Column: ‘The Practice Of Whataboutism’

May 11, 2022 | 11 Comments

Dwayne Robinson Bermuda Feb 14 2019[Opinion column written by OBA’s Dwayne Robinson]

Definition of ‘whataboutism’: the act or practice of responding to an accusation of wrongdoing by claiming that an offense committed by another is similar or worse. [Merriam- Webster dictionary]

Anyone who follows politics globally or locally will know how common the practice of “whataboutism” is by some politicians. It cheapens discourse and robs the people of true transparency. I have no say in global politics, but I can and do demand better locally for Bermudians.

Bermudians are constantly subjected to “whataboutism” causing many to view politics as toxic and not something they wish to engage in. They see two sides constantly at each other’s throats, playing the ‘blame game’. Why is our political discourse like this?

Many say it’s the Westminster system, which by design pits both parties against each other. I concede that is part of it. However, I believe it is amplified by the PLP who utilize this as strategy to deflect and distract, so they can avoid public scrutiny whenever possible.

Two sides should not be pointing at each other constantly. The role of the Opposition is to question the Government for the people and obtain answers, so the people know their government is being properly scrutinized. It is the party that is in Government’s job to lead the island and to answer questions from the Opposition and the populace. Trouble begins when the Government points the finger back.

The Government points back because it is seeking to shift the focus away from its decision making. However, this redirection of focus causes the community to take their eye off the ball – looking away from the decision that is being taken by the Government.

Why can’t the PLP get out of election mode and start answering the hard questions? Is Bermuda happy with this “well at least we are better than the other guys” attitude?

I know that many people simply want real answers and a vision from the PLP that does not involve dragging the OBA’s record through the mud. Our people want hope and the best way to provide hope is to offer real solutions, decisions that are backed with clear reasoning, thought-out numbers, and, most importantly, transparent. The PLP has been unable to deliver on their grandiose promises for the last five years even with a 30-seat super majority.

Yes, reviewing past decisions are crucial to learning and making better decisions. We must always have an appreciation for the past. However, pay attention when someone tries to shift the dialogue from current decisions by bringing up another past decision. Focus on the matter at hand. What is being decided now must take precedence because you cannot change the past.

I urge Bermudians to scrutinize the current Governments’ decisions based on their merit. The next time someone says but “whatabout”, don’t fall for it. Otherwise, we will miss what is right in front of us because we are looking behind us.

Let’s improve the standard of our discourse. Let’s re-engage our population in informed political discourse. An informed and engaged population will produce better and more capable candidates for politics, thus providing us with a higher standard of representatives. This must be the goal, to be constantly improving, and cultivating our next generations of leaders.

- Dwayne Robinson is a former Senator and is the OBA Candidate for Constituency 30. He can be reached at drobinson@oba.bm.

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Comments (11)

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  1. Eyes wide open says:

    The answer is actually quite simple, the practice is used as an excuse to avoid change. Some people are so stuck in their own ways they truly refuse to see things any other way. For example you review a idea that is proposed like the cannabis legislation and rather than write it off completely you suggest that maybe it would be better and even less red tape to go through if we legislate for medicinal cannabis only. This would be a favorable option if in the eyes of the crown as they have to consider their international agreements with the United Nations. Instead of the government being open to this a good step towards the goal they have in mind they instead say that they want everything one go and if they don’t get it we’ll just fight with the crown. After all what about us being able to make our own laws right? What they have not considered is that they do not have the authority to speak in the act of diplomacy and are reliant on the crown to do so. So they could end up with a law passed that is utterly useless until a new international agreement is made and that is not in their power to do. Whereas the medical side of it is already agreed upon and I feel that rather than increasing the import limits again we should encourage local businesses to produce it and even one day export it. Unfortunately whataboutism wins and everyone else loses because pride matters more than the country in pure politics!

    • Jevon Ray says:

      This is one of the many reasons to go Independent. The fact that we cannot make our own laws without getting the Crowns permission, speaks volumes. Bermuda is a grown adult, that’s living on its own and pays it’s own way. But still has to ask its parent for permission to do anything.

      • sandgrownan says:

        Actually, no it isn’t, no it can’t and no it doesn’t.

        Bermuda is broke, it’s bereft of morality and some people assess it as corrupt.

      • Joe Bloggs says:

        “This is one of the many reasons to go Independent. The fact that we cannot make our own laws without getting the Crowns permission, speaks volumes”

        You misunderstand. Bermuda is bound by that treaty. If we go independent we will still be bound by that treaty.

        If we go independent and then tell the world we will no longer be bound by the treaty we will be viewed as supporting the distribution of drugs and we will be blacklisted by many leading countries. Our economy will fail.

        We are Bermuda, we are not the United States. We cannot tell the world “Do as I say, not as I do” the way the United States can and does.

        • Sage says:

          Bermuda is not a signatory, mommy is. Can you imagine, liberating a beneficial plant with a multitude of uses from unscientific, unjust laws would leave us veiwed as “supporting the distribution of drugs” in a world where cancer sticks and booze are the deadliest drugs killing 10 million a year combined but yet remain fully legal?
          If our economy failed it would be as a result of the international conspiracy the UN, corporations and governments perpetuate to maintain the status quo.The system is rigged.

        • Hey says:

          This will effectively result in international business no longer having access to the UK higher courts and robust legal framework that connection offers,not wanting to be operating or domiciled in a blacklisted country, a mass exodus of jobs and given that apart from international business we really have very little dollars coming into the country, so Bermuda becoming a third world country with abject poverty and no global voice. At an extreme, it would open us up to being invaded by a country that want the strategic military position close to the US.

          There are zero benefits to independence. Our dollar would no longer be pegged and we would find it very difficult to buy anything apart from Bermuda grown produce, and we cannot sustain the population on that.

      • Hey says:

        Further, we can make our own laws, that’s how our laws are made. However we do have to comply with international laws or face the consequences. Independence has no impact.

  2. Wow! This Article brings to mind the phrase “Pot calling the kettle black”!

    • trufth says:

      And there it is! WHATABOUTISM!! You missed the message and went straight to “whataboutism” to deflect, deflect, deflect. Fabulous example of what the article is all about!

    • Joe Public says:

      Robinson is wasting his time with the obaUBA. If he wants change create another party. Robinson why don’t you write an article on why black voters don’t swing anymore!

  3. Joe Bloggs says:

    “Why can’t the PLP get out of election mode and start answering the hard questions?”

    Because that strategy has keep the PLP in power for most of the last 24 years.

    The days of people getting into politics to do right by the community are long gone.

    These days politics is all about the acquisition and retention of power.

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