Rough Notes on the OBA – Part Four

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.

OpportunityIf 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.

Responsibility

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.

Integrity

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.

Transparency

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.

Fairness

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.

Inclusiveness

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.

Service

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?

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2 thoughts on “Rough Notes on the OBA – Part Four

  1. Jonathan
    while i dont like cliches, still “me thinks thou doth protest too much!” (and yes i have totaly bastardized that quote as i am not a “learned” man.) So, – what you have just proven is that one could find fault with anything anyone has to say about literally anything.
    I say equality for all – you say bah im supporting the status quo and therefore inequality.
    i say “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…”
    and you tell me im a racist git (well not in so many words but you catch my drift)

    Im sorry Jonathan but you just shouldnt go looking for a bogeyman behind every bush (word) . Why not just accept the fact that this “constitution” was written by a bunch of well meaning (if not quite learned) group of people who while not as polished as you may like are nonetheless earnest ? political parties are not perfect – not the OBA UBP or PLP and neither should we expect them to be – but all of this “its just those forty thieves agin” complaining wont move the country forward
    – peace brother.

  2. Saying ‘equality for all’ does not in itself translate into supporting the status quo and therefore inequality. Equality for all can equally be the starting point for recognising the ideal one wishes to obtain and observing that the status quo is one of inequality, both in terms of race and class. It is only if one sets out from the perspective that ‘we are all equal already, before the law’ and a refusal to recognise racial and class realities, it is only then that the statement ‘equality for all’ can be seen as the opposite, as limited to the superficial and legalistic terms of equality.

    And that is what I charge the OBA with, as expressed in their founding doctrine. I have no doubt they (and, per your self-inclusion) are well-meaning, do not discriminate on a personal active basis along race or class. But to refuse to recognise existing inequalities, to constantly harp the ‘equality for all’ as the reality when it patently is not, to resist any attempts to address these racial and class inequalities, then yes, that is to actively and passively support the status quo of inequalities. It is to mistake the myth of an ideal for the actuality of the present.

    There is a difference between being a personal racist and supporting and defending a system which is racist. This is often confused, especially by well-meaning individuals.

    While each of the notes on the OBA can be read independently, the first and second one (particularly the first) attempted to explore how people can have an unconscious ideology, in that they may not have consciously and actively explored why they think what they do; we all have an ideology or worldview, even those of us who maintain we do not. Only if one has not sat down and carefully reflected and consciously built one’s ideology, then one reverts to the de facto or default ideology, which is generally that of the ruling class, or that supports the interests of the ruling class. And that is indoctrinated into each of us (as much as we do not actively create our ideology) through the media and other ideological tools (school, religion, etc.).

    The people who were involved in crafting the OBA doctrine, which I critique in these notes, they may be mostly well-intentioned people with no conscious ideology (they are not aware of it), or, more likely, as I suggested, it is a combination of the majority not having a conscious ideology and a handful of some with a conscious ideology.

    It doesn’t matter.

    What the doctrine reflects, as I have tried to tease out of it in my critique, is one that rejects the concepts of structural inequality in terms of race or class and one that instead tries to obscure this structural inequality in terms of personal responsibility or agency only.

    Of course it is neither totally mechanically structural or purely spontaneous individual agency. But to obscure the reality of division and inequality for some mythological mirage of equality which is just an ideal still to be obtained, is tantamount to forfeiting any attempt to actually realise or construct that equality we all desire. And in such it supports the interests of those whose own interests, or fears, resist any attempt to build this equality in reality.

    Ignoring reality, of our racial and class inequalities and divisions, as the OBA doctrine and the unconscious ideology of those who would support such a doctrine believe, for various reasons (personal interest, fear or a failure to look beyond the superficiality of legalistic equality) will not move the country forward.

    Instead it will be no different from sticking our heads in the proverbial sand, while the inequalities continue to mount and the socio-economic friction they generate builds – to fiddle while Rome burns, essentially. This can be either in the open or more subterranean, exploding from beneath the otherwise superficially (and misleading) calm surface, like the riots of the 60s and 70s.

    Ultimately, we either recongise the inequalities that do exist and seek to address them or we don’t. And by not addressing them, by drugging ourselves with the opium of a dream rather than working to realise that dream, we sleepwalk instead into a very real and wide awake nightmare.

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