Direct Rule?

With the recent revelations concerning the City’s waterfront, there have been some calls on social media for some sort of Turks & Caicos model, where the UK Government dissolves the colonial legislature and declares direct rule by the Governor in order to make various ‘reforms’.

I can see the attraction of this – it plays on the feeling that our indigenous abilities have fallen short, under the PLP and now the OBA and that our indigenous institutions are not fit for purpose.  It plays on the sensation that we’ve proven our inferiority and it’s time for the colonial ‘mother’ to come in, clean house, put things back in order and set things up so we can start again.

I get that.  And I don’t disagree that our institutions, especially our political ones, are not fit for purpose.  However, I don’t agree that the recourse to that is to surrender our democracy and allow direct imperial rule – especially when these very failing institutions are themselves a product of our colonialism.

This isn’t simply about the fact that the UK Government is beholden to the City of London, a direct rival of Bermuda in terms of our main economic sector of IB.  This is much more basic about the question of democratic principle.

If our institutions are failing, we have the power to critically analyse them and either fix them or replace them with more effective institutions for our local context.

If our politicians are guilty of corruption we have the capacity to address that within our framework – and that includes introducing and enforcing new legislation that better deals with corruption, of which campaign finance laws are perhaps the most important right now. And if our parliamentarians refuse to act, the people can apply pressure to ensure they do so – or take action to replace them.

I don’t have a problem at all with serving Ministers and MPs being arrested and facing trial in the event of allegations being made warranting such (and there’s a case for improving our laws to avoid a repeat of the ‘unethical but not illegal’ farce – unethical only because our laws were outdated).  Our democracy can handle that.  It may need some by-elections.  It may lead to a no confidence vote in the Government.  It may lead to an early election or a change of Government by other means (a handful of by-elections or defections could have the same effect).

The Parliamentary Mace is the symbol of power, loaned to parliament by the people.

The Parliamentary Mace is the symbol of power, loaned to parliament by the people.

That’s okay.  Our democracy can handle that.  Our people can handle that.  We don’t need direct rule, we don’t need imperial ‘rescuing’.

Any such move towards imperial rule sets back whatever steps we’ve taken towards democracy, it brings us back to ‘year zero’ rather than advancing our capacities.  It would be a hostile act – it is something to be resisted.  And I am confident that it will, indeed, be resisted, by Bermudians on island and off.

Will it be welcomed by some?  Sure.  Partly out of exasperation, partly out of a belief that it would allow for horsetrading and a lighter reckoning than if we ensure local accountability.

I understand the calls for a T&C solution.  But it disappoints me that some are so quick to forfeit their own abilities and sell short our indigenous capacities.  We can solve our own problems provided we believe in ourselves and rule out the nuclear option of imperial dictatorship.

Power belongs to the people.  It flows from the people.

It does not reside in Government or with the imperial center.  They only have power should we grant it to them, but that mandate can be revoked, and the power of the people can be used to correct the institutional failures of our island.  It can also be used to confront moves towards imperial rule.

If the people judge that the power lent to the OBA on December 17th 2012 has been abused, the people have the ability – and perhaps the moral duty – to reclaim that power, not to forfeit their abilities and surrender it to imperial diktat.

Another ‘Gate’ Moment?

I think Bermuda may well be approaching some form of singularity regarding the recent explosion of ‘-gate’ scandals.

As many know the suffix ‘-gate’ has over the years come to refer to a political scandal, and, like it or loathe it, has come to feature prominently in Bermudian political discourse since the OBA were elected to power in December 2012. The use of the suffix itself comes from the Watergate Scandal of 1972.

The biggest scandal taking up this suffix to date, in the Bermuda context, has been Jet Gate, which led to the downfall of the first OBA Premier and – arguably – also led to the resignation of the first OBA Attorney General.

This developing story (and it’s been dripping out slowly since 2013) might just eclipse Jet Gate, if the allegations involved are true.  And as it refers to the City of Hamilton’s waterfront, is this going to literally be our ‘Water Gate’?

The Sherri J Simmons show today had a lot of explosive revelations, and this ZBM account gives a summary of it all.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I get the feeling this story has a good chance of developing legs.

And with the OBA so far taking a ‘no comment’ approach (at least on various FaceBook threads when questioned about this), they’re not exactly inspiring confidence in themselves…

A quick look at two articles… PLP Leadership & Austerity Ideology

I’m going to try and catch two fish with one hook here – I’m going to look at two articles in the Bermudian news media today and give some quick reflections on them (and some of the online responses to them).

“Austerity ideology is aimed at workers” 

newspaper-273525-m

I’ll begin with a plug for the article written by myself.

The article is designed as a direct reply to an earlier article by Mr Robert Stewart, who provides the neoliberal ideological counterpoint to my Marxist/socialist opinion pieces in the media.  Mr Stewart wrote a two-part series two weeks ago where he (from my reading) focused on three core issues:

  1. The role of the State (in terms of taxation) under capitalism
  2. The imperative of austerity
  3. The welfare question

My original plan for the response was to address each of these separately, and add a fourth article which would look at the role of the State for workers, and outline some mild socialistic reforms we could adopt now.  As it turned out, I combined the first two into a single article, and (hopefully) my article on welfare will come out in tomorrow’s RG.

As I’m in the middle of moving house and completing my PhD, I haven’t had the opportunity to do more than a draft outline for the third article (a workers State and mild socialist reforms) – though I might address that in the future if I have the time.

In hindsight I think I should’ve kept the role of the State and the austerity ideology as two separate articles.  The combined article is longer than I prefer (I generally aim for 600-800 words as a rule of thumb, this one’s about 1000 words), and as it deals with some complex abstract matters, I recognise it might be a bit of a hard read.  Nonetheless, I hope it contributes to raising the level of discussion.

“Sources: Move to topple Bean as PLP Leader”

This is the lead article in the Royal Gazette today.

It makes for some interesting reading, however it suffers very much from a ‘boy that cried wolf’ situation.  This is hardly the first time that the RG has ran a story using unnamed sources to portray the PLP as being in the midst of a factional crisis concerning the Leadership.  It did this over Arthur Hodgson versus Jennifer Smith, and, ever since the actions of the 2003 election night, it’s discussed various aspects of Brownites versus Smithites/Coxites.

The RG – rightly or wrongly – is seen as very much an anti-PLP paper editorially, and with its track record of hyping up internal division within the PLP (I get it, sensationalism and political intrigue sells papers), is largely going to be seen (at least by PLPers) as engaging in mischief making here.  I’m sure anti-PLPers will seize on it along the lines of ‘PLP’s in meltdown!’, just as they did when the PLP chose to abstain from the illegitimate vote to temporarily expel Mr Bean from the House of Assembly.

My own view of Mr Bean’s Leadership has been articulated previously – I appreciate his outspokenness, but question his approach to strategy and tactics, I strongly oppose his views on some social issues (homosexuality) while support other aspects of his views (marijuana, for the most part), but largely feel he has become a liability to the PLP electorally with some of his language choices and actions.  I also took issue with his calls for shifting the PLP to the right and away from its traditional pro-worker position.

My own reading of the situation is that there is some discomfort with the Leader (this is no secret), but I don’t feel the PLP is in crisis on this issue.

I think the membership should rightly be considering the next election and the direction they want the party to go, and how to best position itself, and this does necessarily bring up the issue of the Leadership.  Although I’m not currently a member of the PLP, and haven’t been since I let my membership run out in 2009, I trust the membership to be able to have a mature and rational discussion about these issues.

I do have my concerns about the viability of aspects of the party structure to adequately facilitate these conversations – but I never saw, nor do I see, any discussions about the pros and cons of this or that Leader or ideological direction as representative of a party in crisis.  If anything I always saw it as representative of a party comfortable enough to take a good hard look at itself and plan ahead.  I didn’t/don’t always agree with the decisions and rationale behind them, but that’s another matter.

I do think it was a mistake to elect a Leader so quickly after the 2012 defeat.  I think it would have been better for the then Deputy Leader (Derrick Burgess) to maintain a stable caretaker leadership while the membership spent time being canvassed and engaged in a full-on leadership election campaign, where leadership candidates could be questioned and forced to flesh out their positions.  Perhaps this is something the PLP should consider going forward, and making the necessary constitutional amendments.

If there is to be a Leadership change in the PLP though, I would implore the members to abide by their constitution.  While the constitution sets out a timetable for when there have to be a leadership election (like in 2014 and next scheduled for 2018), it also allows for a leadership election to be triggered via a special delegates conference, or by a regular delegates conference (provided certain procedures are followed).

The Constitution was largely breached (in my view) by the events of 2003, and this led to some of the challenges the PLP had subsequently. There is no need to similarly breach the constitution here – although the constitution itself could perhaps be improved still (and it should be living document anyway, as per it’s own writing).

 

Carnival & Pomp – Revolutionary & Counter-revolutionary?

This post follows on from an earlier post, and seeks to answer the question with which that one ended:

Are any of these spectacles (Gombey’s, Pomp or Carnival) ‘revolutionary’ or ‘counter-revolutionary’ (or have such potential), and what is meant by such anyway?

In order to answer the main question (are any of these spectacles revolutionary or counter-revolutionary), one must first answer what is meant by these terms in the first place.

Revolutionary & Counter-Revolutionary Theory

In my earlier post I quoted, at length, an extract from a work by David Harvey. In one of his key works (if not the one that made his name), Social Justice & the City, he actually provides a useful review of these terms (in relation to theory).

I won’t quote him in his entirety (he devotes a whole chapter to it, and the themes run through the entire book), only the most concise extract that I can find, from his ‘further comment’ section of the chapter ‘Revolutionary and Counter-Revolutionary Theory’:

There are three kinds of theory:

(i) Status quo theory – a theory which is grounded in the reality it seeks to portray and which accurately represents the phenomena with which it deals at a particular moment in time. But, by having ascribed a universal truth status to the propositions it contains, it is capable of yielding prescriptive policies which can result only in the perpetuation of the status quo.

(ii) Counter-revolutionary theory – a theory which may or may not appear grounded in the reality it seeks to portray, but which obscures, be-clouds and generally obfuscates (either by design or accident) our ability to comprehend that reality. Such a theory is usually attractive and hence gains general currency because it is logically coherent, easily manipulable, aesthetically appealing, or just new or fashionable; but it is in some way quite divorced from the reality it purports to represent. A counter-revolutionary theory automatically frustrates either the creation or the implementation of viable policies. It is therefore a perfect device for non-decision making, for it diverts attention from fundamental issues to superficial or non-existent issues. It can also function as spurious support and legitimisation for counter-revolutionary actions designed to frustrate needed change.

(iii) Revolutionary theory – a theory which is firmly grounded in the reality it seeks to represent, the individual propositions of which are ascribed a contingent truth status (they are in the process of becoming true or false dependent upon the circumstances). A revolutionary theory is dialectically formulated and it can encompass conflict and contradiction within itself. A revolutionary theory offers real choices for future moments in the social process by identifying immanent choices in an existing situation. The implementation of these choices serves to validate the theory and to provide the grounds for the formulation of new theory. A revolutionary theory consequently holds out the prospect for creating truth rather than finding it.

Also relevant is the subsequent passage:

A theoretical formulation can be, as circumstances change and depending upon its application, move or be moved from one category to another. This suggests two dangers which must be avoided:

(i) Counter-revolutionary co-optation – the pervesion of a theory from a revolutionary to a counter-revolutionary state.

(ii) Counter-revolutionary stagnations – the stagnation of a revolutionary theory through failure to reformulate it in the light of new circumstances and situations – by this means a revolutionary theory may become a status quo theory.

But there are also two important revolutionary tasks:

(iii) Revolutionary negation – taking counter-revolutionary theory and exposing it for what it really is.

(iv) Revolutionary reformulation – taking status quo or counter-revolutionary formulations, setting them into motion or providing them with real content, and using them to identify real choices immanent in the present.

Revolutionary & Counter-Revolutionary Spectacles?

How might this be applied to the question of spectacle, specifically as it relates to those of Gombey’s, Carnival and (military, including majorettes) parades?

Obviously the above extract addresses theory rather than spectacle, and it’s not possible to directly force it to apply to spectacle – although it provides some insights and directions.

One could propose:

1) Status quo spectacles – these seek to maintain order, to perpetuate continuity. To reinforce the status quo as, well, the status quo. 

2) Counter-revolutionary spectacles – these either celebrate (and so reinforce) power against any perceived threat, to underline the superiority of the power and State against the threat (say, for example, a military parade celebrating the suppression of a slave revolt or the defeat of a strike); or they do not claim to be anything more than spectacle, but generates false consciousness (a diversion of focus away from revolutionary tasks/criticism) or serves as a social ‘release valve’ for social pressures that might otherwise find their manifestation through revolution.

3) Revolutionary spectacle – these directly challenge the status quo and propose a potential rupture from the status quo; they propose an alternative vision and build the capacity for revolution (through developing consciousness and/or demonstrating the power of ‘the people’ to act for themselves).

Application in the Bermuda Context

Gombey’s and carnival originate as revolutionary spectacles, more or less. They upended social convention, defied formal power and the State. But was the carnival wholly revolutionary, or was it perhaps also counter-revolutionary – or even both at the same time? In as much as the carnival originates as a social convention via the Church (albeit one ‘hijacked’ and adapted by the same social pressures from which the Gombey’s orginate) – in as much as carnival was tolerated – can it not be seen as a social ‘release valve’ form of spectacle, and thus counter-revolutionary, as spectacles go?

The more formal spectacles of Bermuda’s calendar – May 24 parade, Peppercorn ceremony, Queen’s Birthday parade, other military parades, even the Ag Show – all these are essentially ‘status quo’ spectacles, even if some originate more as counter-revolutionary spectacles (primarily the military ones, and those more obvious tied to power and the State, such as the Queen’s Birthday parade).

Are Gombey’s and Carnival still revolutionary? I argued in my previous post that they are not. At least not wholly. Where they subject to counter-revolutionary co-optation or counter-revolutionary stagnation? Without a detailed historical analysis of either phenomena it is impossible to give a definitive answer now – however it seems clear they have transformed away from revolutionary spectacle and, at the very least become status quo spectacle. In some instances – or arguably – they could indeed be seen as counter-revolutionary spectacles.

Carnival

It seems fair to say that Carnival at least is more about commercialism than the revolutionary rupture it initially threatened. Yes, it is ‘a party’ and doesn’t claim to be anything more – but that’s precisely the point, it has lost the revolutionary spirit it once embodied.

Is this the whole truth of the matter? No. Carnaval

Only in the broad, the ‘social’ aspect could it be argued to be the case, to have lost the revolutionary spirit. To the individual – primarily the active participant, but also the active observer – the spectacle can be understood, can be lived, as emancipatory, as a defiant act, as a momentary rupture from the status quo (at multiple levels, racial, class, sexual, gender, age, etc). And this moment – however brief – can be sufficient for the revolutionary transformation of the self, of a development of a consciousness other than that of the status quo, of acceptance of the status quo and a fear of the other.

Carnival may serve as a social release – and as such in a counter-revolutionary way – and Gombey’s may be a neutered caricature of their original defiantly revolutionary origin, but they both retain the potential for revolution. This may begin at the individual level, but the potential exists for sufficient individual ‘revolutionary moments/transformations’ to reach a critical mass and reassert the revolutionary potential they first manifested.

Of course, the revolutionary spectacles of ‘people power’, of the strike, of the demonstration, of the popular occupation and – ultimately – the revolutonary seizure of power itself, retain their revolutionary spirit, and remain the most potent vehicle for consciousness and revolutionary change.

For clarity, none of this is an attack on the introduction of carnival in Bermuda, or the organisers or their intent. That it was attacked by representatives of the ‘church’ indicates that the revolutionary threat to the establishment, the status quo, remains, and it was that criticism which got me thinking of the question of spectacle, and what social meaning or potential could emerge from the introduction of carnival in Bermuda.

Can carnival in Bermuda be an agent of social change? Yes.

Could that social change be revolutionary? Yes. However it can also be an agent of only superficial change, just as much as an agent for revolutionary change.

The question is what kind of change one wants, and after deciding that, after bringing it into awareness, does that change how one experiences and approaches carnival?

Similarly, does such a theorising of the spectacle that is the Gombey’s serve as a step to reclaiming their revolutionary potential, reclaiming it away from their Disneyfication?

 

 

 

‘Carnaval’ & Pomp – Or spectacle, revolutionary and counter-revolutionary?

Spectacle, Carnival & Pomp

I was reflecting a bit more last night about my post on Lefebvre’s ‘for and against the street’ in relation to the matter of carnival and the controversy around it.  I kept remembering a line from a book I’d read but couldn’t remember all of it or what the book was – fortunately it came to me over breakfast like a kiskadee’s call hits when feeling moldy…

It’s a bit from David Harvey’s interesting ‘Paris, Capital of Modernity‘, from the chapter Consumerism, Spectacle and Leisure, discussing the Belleville Carnaval; here’s the relevant extract:

Spectacle, even that of the city itself, has always been fundamental to urban life, and its political aspects have long played an important role in the construction of legitimacy and social control. There had been no lack of spectacle under the July Monarchy, but much of it escaped social control by the authorities. Sunday excursions took the workers outside the city limits to the bars and dance halls of places like Belleville, culminating in a ribald and riotous evening descent back into the city center.  The fear lurked that spectacle of this sort could all too easily lead to riot and revolution. This was particularly true of the Carnaval in the week preceding Lent during the 1840s, characterised as ‘the last, exuberant fling of pre-industrial theater of excess which cut hard against the nascent ideologies of the metropolitan city.’ The ‘promiscuous mixing and reversals’, the cross-dressing, the temporary loss of class distinctions, threatened the social order. Carnaval ‘too rudely mocked the careful modulations between spectacle and urban menace staked out across the city. In making gestures, looks and appearances both more explicit and more explicitly counterfeit, in mixing them pell-mell as if no ill would come of the brew, it called the bluff of the Boulevard des Italiens, the Chaussee d’Antin’. The authorities and those bourgeois who were not drawn into the frenzy were fearful and horrified.  The macabre carnavelesque way in which the the bodies of those shot down on the Boulevard des Capucines on that February evening of 1848 were paraded around the city as an incitement to revolution drew upon such traditions. This, then, was what the socially controlled spectacles of the Second Empire set out to displace. The aim was to transform active players into passive spectators. The Belleville Carnaval declined during the Second Empire through a mix of displacement, active repression, and administrative shifts (such as the incorporation of Belleville into the city through the annexation of 1860). The troublesome image of ‘the descent from Belleville’ remained, however, and when it was finally resurrected in the late 1860s, it was with the clear intent of ending Empire and making revolution.

But Second Empire spectacle went far beyond imperial pomp. To begin with, it sought directly to celebrate the birth of the modern. This was particularly true of the Universal Expositions. These were, as Benjamin remarks, ‘places of pilgrimage to the fetish Commodity’, occasions on which ‘the phantasmagoria of capitalist culture attained its most radiant unfurling’. But they were also celebrations of modern technologies. In many respects, imperial spectacle dovetailed neatly with commodification and the deepening power of the circulation of capital over daily life. The new boulevards, besides generating employment, facilitated circulation of commodities, money, and people. The expositions drew massive crowds from the provinces and from abroad, stimulating consumer demand. And all those spectacles took skill, labour, commodities, and money to mount. The stimulus to the economy was therefore considerable.

Initial Thoughts

From a Bermudian perspective – and ignoring the wider concepts of ‘spectacle’ – my mind here automatically goes to thoughts of the contrast between Gombey’s (and the more recent introduction of ‘carnival’) and our military parades (and an argument could be made that our majorette troops fall within the wider field of ‘military’ parade, in their uniforms and regimented orchestration).

One embodies elements of the ‘wild’, the ‘unknown’, ‘chaos’ and a departure from social norms – the Gombey’s in particular include the aspects of anonymity and a defiant celebration of the sub-altern African and First Nations heritage of our people – sub-altern in relation to the European aspects of our society which is de facto normative and dominant in terms of cultural expression. The Gombey’s are our original form of the ‘carnival’, augmented now with the introduction of a carnival proper (though divorced from the religious time-table in our case, where Catholicism has never been dominant and unable to support a more traditional carnival system to date).

The other embodies ‘order’, ‘regimentation’, ‘discipline’ (not that the Gombey’s do not require discipline, but it is of another form) and is general a spectacle of pomp, a celebration of power and the State.

Of course in Bermuda the two have somewhat lost their original impulses – although the loss is greater for the Gombey’s and (from it’s inception) carnival.  Our ‘pomp’ is less about a demonstration of power and the State as it is a manufactured production for tourism (as well as simply ‘tradition’). It does, however, retain the role of demonstrating power and the State all the same. The Gombey’s – and now carnival – are less a defiance of power and the State today, and are more a tourist and/or entertainment production, while retaining the element of ‘tradition’.  But it’s more revolutionary potential, it’s defiance, has been neutered for the most part. It’s edge has been lost in accordance with its acceptance – its co-optation – by capital and the State.

‘Cyborg’ Carnivals?

Carnival itself, is, in Bermuda’s case, wholly manufactured.

Whereas our sister islands far to the south have a carnival rooted in the Catholic tradition (like that described by Harvey above), which combined with the same elements of defiance (to slavery, to White supremacy, to power, to the State) of which the Gombey’s originate to create the potentially revolutionary carnival spectacle, we did not have such a tradition. Catholicism has always been dominated here by Anglicanism, and Bermuda has not changed hands between Catholic and Anglican powers (and thus retained ‘Catholic’ traits) – we’ve been Anglican dominated since inception, with dissenters exiled or suppressed.

Bermuda’s carnival is novel, wholly manufactured, by Bermudians who have experienced carnival to our south and yearned for its replication, its reproduction, in the Bermudian context. Our carnival is not organic – it is artificial. And essentially designed from a business plan, for the sake of consumption, of creating an event. This does not mean that it is not possible of becoming a ‘cyborg’, of incorporating and becoming partially organic ‘of the people’ in time – and may already have done so with its inception.

This is not a criticism of our carnival, merely an observation, that our carnival is manufactured, is artificial, can only ever aspire to become a cyborg. It is divorced – at its birth – from the organic revolutionary character of its inspiration, and retains the ‘revolutionary’ aspect more in superficial form than historical connection. Although revolutionary – and organic – potential can accrue to it all the same, over time.

Revo or Contra?

Which brings to question whether any of these spectacles can be seen as revolutionary or counter-revolutionary (and what is meant by these terms anyway)?

For space considerations I’ll continue this as a second post.

Terror & Tragedy

A Terrorised World… 

There’s a lot of terrorism and tragedy in the world today, be it the atrocities of Da’esh in Syria/Iraq, the brutal assault on Yemen by Saudi Arabia, the quagmire of Libya, ongoing terrorist drone attacks by the US, state terrorism and Apartheid from Israel, and so on and so forth. Far too many for me to really address in detail in a single post. xxi-century-civilization-2-1365278-m

I do want to touch on this morning’s terrorist attack in Charleston, South Carolina though, primarily because it allows a segue into Bermuda’s racial issues.  I don’t mean at all to ignore, or diminish, the terror attacks elsewhere, such as the tragedy that befell San’aa yesterday on the eve of Ramadan.

Terror or Tragedy?

Was the attack on the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston a terrorist attack?  I think so.  It seems pretty clearly pre-meditated and designed to spread terror and targeted civilians.  I’m not sure how else to describe it other than being a terrorist attack, and the perpetrator, a young White male, fits the bill as a terrorist.

While the State and media representation of what constitutes a ‘terrorist attack’ and a ‘terrorist’ generally colours it as an attack by an Islamic extremist and by someone who is non-White, Muslim and likely wearing a beard or a hijab/niqab/burqa, personally I see such as only one version of terrorism/terrorists, and at that probably not even the dominant form.

I reckon the true face of terror is actually quite White, male and clean-shaven – be they far-right extremists like Timothy McVeigh, Anders Breivik or Dylann Roof, or State terrorists in the form of Western (including Israeli and Russian) military commanders and politicians, or even economic terrorists that dominate Wall Street.

So, was it terrorism?  Yes.  I don’t see how one can possibly rationalise it as not terrorism.

I won’t be holding my breath for the perpetrator to be whisked off to Gitmo or otherwise charged with terrorism offences though, and I’m fully prepared to see explanations of the individual being ‘mentally disturbed’, while those more representative of the American narrative of terrorists (non-White and Muslim) don’t get such apologisms.

Was it a tragedy?  Yes, of course.

It was a tragedy for those personally involved, for their surviving loved ones, and for the wider community, no question.

A Wider Tragedy

The wider tragedy though is that the underlying structural racism in the USA (and this is where a parallel can be drawn with Bermuda) has not been addressed; this structural racism is a direct result of a failure to address the legacy of both slavery and segregation, as well as overt but non-State racial discrimination of the past.

By failing to address this legacy, structural racism provides the latent potential to re-create and/or sustain ‘traditional’ racism.

Covert ‘unconcsious’ racism, which is one way of looking at structural racism, serves as a refuge or generator for overt ‘conscious’ racism. The two cannot be eradicated without addressing both simultaneously.

In Bermuda, a good chunk of the population, of both races (although one gets the impression it is most pervasive within the White population) seems to think that because we’ve got away from official racism, that we’ve established racial equality in a legal sense, that we are no longer a racist society.  And that those who still cling to overtly racist beliefs are an aged and dying group who had their prejudices formed in a different era.

Personally, I think there’s a lot more ‘traditional’ racists out there, but many of them have convinced themselves that their views aren’t racist.

Nonetheless, that we continue to not address the legacy of our overtly racist past and live in a very racist (structurally) society, there continues to be the potential for ‘traditional’ racism to reproduce itself in new generations.

I’m not saying at all that we’re likely to see a similar racial terrorist incident in Bermuda.  Not at all.

Just recognising that we do risk seeing new generations holding racist beliefs as long as we fail to tackle structural racism in Bermuda.  And this is doubly so in the USA.

Hog Money on Channel 82 (Bermuda)

I hope everyone’s enjoyed a good National Heroes weekend – I’m still in Scotland working on my PhD research, hence the general lack of regular posting at the moment.

Despite this, I was invited to take part in a panel-like discussion on a relatively new show (I believe this was the second one ever) called ‘Hog Money’ on Bermuda’s Channel 82.  The show is co-hosted by Lamone Woods and Robert Stewart, and touches on various political and economic issues, with a particular theme for each episode.

The particular episode in question was focused on welfare/financial assistance and the various pros and cons of it.  Mr Stewart is rather well-known for his rather neo-liberal and, arguably, conservative, positions, and I think myself and the other guest, Cordell Riley – a social scientist/statistician and former president of the anti-racism group CURB, were invited in order to provide a counter-narrative to his.

I enjoyed the show and the clashing of strongly different perspectives.  It is supposed to be broadcast in about three weeks, so early July, and I’ll write a post about it closer to the time.

As part of my preparation for the debate I did some minimal research and wrote up a few notes.  These notes are such that I think they could serve as a series of posts on different aspects of the issue, and they also expand and could provide links to the various statistics, etc, that I brought up during the debate.  Which I think will help augment the show itself – and I of course welcome Mr Stewart and Mr Riley to comment here or elsewhere in like manner.

I don’t want to steal the proverbial thunder from the show itself however, so I won’t say much more until it is due for broadcast.  I’m thinking I’ll release a series of posts based on my notes around that time too.

Some updates…

Apologies readers for the lack of regular posting of late.

Busy busy busy with research... :-)

Busy busy busy with research… 🙂

I’m focusing on finishing off a key part of my PhD research, and so the site is taking a bit of a back-seat at the moment.  I’m expecting that I’ll be able to resume more regular posting shortly though.

There’s certainly no shortage of things to comment on however – last Friday’s resumption of the House of Assembly was full of incidents and issues worthy of a detailed look, namely:

  1. The undermining of our Freedom to Information laws (PATI) by a Minister (the incident is now under investigation by the Information Commissioner).  If I find the time I’ll seek to discuss the relevant sections of the Act and the seriousness of what the Minister did…
  2. The flawed motion of censure, incompetence of the Speaker and the subsequent suspension of the Opposition Leader.  If I find the time I’ll try and point out the problems with the motion in question, where the Speaker made a mistake and what our Standing Orders state, along with precedents from Westminster…
  3. The ongoing saga of the airport deal involving CCC/Aecon, of which the PLP is currently in London meeting with UK officials.
  4. The allegations of bribery alluded to by the Opposition Leader shortly before his suspension.

I also have the PAC review of Port Royal that I’ve been meaning to revisit.

Hopefully I’ll find some time to at least touch briefly on some of the above matters – and noting that this coming Friday, with the motion of censure against the Speaker bound to bring some more fireworks.  There’s also the interesting UK General Election result, developments in Canada in the run-up to their October federal election, and the astounding victory of the NDP in the Alberta provincial election.

Despite the hiatus from regular postings here, I have prioritised the odd opinion piece for the formal news media, the most recent ones being on the airport emails released by the People’s Campaign, and a response to the arch-neoliberal Robert Stewart’s extraordinary attack on the unions celebrating May Day.

There’s a few more opinion pieces that should be published shortly, and I’ll provide links to them here when they are.

Observations on some current events

Title Change

I’ve changed the title of this post from the original ‘Dog legislation & same-sex marriage’ as a result of an unintended offensive juxtaposition of the two.  As I sought to explain in the opening section, there’s no connection between the two.  I thought that would be sufficient, but I can appreciate that many found the title misleadingly offensive.  As a result I’ve changed the title accordingly.

The way wordpress works though, I believe the original title will still show up when it’s linked to however.  I cannot do anything about that really, but hope that readers will recognise that no offense was intended.  Apologies.

Um, what?

I realise the title for this post is likely gonna confuse many – to be clear, there’s no connection between the two of them other than they’re current events issues in Bermuda right now.

I realise I haven’t been posting all that regularly of late; I’m trying to focus on my research at the moment and so ‘non-essential’ things like blogging and social media in general are kind of on the back-burner right now…

Dog Legislation

I’ve got a new opinion piece on Bernews concerning the need to amend and update our legislation relating to dogs, particularly the need to end breed-specific legislation (the ‘pit-bull’ ban as it’s commonly known in Bermuda).

This is a subject I’ve touched on before, providing an overview of the amendments I think are needed back in December 2014.  Last week a group of activists launched a petition and a more general awareness campaign concerning breed-specific legislation, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to contribute to it, and build on my earlier writing on the subject.

In particular, I’ve provided links to a detailed review of the problems with breed-specific legislation from the American Bar Association (see the article itself for the links), and highlighted an often overlooked aspect of our dog legislation which allows authorities to search premises without the safeguards that the Police & Criminal Act 2006 has in place concerning such searches.  This is a direct threat to civil liberties and very much open to abuse – and some would argue it is already being abused by authorities.

I don’t intend to repeat the article here, but I did want to address some of the comments that have already been left on the article at the moment.  As I’ve written elsewhere, I generally don’t comment on such opinion pieces directly, as I find it detracts from the article even more than usual.  Rather, I’d like to just make a few observations.

  1. A poster going by the name ‘Ringmaster’ takes me to task for writing about animal rights but not on the rights of PRC holders and voting in Bermuda.  This has absolutely nothing to do with the article in question and seems to be more about a deflection than anything else.  Having said that, I’ve explicitly touched on this issue before  – during the 2012 election campaign and both before and since.  In particular, I’ve said I support:
    • All PRCers to have Bermudian status and the right to vote;
    • The introduction of term limits (say for five years at a time and only renewable once) to prevent new PRCers being created;
    • A naturalisation system to be put in place to manage this problem going forward.
  2.  I’m accused of ignoring facts.  Despite being the only one there bringing references and facts.  Yes, pit-bulls can be dangerous animals – the same is true of any medium to large animal, especially of dog breeds.  No one breed however is inherently dangerous (in terms of temperament) and this is a factor of training, medical care and socialisation.  Any dog breed can be trained (intentionally or accidentally) to be dangerous, and so the focus should be on ensuring this is not the case.  By forcing these breeds underground (and c’mon, has prohibition ever worked for anything?) one reduces the ability for them to receive appropriate training, medical care and socialisation, not to mention the risk of inbreeding (which increases the chance of dogs with dangerous temperaments), and thus making the argument that pit-bulls are dangerous a self-fulfilling prophecy.  There are alternatives to prohibition, through better regulation, that are more effective and don’t lend themselves open for abusing civil liberties.

Same-Sex Marriage

This issue has raised it’s head again with news that a cruise ship, registered in Bermuda, has told it’s customers that it is unable to perform same-sex marriages on board due to it being subject to Bermudian law on this matter.  I doubt that many considered the wider impact of our refusal to adopt a progressive approach to this issue as regards cruise ships, however it does serve to bring the issue back into public thought.

I wrote about this issue two years ago on Bernews, calling for the island to do the right thing and allow same-sex marriage.  That position remains the same, and I hope that our politicians will put aside electoral calculus to do the right thing.  I wrote a reaction piece on the matter, but will be rewriting it for a more full article in the coming days, hopefully.

The recent news story has, however, sparked a new campaign on the matter, with a petition being launched.  Hopefully this might just help push the matter along.

In my view, these social changes tend to be resisted for a long time and then quickly alter, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we see a change on this going forward.

Partisans & Selective Memories

Over the last few years I’ve largely adopted a rule of not commenting on articles or social media threads where I’m featured, or are by me.  I do break it sometimes, but I try not to.

The reason for that rule of mine is that when I do intervene, even to counter a patent lie about myself, the thread derails and it becomes a focus for personal attacks on myself rather than a discussion of whatever I’ve raised.

I do find though that partisans are intent on generally making everything political, and largely trying to force things into a binary political strait-jacket of PLP or OBA.  If I don’t explicitly criticise the PLP in a post (even a post which isn’t political at all, at least not political in the sense of our two political parties) someone tries to paint me as being pro-PLP.

It’s almost as if readers expect any post by me to be encyclopedic and defend against every possible attack – which of course would render any such post completely unreadable.

What particularly gets me is the very selective memories of some partisans who quite blatantly lie about me.

Take my International Women’s Day 2015 article, published on Bernews earlier today.

The very first comment on it reads:

“Creamy: And yet Mr Starling won’t hear a bad word said about the mysogynist-led PLP.”

This despite my explicit criticism of Mr Bean’s apparent misogyny in various articles such as:

Same Sex Marriage Right Thing To Do – July 2013

A Question of Leadership – November 2014

The Alleged Bean/Daniels Encounter – November 2014

The OBA Walkout – November 2014

It’s clear that people only read what they want to read, or remember what they want to remember, so as to fit people into their preconceived perceptions.

Due to the binary partisan nature of our society and politics, if you’re not for one party, you must be for the other.   When I criticised the PLP (including while a member) various PLPers accused me of being UBP, BDA or OBA (depending on the time).  And now with the OBA in power any criticism of the OBA (or any failure to applaud them) results in being accused of being PLP.

‘Creamy’ is blatantly lying – either because they are ignorant (and haven’t checked the validity of the accusation) or deliberately so (either to fit their preconceptions or out of deliberate misrepresentation).  The articles I link to above clearly show the lie of their comment.

Does it matter?  I doubt it.  I could call the sky blue and certain people will maintain with their dying breath that I declared the sky was orange.   Even if ‘creamy’ recognises that I have, in fact, criticised mysogynism and the leadership of the PLP, they’ll simply change tack and accuse me of insufficient denunciation.  They’ve made up their mind and, I fear, no amount of pointing out their error will convince them otherwise.

Such is the intellectual dishonesty and/or mental damage that our poisonous and divisive two-party system both reflects and compounds.