Column: This Crossroad Offers Us Opportunity

March 22, 2016

[Opinion column written by Glenn Fubler]

This past weekend marked the end of Lent and the beginning of Spring, a time of renewal. Lent commemorates Jesus spending 40 days in the wilderness; fasting, overcoming substantial temptations, accessing his higher self, emerging as the Christ – the rest is history. His transformation offers a template to anyone who keeps the faith, in their better selves.

This past week, Bermuda had a wilderness experience; with the challenge of an impasse resulting in 5 days of protest. With various temptations overcome thus far, our community has re-connected – keeping the faith. That was achieved through substantial leadership from all quarters; Chris Furbert, Rev. Nicholas Tweed and others amongst the protesters; Sir John Swan providing mediation, the Police and the Premier. The planned stage of collaboration will face further temptations, but offers the opportunity for transformation, accessing our better selves as a small island community.

In September 1959, weeks after the peaceful success of the Theatre Boycott, dockworkers staged a strike at No. 1 Shed. When the workers found out that the merchants were circumventing their strike by using shop staff to off-load the ‘Queen of Bermuda’, they reacted angrily and returned to the docks armed with pipes and machetes. The stand-off between the workers – led by Joe Mills -and the Police was mediated by a team including Leonard Bascome [BIU President], Arnold Francis and Rev Vernon Byrd [St. Paul]. That wilderness experience, with the attendant temptations, was overcome and it ushered in a period of new engagement on employee relations and the rebirth of the labour movement which had waned since the death of Dr. Gordon, 5 years earlier.

Nelson Mandela and his colleagues were sentenced to life in the wilderness of prison in 1963, in apartheid South Africa. There was the temptation for resentment. However, rather than ‘fighting the old’, they used their prison time, renewing themselves and visioning new possibilities for their society. They not only furthered their education, but even encouraged the wardens’ participation; overcoming the temptation to promote ‘Us & Them’. Keeping the faith, that movement eventually galvanized unprecedented global support and eventually facilitated key engagement with the regime to effect South Africa’s transformation.

When Martin Luther King returned to Birmingham, following extensive terrorism with his brother’s house being bombed; a number of younger activists were tempted to react against whites, generally. Martin helped those caught up in anger, to keep the faith. That next week the movement enjoyed a transformational experience, when the Anglican [Episcopal] Church of Ohio, responded by mobilizing thousands of their mostly white parishioners, securing SCLC, unprecedented financial support.

In the mid- 1980’s the Bermuda Union of Teachers sought to address teachers’ comparatively low salaries. The issue became emotional and as BUT Organizer, I designed a unique rotating strike strategy which leveraged our efforts. Having been in the wilderness so long, teachers were tempted to continue the strike, even though we were offered both Arbitration and a Board of Inquiry. Facing accusations of ‘selling-out’, we – the leadership – were able to convince enough members that pivoting towards an engagement with Government, offered a ‘win-win’. The eventual outcome proved that keeping the faith works.

Our Island’s current experience around immigration policy with the background of unprecedented levels of debt and unemployment throws up great temptations. There are those doubting their leadership, on all sides. However, this crossroad offers us an opportunity. Accessing our higher selves; through the engagement provided by these Working Groups, we can pivot towards the renewal of our island.

For the sake of upcoming generations, let’s keep the faith.

- Glenn Fubler

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