Column: Differences Resolved Through Dialogue

January 8, 2017

[Opinion column written by Glenn Fubler]

In the 1970’s as a 20-something, Wilfred ‘Mose’ Allen became a mentor of mine. ‘Mose’ aka ‘Scrapo’, had been a champion of social justice. While he had limited formal schooling, he was well-read, a paragon of ‘life-long learning’. Notwithstanding having a thorny personality, Mose used his inquisitive mind to help shape the modern Bermuda, we all enjoy.

I’m reminded of Mose as we reflect on the crisis that Bermuda just experienced. His demonstration of integrity, independence and courage; reminds us of the ‘GPS’ available to us all, as we navigate these difficult waters.

Mose became a confidante of Dr. E.F. Gordon during the 1940’s movement which launched the Bermuda Workers Association [BWA] and subsequently the Bermuda Industrial Union [BIU]. Through an island-wide campaign a petition was circulated addressing a number of social issues – segregation, the right to vote, amongst others – resulting in hundred of names being presented in London by Dr. Gordon.

The only immediate fruit of that labour was the legislation for free primary education in 1949. However, the campaign had been an exercise in democracy – when only landlords could vote – sowing the seeds for the social development, that we take for granted today.

After Gordon’s death in 1955, Mose pushed forward, seeking to fashion a vision for a better Bermuda, with friends such as David Critchley and Edward DeJean. He helped DeJean with the heroic Howard Academy project, opening access for secondary education.

Mose was a close friend of Leonard Bascome who became BIU President, following Dr. Gordon’s death.

The success of the ’59 Theatre Boycott spawned The Committee for Universal Adult Suffrage which campaigned for the right to vote. Their success was initially shackled with a ‘plus-vote’ for land-owners. When an election was scheduled for 1963, Mose, Eddie DeJean and others founded the Progressive Labour Party, Bermuda’s first political party.

Mose convinced Lois Brown Evans to become involved; which was the furthest thing from her mind at the time. The rest is history.

After campaigning against the idea of political ‘parties’ in the Island, in the 1963 election; after the balloting, Henry ‘Jack’ Tucker controversially formed the United Bermuda Party [UBP] when the ‘independent’ parliamentarians took their seats in the House.

The removal of the plus vote for landlords came during the Island’s first Constitutional Conference held in London in 1966. Amongst the representatives were Wilfred ‘Mose’ Allen and Dame Lois from the PLP, as well as Sir Henry ‘Jack’ Tucker of the UBP, creating the maiden formal document that framed the transformation of Bermuda.

In the ups and downs of politics and with the reality of his thorny personality, Mose moved away from the formal political scene around the time we met. However, in his early 70’s, Mose continued to demonstrate his passion for the welfare of the whole Island.

Ignoring barriers, Mose would reach out directly to any person involved, to discuss a matter of concern.

If a substantial issue came up, he would reach out directly to ‘Jack’ Tucker. Mose would ride his pedal bike – with his false leg – down to the Paget home of the former Government Leader and engage Sir Henry directly, over a cup of tea.

These two, opponents during the critical stages of social progress in Bermuda during the eventful 60’s, would probably have been described as ‘enemies’ by most. However, a level of character on both their parts meant that they could engage in productive discussions – to the benefit of the island as a whole.

Mose was never a saint and like all of us, made his share of mistakes. However, when it came to the Big Picture, his heart and his mind was open.

You may find the example of Mose, in this regard, comparable to others, at home and abroad. Those leaders who have helped remove barriers while maintaining a generous spirit. This type of leadership recognizes that regardless on which ‘side of the fence’ we find ourselves, we are all linked – all in the same boat.

This type of leadership knows that any differences on any matter can be resolved through dialogue, to the benefit of the whole.

- Glenn Fubler

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