Opinion

Solving black economic impoverishment is key

  • Sir David Gibbons: initiated development from Watford Bridge to the tip of Dockyard 40 years ago

One of the most fundamental and important things when faced with any problem is to have the proper diagnosis. This has become particularly apparent in the medical field where teams of doctors and other medical professionals will look at a patient and together collaborate over any prognosis. The essential aim of that methodology is to avoid misdiagnosis and to properly identify the problem before suggesting solutions.

Let’s consider Bermuda socially along with the economic stratification of society and ask ourselves whether it is because we have a race problem. I am going to argue a position that may prove unpopular and say no; it’s not because we have a race problem. We have, in fact, an economic problem of “relative and real poverty”.

Yes, it may also be argued that the relative poverty and economic stratification were directly caused by racism, but the present manifestation and mutation of the problems and continued existence are not perpetuated or continued by racism.

Treating the existing social and economic matters of disparity by addressing racism in Bermuda may prove to be a phenomenal waste of time and resource to achieve an unattainable end. Trying to gain a psychological mode in the social order of human acceptance across all racial lines is noble, but still does not fix the problem. The key to fixing the social degradation and multifaceted expressions of racial resentments lies in resolving the economic impoverishment within the black community.

Trying to repair society by aiming at things such as why white persons do not attend black social clubs is an irrelevant exercise, as are all the psychological approaches. If or when the black community is as strong, or even nearly as strong as their white social partners in economic value — and when blacks have a cultural and social network that sustains that value — all the associations between the races will fix themselves and the so-called problems will disappear.

Even if at that point, they did not become more homogenous, it would no longer matter because people will be too busy with their own lives and too preoccupied furthering their own families and youth through business and philanthropy to be concerned with who turned up at the clubs.

Some factors of life are self-fulfilling: we don’t need to develop more commissions and reports to inform us about what poverty brings to a community. Travel the Earth and you will see, regardless of race or ethnicity, the end result of a financially weak community is crime, drugs, prostitution and a host of countercultural tendencies. In a multicultural society, particularly living as close as is the case in Bermuda, it breeds resentment and causes people to reach for the wrong solutions.

The issue of economic disparity is not a matter of parity of wages or inadequate job promotions; it is a matter of the equation in ownership of the “real wealth” in the community. In the past and for too long now, having a real stake in the economy was taken for granted while persons militated around wages. It was as though it was to be OK if only one sector owned everything, as long as it paid fair wages and provided decent benefits and terms of employment.

It was not fully appreciated that this model would transfer all the benevolence, philanthropy, upward mobility and self-determination to that sector, while the other languished without enough persons with means to help their own and therefore leave a segment of society totally dependent on handouts from the Government.

We cannot blame the market. The market is a place of business and competition. Marketeers are looking for market dominance and penetration, and those are their buzzwords. The key to altering Bermuda’s fate and saga of inequality in the marketplace is and has always been the idea of finding a niche or point of penetration that will not decimate or transfer wealth out of one set of hands to another, but rather increase the revenue to the extent that satisfies both the existing players and a new emerging participant.

Our politics have been a politics of fear based on the notion of “not enough”. Because the market is looked upon as static, limited and constrained to what already exists, it is perceived that in order for those who have a foothold to retain their position, they had to be obstructionist to any idea that seemed to threaten their position. That the overall society was threatened with anarchy or social disorder meant nothing except to be tolerated as a price for continuation as is.

Businessmen understood this and the best of them prayed only for the tolerance of society, while others could not comprehend their seeming ingratitude and taught the politicians to honour the principles at work and to maintain order.

For there to be a true intervention, it will require a strong element of benevolence, mixed with a capitalist drive. It cannot be led by greed or political malfeasance because the end result will be such where the broader populace remains poor but under a new oligarch. The imperative is dependent on character and those with a history and tract of social benevolence.

This is not simply a matter of personal entrepreneurship, although entirely dependent on it. It’s a matter of satisfying the greater cause of changing the course and direction of Bermuda, and making the country more racially tolerant and homogeneous by providing the market tools that make it happen for everyone.

That was the thinking behind the idea promoted in 1977 and embraced by the premier of the day, Sir David Gibbons, which initiated the development from Watford Bridge to the tip of Dockyard 40 years ago. The original cause was abandoned after he lost his premiership. Perhaps on this 40th anniversary, the principle can be revisited.