Everybody likes to think big and act big.

But as we enter a new year, troubled by violent crime, overdevelopment, racial inequity, a troubled public education system, an economic downturn and a large government debt, maybe the time has come to think small.

Time and again, people will say: “If anybody can fix this problem, Bermuda can.”

Bermuda is a small place. And our small size, theoretically, can make it possible to handle a lot of problems that seem impossibly complex and overwhelming in other countries.

As you’ve heard so many people say, so many times: “Bermuda could be an example to the world.”

There are plenty of examples how our small size really has helped: It has long been part of our tourism formula — the whole concept of such a small place — almost toylike — has long been an important part of Bermuda’s allure. Our roads were narrow and winding, not broad and straight. We got ahead by having the smallest drawbridge in the world, not the largest.

Bermuda’s small size allowed international business to deal directly with leaders and regulators. They could work out ways of doing business quickly and efficiently, to the benefit of themselves and Bermuda.

It couldn’t happen like that in a big country like the United States, with 50 separate states and layer upon layer of bureaucracy and regulation. It wasn’t just that we were smarter: We were also smaller.

And where, amongst ourselves, we have been at our best — when we have been most caring, most charitable, friendliest — it has been a sign of our small size too. We are not a big and anonymous city. We are a community, and the people around us are friends, relatives and neighbours — or might soon be.

There are disadvantages to being small. But we do best when we are true to what we are, and not pretend to be something else.

There is a natural urge within all of us, of course, to think bigger, act bigger and build bigger. Small sometimes seems the same as inferior. There is constant pressure from outside as well. It is cultural — what we see on TV and in the movies and in our travels too.

There is economic pressure too. Hotel developers, car dealers, house builders — just about everybody thinks they can make more money if they do things bigger.


 They will work hard to convince us that this is what we always wanted and need to have. If only we have a bigger government, a bigger bathroom, a bigger boat… then we can be happier too.

As we head into a new year, there is always a temptation to think big and ambitious thoughts.

I hope, instead, that we will get better at saying “no” to big things — to big hotels where the guests and the staff cannot know each other, to big schools where students can get lost and forgotten, to bigger cars and bigger trucks, and to governments that are bigger than we need, and to debts that are larger than we want to have to pay.

A small place is a somewhere we can, and should, be able to recognize each other as friends and neighbours. It’s a place where each of us, and our visitors, should feel safe and comfortable.

And it’s a small place is a place where our problems can be solved.

Living in a small place is sometimes a curse. But I hope, in 2011, we do a better job recognizing that it’s one of our most important blessings too.