12 July 2010

Bermuda, We Hardly Knew Ya

I've mentioned, occasionally, that I was inveigled into cruising to Bermuda a few hurricane seasons ago. I've been reading the Island's major paper, The Royal Gazette, ever since. Both social unrest and water shortage have gotten worse since my visit. The Leaders' response to these conditions have been the usual tepid rhetoric, ignoring the underlying cause. Today's paper reported yet another shooting, which prompted me to write yet another Letter to the Editor, which is below.

I visited a few years ago, and loved the Islands. In fact, when the "new curriculum" was announced, I wrote and asked to be considered for a position.

However, in the time I have been away the Great Recession has occurred and Bermuda's existence as an isolated island (among the most isolated with a developed economy) has led it to be, perhaps unknowingly to Bermudians, a lab experiment in socio-economic structure. For what it may be worth, I have a blog in my name where I have been discussing the general problem, not specific to Bermuda, for some time.

The water problem and social unrest problem were clear when I visited, and have only escalated in severity since. I get no sense from reading the Gazette each and every day, that leaders (both political and economic) have any stomach for the solutions to the two problems. Really, there is a single solution to the underlying cause of both problems.

The issue is income/wealth distribution. Given that Bermuda has a slave history (much like the US states directly west, and to which Bermuda has historic ties), and a remaining plantation mentality, the solution is clearly not acceptable to the controlling class of Bermuda.

No society can persist for very long with the many very much poorer than the few. The few always say something like, "but our poor aren't as poor as Haiti (or whatever place is au courant)", as if that fact were relevant. Wealth, along with all other attributes of human kind, is relative. When the gap in wealth between rich and poor (and the numbers of people in each group diverge widely) becomes obviously rigged and grotesque, the poor lash out. That has been true throughout human history.

It is no accident that the Scandinavian countries, which as "tribes" determined to not allow such gaps to develop, have the most stable societies. And it is also true that these countries are quite productive. Some cavil that they are able to do this because they have homogeneous racial makeups, but that is just racist blathering; as if skin color matters.

The water problem results from the inequality problem due to the fact that the well off would rather import visitors, and put increasing stress on the ecosystem, than to develop a domestic economy. Developing a domestic economy would require fully integrating, and utilizing, all the peoples of Bermuda, and that's just distasteful. Australia is another island nation, though a tad larger. It is the driest inhabited continent (although classified an island when I was in school), and has had a water shortage situation for a very long time. Now they are going about building desalination plants, which some view as foolish. There are 22 million Australians, and some Australians see that the water supply of the island can support that many humans, and "growing" the population simply to grow, is beyond the ecosystem's capacity. Bermuda, while smaller and thus even more fragile, needs to face the same fact.

So, Bermuda faces, in microcosm, the Great Decision: will Bermuda have a future of growing equality and peace, or growing inequality and a police state? The rich few will have to relinquish some perks in life in order for the poor to have opportunity. Or the rich can hire on more police with yet more armament enforcing ever more stringent laws.

It's your choice. Choose wisely.

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