughts on each one.
The Hypocrisy of the Colonised
Dr. Brown’s opening section seems to be largely a criticism of those that criticised him during his Premiership. He points out that these critics fail to apply the same level of criticism to the Governor, as regards the various perks of office. In this he highlights that the Governor is picked up at the tarmac of the airport and escapes going through Customs, that the Governor has bodyguards, that he lives in a mansion, that there have been no calls for investigating the Governor’s actions or that the Governor’s office should also face cutbacks in light of the island’s economic situation.
In the above, I personally think he makes some good points. The Governor certainly should go through customs, should also make sacrifices and be under greater scrutiny. These points should not be lost in the likely predictable attacks on Dr. Brown that will result from this speech.
However, what I find more curious is that in highlighting his own desires for such perks and exceptions as those enjoyed by the Governor, not once does he seem to question whether those perks, exceptions and other such rot should be allowed to anyone, but quibbles instead over why he (as Premier) should also have them. In this he betrays his own colonial mindset. He is not against the claptrap of colonial trinkets in themselves; he just wants them extended to himself (or the office of Premier). He doesn’t advocate a new approach to governance, just the extension of colonial trinketry, and in those is as much of a colonial mindset as those he attacks, only from a slightly different angle.
This theme runs throughout much of his speech, the extension of colonial trinkets and colonial power relations, only he seeks to reframe them from the Governor to the Premier and from the UK to the US. Progress of sorts, perhaps, but hardly anti-colonial in essence. Just a new form of colonialism. As much as he complains that he thinks the British believe themselves superior to others, he would seem to simply wish to reclaim that superiority in the name of a new oligarchy, of which he was/is a representative. It is the extension or re-oritentation of this sense of superiority, of a culture of entitlement, that Dr. Brown articulates, not a radical egalitarianism and anti-imperialist perspective.
He also seems to betray an essentially petty attitude in his speech, squabbling over trinkets of colonialism and forcing the Governor to wear 19th Century uniform in some bizarre form of petty revenge. His various whining attacks on those that criticise him do little to underline his valid points and everything to remind one of a spoilt brat bristling at any criticism. The speech would have been stronger without them.
Conflicts of National Interest
He continues by making some pertinent points about the various potential conflicts of interest between the UK and it’s overseas territories. I think he raises some very valid points, especially how the interests of the City of London and Whitehall have often trumped those of the OTs. I see little point of the Governor needing to sign our laws into law, or sitting in Cabinets or whatnot. Superfluous, demeaning and potentially directly oppositional to the interests of the various OTs, I agree. A new form of relationship should be developed, including giving OTs representation in the halls of UK power as long as we remain affected by them, and new relationships or roles of the Governor’s needs worked out.
In his defenSe of his decision to bring the Uighurs to Bermuda he attempts to define it variously as a humanitarian move, an anti-imperialist move, a purely domestic matter of immigration and as a coup for Bermuda in ingratiating itself with the American Empire. In this he has the sublime success of negating his first two arguments and coming across a questionable manipulator on the third.
To claim the action as inherently humanitarian with no quid quo pro between the US and Bermuda and in the next breath describe how beneficial such an action was/is in ingratiating Bermuda to the US is inconsistent. It is hard to believe that no political calculation of the benefits of such an action on Bermuda’s part was factored into the decision-making, even unconsciously in the form of what would appear to be Dr. Brown’s near pathological need for colonial trinketry, in this case ingratiating himself with the new American Emperor. It is likely that the direct and indirect benefits to Bermuda resulting from this action (politically and economically, as well as feeding Dr. Brown’s own pathological desires) came first in this decision, the humanitarian angle being an afterthought and little more than a poor fig-leaf for the reality.
To frame the action as an anti-imperialist angle, in the expression of Bermuda’s soveriegnity vis a vis the British, is undermined by the way the action actively served the imperial interests of the US, as well as sought to ingratiate Bermuda with the American Empire as opposed to the British Empire. By helping the US escape it’s obligations under international law (for the unlawful detention of these individuals – and others at Gitmo – and helping the US avoid giving them residence in the US as they should have), Bermuda – or, rather, Dr. Brown – actively helped the American Empire. An anti-imperialist action would instead highlighted the sadistic and imperialist actions of the Americans and pressured the Americans to clean up their own mess rather than export them. Dr. Brown’s actions weren’t anti-imperialist, they were pro-imperialist, only re-orienting the focus of Empire from London to DC.
I should stress here, I bear no ill-will to the Uighurs. What was done to them by the Americans was an injustice, and that they are here now they should continue to reside here and be welcomed by our people as the victims they are, victims of US imperialism and Dr. Brown’s colonialist mind-set and actions. This, however, does not erase the fact that Dr. Brown actively helped the American Empire and served it’s interests.
His manipulative and deceitful attempt to frame the action as a domestic matter of immigration, as well as his witholding of the decision-making from Cabinet deserves little critique here. Suffice it to say that such actions are those of the imperialists and worthy of any imperialist leader. They were not anti-imperialist but instead sought to reinforce a colonial mind-set and concentration of power outside that of the people.
The fourth aspect of Dr. Brown’s speech discusses the rise of the gangs in Bermuda and his perceptions of UK inaction or ineptitude in helping prevent this.
To me it seems bizarre that he seems to have only become aware of the gangs in 2007. Most people have been aware of them for at least the decade previous. The problems that led to them are even more deep-rooted, and it was the failure of collective Governments, UBP and PLP, to address these issues which have largely led to their current maturation. And even the attempts to deal with the gangs under the PLP were undermined by internal politics and inconsistencies. While Dr. Brown may have a point in arguing that Bermuda’s gangs are more similar to the US than the UK (and from what I’ve seen of gangs in the UK this seems questionable), but I have yet to see any reason to hire this US private company over UK police assistance. That there are perceived links between Dr. Brown and the principals of the US private company further make his advocated position questionable.
On his other points though, if it is indeed true that the UK failed to use it’s resources (diplomatic, etc.) on some key cases and not others (using it to investigate Dr. Brown but not to investigate attacks against Dr. Brown), then this is worrisome and I would expect an explanation from the UK on this point.
The above is, admittedly, a quick response to Dr. Brown’s points. The main message I take from it though is that Dr. Brown is not an anti-imperialist, but very much caught up in colonial trinketry and only seeks to reorient these from the Governor to the Premier and from London to DC. Not anti-colonialism but a re-orientation and reinforcement of colonialism and it’s mindsets regarding power and prestige.