FRIDAY, MAY 18: I’m not saying our politicians need to be good looking, but they certainly need to be charming.

People go on about policies, when elections start approaching.

Then there are platforms and strategies and arguments about who really cares about you, and insinuations that the other side is crooked and probably stupid and self-serving too.

But there’s one increasingly important trait that gets forgotten or neglected in the midst of all this — probably because it seems mushy-sweet.

That trait is, simply, being nice.

It sounds naive: Politics rewards strength and power and getting your own way. It doesn’t typically honour kindness and thoughtfulness.

But it is more important than ever before in Bermuda that we have a government that citizens really like.

That’s because Bermuda’s governments over the next several years — no matter which political party might form them — are going to have to take incredibly difficult and painful decisions.

They are the kind of decisions where the best long-term interest of ourselves, our island and the world, are pitted against our short-term comforts.

Bermuda’s governments are going to have ask Bermudians to do one of the things that humans beings (and Governments, for that matter) hate doing more than anything else in the world: Make immediate individual sacrifices for some vague “greater good” at some vague time in the future.

Think about the problems that confront us, and how the solutions to almost all of them involve giving up something now in the hope of future benefits.

It’s clear, for example, that our health care system doesn’t have the resources to handle ever-growing costs, endless developments of new and expensive treatments, and the ever-increasing elderly population.

Taxes

So healthy workers and the wealthy will surely have to pay more in taxes and insurance premiums now, so that they can be supported in sickness and old age.

All of us know, for example, that our Government can’t afford to continue the kind of spending that’s taken place in recent years. If it is going to pay for the necessary projects in upcoming years — things like education, health care, police, public transportation and road repair — it must pinch a lot more pennies today.

The same holds true for other challenges, like international business and tourism. It’s hard to see how either industry can be successful here if Bermuda isn’t prepared to make a few sacrifices in the short term.

Creating more attractive costs and a happier business environment for both industries involves harder work for less short-term gain for Bermuda, but it’s hard to see how long-term success can come without it.

The list, of course goes on.

Think about the environment. We cannot have success in the future without hard-to-swallow sacrifices in the present.

Think about health care: We can’t afford future costs if we don’t look after ourselves now, and put money aside for our future needs.

Think about pensions and other support for seniors, in society where senior citizens are the fastest-growing demographic group.

That, too, is a challenge we cannot possibly meet unless we are prepared to sacrifice — certainly more than we are doing right now — to ensure happier results in the future.

So there’s no way that any Bermuda Government can be successful in the years ahead unless it is prepared to demand this kind of sacrifice from citizens.

And there’s no way the citizens of Bermuda will tolerate these kinds of sacrifices unless the Government-of-the day has an exciting vision, and can make us feel enthusiastic about the future — even if we have to work harder, pay more taxes and enjoy fewer rewards for now.

To do that, the Government is going to have to do much more than look good on election day. It’s going to have to be nice to its citizens.

It cannot insult us. It cannot waste our money or steal it. It’s going to have to listen to us, be honest with us, be fair to us, and make us feel good.

We’re going to have to ask a lot from our Government — more than ever before. Because, more than ever before, the Government is going to have to ask a lot from us.