This is the final bit of the notes I wrote in May 2011, comments on the OBA’s Constitution, and should be seen as following on directly from the previous post/note.
The OBA’s ‘Founding Principles’
This ideology of the OBA, of superficial equality legitimising actually existing inequality, is expressed throughout what the document describes as the OBA’s ‘Founding Principles’, which, in reality, seek to justify its ideoloy of status quo inequality.
Opportunity ‘If you work hard and play by the rules then you should have the opportunity to succeed‘.
In saying this the OBA deny structural factors such as inherited capital (in its normal sense, but also in both human and social capital senses, or, rather the unequal opportunities that they allow to exist/perpetuate).
This ‘principle’ is itself broken down into three elements, each of which give insight into the mentality of the OBA. -> Ultimately that which is needed is strong security and the free market (trickle down?).
Safety & Security – This element voices a strong fear of crime and indicates that the OBA will focus on ensuring the protection of the person and private property. It speaks to a generalised and over-reactionary fear of crime, notably violent crime and theft… This, a focus on criminality, will be a central plank of the OBA’s election campaign…
A Strong Economy – A focus on subordinating any intervention of the State to that of facilitating capital accumulation and private property/corporate interests, as opposed to State intervention to manage (or prevent the generation of) the social-economic externalities generated by the capitalist system.
Quality Public Education – Partly a passing of responsibility from structural issues to personal responsibility, of individual failings. All we need is education, if you fail despite that, that’s on you, nothing to do with structural factors. All agency, no structure.
‘Government has a responsibility to live within its means and must be held accountable for its actions. But government cannot do it alone. We must pursue policies and programmes that encourage Bermudians to take responsibility for their own actions and for the care of their families. We will be committed stewards of Bermuda’s assets and resources.‘
This ‘principle’ actually has two direct implications:
(A) It limits the role of government, by implication, ‘small’;
(B) Emphasis on personal responsibility – also communitarianism (will need expanded on in any future critique/analysis of the OBA). As the essential ideology of the OBA requires the delegitimation of structural inequalities, the OBA, by necessity, transfers primary importance to individual agency – hence ‘personal responsibility’. Also, by the focus on communitarianism the OBA essentially advocates the withdrawal of the State with its functions instead being covered by ‘civil society’, in this case ‘family values’ and private interests.
-> This is not unlike the Cameron-ian Conservatives in the UK, with their emphasis on ‘the Big Society’ – a withdrawal of the State from ‘managing society’, of intervening to correct structural problems of inequality, in various forms, and an expansion of the State into ‘entrepreneurialism’ to facilitating capital accumulation and accommodating to private interests.
‘One Bermuda Alliance will have a zero tolerance policy for fraud and corruption in government. We will not tolerate the abuse of public power for private gain. We will ensure that no conflict arises, or could reasonably be perceived to arise, between our public duties and our private interests, financial or otherwise.‘
This principle is more a purely superficial dig at perceptions (not necessarily without merit) of certain actions under the PLP, notably ProActive and the whole Dr. Brown period. By extension though it can serve as a foundation for the OBA to oppose wealth redistribution in all its various forms.
‘We are committed to transparency, open government and reform. We will hold ourselves to the higher ethical and moral standards and always act in the manner that provides the greatest good for all of Bermuda.’
This, too, is a superficial dig at the PLP (and, arguably, a petty one at that). However, it does pose the question of what ethics and what moral standards? What are these? How are they defined? By extension it is implied, by default, that the OBA’s ethics and moral standards are ‘higher’ than anyone else’s. This may be interpreted as a combination of arrogance and an attempt to secure hegemony, in the sense previously discussed.
‘One Bermuda Alliance will serve the many, not the few. Fairness to all will form the basis of our actions as a government. We will be guided by the principle of non-discrimination and equal rights, and the overriding principle that all people are equal before the law.‘
This ‘principle’ is a key one, being the closest expression of the OBA’s essential ideology. It also has a number of components worthy of individual review.
‘…the OBA will serve the many, not the few‘ – On first glance this is largely empty rhetoric; on a deeper level it may be seen as an attempt to secure legitimacy/hegemony.
The second part of this ‘principle’ expresses the essence of the OBA ideology. It is a plea of maintaining the status quo of socio-economic inequality on the basis of superficial ‘equality before the law’. From this flows any and all opposition to social justice and attempts to address social inequalities. Far from ‘fairness’ this ‘principle’ ensures eternal inequality.
‘One Bermuda Alliance embraces the diversity of the Bermudian community – a community that is tolerant of differences and demonstrates mutual respect for all. We will maintain an environment in which all people feel free to share ideas and information. We will be open minded and respectful of the views of other organisations and be collaborative in the best interests of Bermuda.‘
This principle serves to reinforce the essential ideology of the OBA, that of ‘fairness’. It quite explicitly confuses an ideal of equality with the reality of inequality now. On a tactical level this will lend itself towards a tendency towards tokenism. By failing to address actual inequalities and disparities in power this appeal to a superficial and non-existent equality equates to a defense of existing inequalities.
‘Political power belongs to the people and should only be entrusted to those who are prepared to serve our island home. We will work for the benefit of all Bermuda’s people. Our job is to fulfill the expectations of those who have honoured us with their trust.‘
This is mostly an appeal for legitimacy and hegemony. On a deeper level it advocates for an elite system of politics which maintains the duality of leaders and led rather than advocating a new politics where that duality is exploded and replaced by the politics of praxis. [Of course, the PLP is party to this elite form or politics too.]
Concluding Section of Preamble
‘Members of the [OBA] understand that our community is tired of politics as usual and putting political parties first at the expense of what is best for Bermuda. We will enhance our democracy by making our parliamentary system more inclusive, more transparent and more collaborative for the public and parliamentarians. We will hold ourselves to high ethical and moral standards and make sure that elected and appointed representatives led by example and are accountable. We will draw from the widest possible membership for government appointments and make sure that those appointed understand their responsibilities and put Bermuda first.‘
The concluding section of the Preamble is mostly empty ‘filler’ rhetoric. It does, however, attempt to reinforce the totalitarian view that the OBA’s ideology is ‘natural’ or ‘commonsense’.
There is a degree of hypocrisy in the opening phrase, as the OBA is putting itself – and the class interests it represents – first, only giving the appearance of ‘putting Bermuda first’. It is, indeed, ‘politics as usual’, only with the propaganda that only by putting the OBA first (in the sense of electing an OBA government) can one ‘put Bermuda first’.
The phrase ‘putting Bermuda first’ is actually an empty phrase, and one that can only exist in the idealised abstract ‘Bermuda’ of the OBA’s imagination, where racial and class divisions are rendered mythological/non-existent. The actual question should be ‘putting whose Bermuda first?’ The Bermuda of the rich, of the privileged? Or the Bermuda of the poor and marginalised?
Only the rich and privileged, who, at most will pay lip-service to the poor and marginalised, and this only when it is to their advantage (for electoral purposes, or when these groups threaten the welfare of the rich and powerful’s interests – socially, psychologically or economically – and then it is usually in a reactionary form, of ‘tough on crime’ and putting the blame on individual failings rather than structural inequalities) could think that their interests are common to all.
The poor and marginalised have different views/interests, and know that the rich and powerful have contrary interests and needs to their own.
The question is who’s island is it?