Straight irresponsible: Ignorance is not blissSunday, August 22, 2021
Acceptance of personal responsibility does not fetch a premium, nor is it a big vote-getter in our country. I suspect that is a large part of the explanation as to why so many of our citizens believe someone else is responsible for their every action, or inaction, and must, therefore, bear the consequences of either.
There was a time in this country when it was fashionable, very fashionable, for politicians to overtly tell folks that the purpose of a Government was to wipe their every tear, and soothe their every sorrow. Reality then hit us right smack in the face and the country was forced to realise the folly of that approach — well, a large portion of the country at any rate.
Unsurprisingly, the residual impact of years of negative political conditioning haunts us today. It is a ghost of our own creation.
I think the passage of Tropical Storm Grace is another great opportunity for leaders who really care about the medium and long-term growth and development of Jamaica to speed up the process of political exorcism, which is very much incomplete, but absolutely necessary.
As Tropical Storm Grace unleashed its fury on many sections of the island last Tuesday, some took to social media to lash the Government for what they said was inadequate warning that the weather system was an imminent threat to Jamaica.
This is not true.
Messages from the Meteorological Office of Jamaica, and numerous other verified sources on social media, had warned Jamaicans days prior to the storm impacting us. Advisories reminded us that we needed to take the necessary actions to protect life and limb. These were repeated. There were also numerous warnings of the impending weather system in traditional media several days before its arrival. Yet some protested on social media that they were totally unaware that a tropical storm was on our doorstep.
Quite frankly, I think it is time we stop babysitting the feelings of people who are intent on being downright irresponsible. Mollycoddling people who choose to ignore even the most basic rules of self-preservation has not benefited this country. It is time for a radical shift.
I think that, except for those who have just landed here from Mars, and/or maybe a few who live way up in the Blue Mountains and have never ventured very far from their abode, all others know that the Bog Walk Gorge is a no-go area during adverse weather conditions.
Last Tuesday National Works Agency (NWA) released this notice on social media: “Update: Bog Walk Gorge is closed. Do not attempt to access area as water now flowing over the Flat Bridge!” Traditional media outlets also disseminated this information. Yet several people decided to use the gorge, notwithstanding the blindingly obvious dangers. Some were trapped. They called for the authorities to send help.
It is time we let people know that ignorance is not bliss, there is nothing sexy about being irresponsible and, importantly, when you decide to defy the laws of common sense, gravity, and self-preservation in a situation where there is a clear, workable alternative, the State will not extend or expend any resources to save you. You will have to save yourself.
Right quick someone is going to say, “But, Higgins, how can you say these things when you are an advocate for the activist State? An activist State does not mean the State is responsible for citizens' every itch and scratch. It is not the function of an activist State to sing “Rock-a-bye, baby” to its newborns and “In the sweet by and by” on the occasions of its dearly departed.
No State can or will ever be effective in the role of a superman. National leaders that have tried to be all things to all men are discarded on the scrap heap of history, and those who are still foolishly attempting to walk on water and turn water into wine are now on political life support.
I have noted in this space before, but it bears repeating, the State exists to do for its citizens what the citizens cannot effectively and efficiently, individually, do for him/herself. The activist State is not a socialist or a communist utopia, where manner falls from the sky while folks sip milk and honey. Eighteenth century philosopher Edmund Burke argued that to preserve a society, one needs to periodically reform it.
In a previous The Agenda piece I said that there needed to be a new ambition of the Jamaican State. I have not recoiled. I maintain that a focus on regeneration, and not the resurrection of redistributive, minus production — the social democratic models — leftist politics, which is the prescription of the People's National Party (PNP), is necessary.
I continue to maintain that we need to reimagine the public good with policies and programmes that are situated philosophically and politically at the broad political centre; whether centre left or centre right.
In carrying through the process of reimagination, among other things, we need to generously factor in it a reorientation of how citizens understand the functions of government.
Our leaders, for starters, need to stop pontificating that they are the political equivalent of Santa Claus. Individual responsibility must be a national agenda item, not a marginal note in our national text.
Last Wednesday the Ministry of Health and Wellness confirmed that the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 had landed on our shores. That ominous announcement has not fazed some who continue to parade the streets wearing masks under their chin, nose, and on the back of the hand. And, of course, there are those who refuse to be vaccinated for reasons which I discussed in a previous article.
Public health expert Professor Peter Figueroa says Jamaica is likely to see more patients with severe COVID-19 piling up in hospitals, as well as more deaths, now that the Delta variant is on the island.
Speaking on Radio Jamaica last Wednesday, Professor Figueroa stated, among other things: “It will cause more people to get infected, to get ill, and, therefore, you're gonna have more severe cases piling up in hospital, which is exactly what is happening right now in Jamaica. And it's happening in many countries right across the globe. So once we start to see a surge in cases we're gonna see a surge in severe cases, and we're gonna see an increase in deaths.”
The Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ) has called for no-movement weekends and formal work from home to slow the novel coronavirus spike. I think the Andrew Holness-led Administration should take heed.
At the time of writing, Jamaica had recorded three more COVID-19-related deaths, forcing the count to 1,342. There were 555 new cases, with ages ranging from 45 to 95 years, driving the total to 59,932, with 10,617 being active. People in hospital numbered 559, with 100 being moderately ill and 36 critically so.
Irrespective of these frightening numbers, which represent real people, some among us are never going to get it that the COVID-19 vaccine is the best hope of getting the country back to near pre-COVID-19 normal.
First line of defence
I am firm in my position that individual freedoms are crucial, but I also recognise that there are very rare occasions when the safety of public health and welfare can result in fundamental rights having to be temporarily restrained as a means of achieving the public good. I think we are now at that juncture.
Sections of the media reported last Thursday that several hospitals across the island had run out of bed spaces for COVID-19 patients. This story, if nothing else, should have awoken those who had fallen into convenient slumber: Headline: 'We're Tired!' Nurses complain of exhaustion amid third wave of COVID infections'.
The news item said, among other things: “President of the Nurses' Association of Jamaica Patsy Edwards-Henry says the country's nurses are now past the point of exhaustion.
“This as news across the island suggests the nation is quickly reaching its COVID-19 capacity.
“She says as COVID-19 hospitalisations climb, and greater pressure is placed on the health sector, its becoming not only difficult, but unsafe to work.” ( Nationwide News Network, August 18, 2021)
This is a very ominous development.
I believe our health-care workers should be our last line of defence, but because of widespread indiscipline as it relates to the observance of the health protocols; namely, personal hygiene practices, physical distancing, and related behavioural matters, we have effectively made our health-care workers the first line of defence.
I think it is the general population who should be the first line of defence. If that were happening, a double benefit would be achieved. We would better protect ourselves and better protect the health-care system. When our health care workers cannot show up for work, who will treat members of the general population when they become infected?
We are destroying our last line of defence, first. This is madness! Some among us do not seem to realise that we are playing with the lives and livelihoods 2.9 million people.
The Andrew Holness-led Administration is sailing through some very choppy waters. The novel coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc on our health-care workers, the economy, and the lives and livelihoods of Jamaicans. The major unions are flexing their muscles, and some of their recent utterances suggest strike action is looming. The cost of many crucial goods and services, gasoline, transportation, and some food items, for example, have seen sharp increases in price in recent months and weeks.
And the big elephant in the room — crime is eating away at the very core of the society. With just over four months still remaining in 2021, Jamaica has already recorded almost 900 murders this year. We have been at this very murderous juncture for a very long, long, time.
While we delay taking an inevitable path, the majority of well-thinking Jamaicans, who diligently and legally toil hoping to catch the increasingly elusive Jamaican dream, scream in agony because the merchants of misery are rapidly being emboldened by rancid victories.
More than a spoke is needed in their wheel. We cannot dilly-dally and be shilly-shally any more. It is well established that the best deterrent to crime is the certainty of being caught. It is widely known in our country that if you commit a crime you have more than a damn good chance to get away scot-free. It is not rocket science; therefore, our crime rate is one of the highest in the world.
I do not believe that Sunday school recitals, or variant forms of emotional embrace, will soothe or silence the ravenous beasts among us who rape, rob, murder, or create other forms of criminal mayhem. They must be hunted, captured, and put before the courts. Those who attack State personnel, so as to endanger their lives and/or the lives of other law-abiding citizens, must not be treated with kid gloves. It is a matter of us or the criminals.
Some years ago I said in this space that criminals are getting so brazen they might even get it into their heads that they can overthrow our democratically elected Government. Some may laugh and think that is far-fetch. I don't. Criminal elements who have the resources to acquire AK-47s, M-16s, and other assault rifles, plus have the apparent tactical awareness to use them, are not petty thieves. Jamaica had better decide which way it wants to go. We have been standing in one putrid spot for too long.
While I was growing up I often heard my grandfather say to his friends, “God will never give you more than you can bear.” This is an abbreviation of what appears in The Bible at 1 Corinthians 10-13.
“The Haitians have long passed their pain threshold,” a caller told the host of a talk show last Thursday.
Are we the correct judge of such matters? I wonder.
Anyways, I will discuss that another time. This snippet of a report from the BBC News, last Thursday, made me tearful: “Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry says his country is 'on its knees' after more than 2,000 people were killed in Saturday's powerful earthquake. Henry said Haiti was 'physically and mentally devastated'. More than 12,000 people have been left injured and 332 are still missing after the 7.2-magnitude quake.”
Whether individually or as a country, whatever help we can give or influence the international community to give to Haiti at this time will demonstrate our common humanity.
Garfield Higgins is an educator and journalist. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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