It’s all a matter of perspective: An interesting history lesson
Position: Bermuda, St. Georges
Nautical Position: 32°22’714N 064°40’870W
Etmal: 10271 NM
Ship: Pelican of London
Today during our history lesson, we talked about a topic we discussed already in the beginning of our voyage. What is history and memory? Who tells and writes history and what different meanings can occur? The topic of our debate were the two tours we had in the past days, which were given by Bermudians. Both tours discussed nearly the same events and places but contained a lot of different information.
The two Tours
Throughout our first tour Peter, an old white man, whose ancestors were settlers talked a lot about the discovery and the way Bermuda became important for the British empire.
His stories were swayed by the heroism and the expertise of the English and he talked proudly about Bermuda’s buildings and their role in the development of the island. Furthermore, he spoke about the achievements which were made over the years in terms of politics and economy. In fact, he mentioned slavery and showed us the “black cemetery” but gave little importance to this part of Bermuda’s history.
The second tour we had a few days later was led by Kristine, a woman of color who informed us about Bermuda’s participation in slavery. She talked about almost the same places as Peter but explained their involvement in human rights abuses and racial segregation in great detail. She acknowledged the fights certain men and women had fought to bring an end to slavery and talked us through to the lives of the most important ones of those.
It’s obvious, that there were differences in their stories although they talked about nearly the same events. Two good examples are pilot Jimmy Derrol and the old courthouse. Jimmy Derrol was a pilot who was great at his job. A Royal Navy officer was so impressed with Derrol’s ability to pilot a ship safely into port that he gave Jimmy his freedom. After that, he began to fight for the rights of people of color and counter-slavery. Christine tolt us about his fight and his engagement in this sort of things, Peter didn’t.
The old courthouse, the oldest building in the town of St. Georges marked an important step in achieving a parliament and a written law. It was built by slaves and in its halls slaves and women accused of witchcraft were sentenced to death. Two facts we were told by Christine but not by Peter.
He did not do this out of ill intent, but simply and solely because his priorities were different from Kristine’s. And this shows how history and memory are mixed and changed even though they all tell the same stories.
How we experience History up close
During our trip we visited many countries where the standard of living is much lower than in Germany and we were sometimes confronted with severe poverty, neglect or still noticeable racial segregation. Bermuda is a very prosperous British Overseas Territory. Nevertheless, it was very clear to us how important it is to question history and to look at it from different perspectives. With each new country we visit, we learn to better understand the background that shaped it.
In my opinion, this is a very important skill that has become even more pronounced through the various stops on our trip. Be it the socialist, propaganda-ridden Cuba or the Caribbean where racism is still deeply rooted. Whenever we approach new countries, we start to understand what made them the way they are today. It is important to learn how the infrastructure has been built to be able to draw conclusions about how the society works these days and worked before.
By the Way: We are still in Bermuda and spending our time with school and maintenance work. Let ́s see when the generator decides to work, and we can leave for the Azores. #PelicanStyle
Kaya: Grüße an meine Familie, die ich ganz schrecklich vermisse… Ich freue mich schon, euch alle wiederzusehen.
Klara: Grüße an meine Familie, auf die ich mich schon sehr freue und an meine Omas, die ich sehr vermisse. Und Kuss geht raus an meine Cousins.
Nicolai: Liebe Grüße an meine Familie und alle, die an mich denken, mir geht es gut.