Khalid Wasi

Time for co-operation in the face of the pandemic

  • A global solution is required to fight Covid-19 (Photograph by Alex Brandon/AP)

During this Arabic calendar month of Ramadan, it is worth extracting some of the essence that resonates with its significance: “One word of truth is heavier than the universe.”

Said in other words, “the universe will implode and crumble before truth fails”. Having said that, one would believe the easier course would always be to live for truth, yielding and openly expounding what one knows to be the truth.

Yet our living experience is everything but a dedicated, living example of truth, dedicated to party, dedicated to our material pursuits or our race, often at the expense of truth. But scarce examples of living for truth.

Truth in a political sense is considered an internal matter, requiring a narrative conveniently supporting the identity and perfect image of always doing the right thing. To disclose anything that distorts the perfect image, even if true, has no right to be published, but rather will be punished.

“It is better to be politically correct than true” is the accepted morality and in Bermuda either silence or politeness is customary.

The idea of beauty and the art or telling it like it is, all of which is an unblemished and truthful dance with nature, is an individual experience too often avoided, substituted by either a diluted or varnished version.

To borrow from Russian lexicon, “Don’t believe your brother, believe your own crooked eye” is taking life experience to its raw nature. Society and political systems, however, are not built around living up to that raw objectivity. To the contrary, systems are built to circumvent scrutiny, or even squash the messengers based on the notion of doing whatever they have the power to do. The best of the systems do so, justifying even their own corruption and killing the messengers of truth because, as they say, they’re liberating the masses.

The role of a writer should be to tell the truth the way they see it and not to appease the king. The role of the artist is to show the world as it is seen in the eye of the artist and not bend it to become marketable.

We know that successful persons see the world differently from unsuccessful persons. Wealthy people see differently from the impoverished. Men see differently from women. The farmer sees differently from the technician and the same exists between races and nations.

Yet those differences, even if irreconcilable, manifest the variety and beauty of the world and the different expressions that are essential to the maintenance of our creative design. Trying to eliminate difference or suppress the diverse voices is counterintuitive to a healthy society. We are meant to embrace difference as the tapestry of life.

We don’t get to see the disconnect and political dysfunctions until there comes a crisis such as this pandemic. When survival exceeds ability, when dogmatism doesn’t work, when partisanship doesn’t work and when bluffing doesn’t work, raw abilities or inabilities becomes glaring. Today under the conditions of a pandemic, it’s about results. No one can bluff their way through a war; we either win or we lose by what we do or don’t do. Life becomes critical.

There is either a casualty or a benefit, quality of thought and truth become more important, unreal political rhetoric in a time of war shows up as social dissonance.

In a global crisis such as we are experiencing, the whole world begins to understand its need for co-operation as we all sit in contemplation for someone from somewhere to come up with a solution that gets us out of this mess.

The same principle should apply generally, but it doesn’t. During normal times, the attitude is unless the solution comes from my camp, we’re not interested, we’re not listening.

The beauty of the Covid-19 time is that we cannot afford to turn a blind eye or pretend to be deaf; we have to listen to everyone.

During these times, we can see the weakness in structures such as the United Nations, which in essence is an association of governments. Those governments, whether elected or unelected, whether favourable or unpopular, supporting freedom or tyranny, all sit around the table and form an association.

It is a step towards co-operation, perhaps, but what if there was a unity of the people of those nations or a global forum? Consistent with that thought, what if there was a forum that represented all the diverse voices and thoughts in Bermuda? Wasn’t that the proclaimed aim of a democracy?

Yet that idea is systemically corrupted by a construct of partisanship, which operates more as a self-perpetuating entity than as an inclusive public forum.

Not the fault of this generation; it was inherited by those who imported the beast from England early in the 1960s as a weapon to achieve equality. But the weapon quickly became bigger than its purpose.

Now no one knows how to tame or kill the beast, which, like vicious guard dog, is tame only with its masters and the children around the house.

It’s not political parties that are the problem; it’s how they are formatted, ie, the rules of the game. Change the rules and you change the game; make the rules inclusive and the system will be inclusive.

Unfortunately, no party to date has had the interest of the whole or of changing the rules that would include the whole. The beauty of a human society has never been the shining light on the hill. Most know that you can’t just run for a party of your choice; it is not your inalienable “right” to stand for any party.

We know in order to run, everyone has to meet the party profile, which you had no hand in producing, nor did any legislature. One must pass a screening test, which, among other things, will not determine whether you are truthful or will swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, they will ask if you will be loyal to the party.

Unfortunately, your loyalty to truth will not earn you the opportunity to stand; rather, it may assure you will not have that opportunity, but loyalty to the party gains that right.

The whole electorate knows this, and what’s even sadder is the electorate have no desire or expectation for ever having the right to stand, so therefore they are complicit.

For there to be real momentum in the world, the axiom must change from the question of “who will” change the world towards better, to the statement, “I will change the world”.

The question — who will? — can draw applause from the crowds, but allows for abandonment, deceit and apathy because it puts the onus on someone else. However, the statement “I will change the world” causes a stand for truth and personal accountability. Remember the biblical Samuel, who said: “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”

I therefore implore us each to take on the mantle as a personal responsibility. Tell the truth, write the truth, regardless of the consequences. “Only the truth can set us free”. Stand and be true; truth will never fail.