Opinion

Putting humanity on display

  • Simone Barton is the chief executive and founder of the Core Heart Health Centre and chairwoman of the One Bermuda Alliance

The clock on the wall stopped at 6.30pm on March 19, as we said good night to our last client at the Core Heart Health Centre and entered the Government’s mandated lockdown. If I had known then what I now know, would I have embraced that moment with more reverence?

If I understood then how much our lives would so dramatically change in just a few weeks, would I have stayed in the office to reflect on what was and will be no more?

There have been some catastrophic moments in the past — the Great Depression, the days when greats such as John F. Kennedy and the Reverend Martin Luther King met their death at the end of a cold bullet. When the Twin Towers collapsed, it showed us that we are not invincible. The day the earth moved under the feet of Haitians, and the ocean rose and washed over Sumatra, Indonesia, and the North Pacific coast of Japan were all catastrophes.

Bermuda, we are now in our own catastrophic moment, and how we collectively react to these challenging times will be memorialised and will speak to generations to come as to what it means to be Bermudian.

The stark reality that we are facing as a country is, we will not return to March 19, and even if we could, would we want to? Covid-19 is revealing how broken the Bermuda economy really is: our debt is too high and still climbing.

We can’t look back, nor can we project into the future. All we can to is stoically face each new day as it comes with a mindset of “hope for the best, prepare for the worst”.

More than any other time in our history, the need to maintain or increase our mental wellbeing will be the most sought-after endeavour. Our Covid-19 world will change our lives for years as our finances, or lack thereof, take centre stage in our thoughts. Credit and debt are on one thread, the same line viewed from different sides. If you pull too hard in any one direction, the thread will break, and the economy will fall.

This virus is the great equaliser: rich or poor, black or white, Bermudian or work-permit holder, we may not be in the same boat, but we all are enduring the same storm. For far too many, our economic safeguard has disappeared almost overnight.

The cycle of debt management has been broken, and the fix is not in the hands of the individuals. The weight of trying to manage the financial burden is quickly becoming too much to bear, and before we all lose our collective minds, we need a creative pathway forward.

The scales of reciprocity are unbalanced; you cannot get blood from a turnip, nor can you make a silk purse from a pig’s ear.

What we can do — creditor and debtor — is to take a retrospective review on how to step outside of the box and build a new one that is framed from our present reality.

We all must learn to pivot. There is no going back. We must get our heads around experts having said that we will be in this for a long time to come. The world is grappling with a lot of the jobs lost in this pandemic likely never coming back. It is up to all of us to start planning now for the uncertainties of tomorrow.

I cannot change that this virus has stifled our “Bermudaful” way of life, but what I can do is ask for everyone to change how we interact with our fellow man — to be understanding, caring, to reach out and give a hand up or to ask for a helping hand if needed.

We are all in this together; we are Bermudians and foreigners standing on one rock, and we must meet this challenge head-on with a loving heart. We must be good stewards, our brother’s keeper. Our humanity is on display: let the history books show that we rose up to meet the challenge and left no one behind.

Simone Barton is the chief executive and founder of the Core Heart Health Centre and chairwoman of the One Bermuda Alliance