All fall down

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There is a childhood song that accompanied a game that many of us still remember. We would play it with squeals of delight, holding hands and merrily dancing around in a circle, blissfully oblivious to its origin and sad significance. It hails from medieval times, during the ravages of a fearsome bubonic plague (The Black Death). That was a terrible disease spread mostly to humans by infected fleas from rodents, that struck parts of North Africa and Europe from 1346 to 1352. That plague caused the demise of between seventy-five to two hundred million people. The song goes something like this: “Ring around the rosies / A pocket full of posies / Ashes, ashes, all fall down.” At that last, we would all throw ourselves to the ground.

The thing is that that song was first sung by unwitting children during the time of the Black Death, as they marveled at the red rashes on the bodies of those who’d become infected with plague. They were also quite curious as to the efficacy of the posies (flowers) that the superstitious would carry around in their pockets, ostensibly to ward off the plague. Of course, the children would always be amazed at the great number of people who would simply fall down in the streets, succumbing to the destruction wrought by their affliction.

Fast forward to a time and place far removed from that, and we find ourselves with a similar case of every blessed thing falling down here in Antigua and Barbuda. No, we are not talking about our coronavirus pandemic. Rather, we’re talking about the numerous and varied ways in which nothing seems to be working. The fumbling and bumbling of those in high places in this fair State, is astounding.

We are scratching our heads vigorously (No, not from the fleas that inhabit the prevalent rodents in our city) at the reports that this wonderful advanced country of ours, can barely put together a decent fire-tender to tend a fire. The firefighters have been shuffling the leaky trucks around, trying to fill the gaps. Even at the Sir V. C. Bird Airport, we understand that all’s not well, as it pertains to fire tenders. Help us, Lord! We have come to a fine pass!

Then there is the utterly unacceptable report of a recent deluge at the casualty room at the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre. What a disaster! Apparently, during a recent thunderstorm, parts of the roof gave way, leading to the flood. The room had to be evacuated. Mercifully, none of the patients were adversely affected, never mind that it certainly could have been a whole lot worse. Whatever happened to routine maintenance and inspections? Perhaps, “All gone ah gwaasa!” Such is our unhappy lot under this phony and utterly inept administration.

And there’s more ineptitude and downright slackness. One dear lady recently told this writer that she had had a most unpleasant experience doing business with our supposedly new and improved civil registry on High Street. If you recall, it was recently opened after the building was rehabilitated, with much pomp and circumstance, and grandiose speechifying from those in high places. Notwithstanding all the high-flown rhetoric however, the lady shared that her engagement with the registry was much like pulling teeth without an anesthetic. Seems, they have run out of stuff there as well.

And by the way, we understand that the process of getting the vaccination cards from the Ministry of Health operatives is not as painless and hassle-free as some in high places would have us believe. We have heard a number of unflattering stories.

Meanwhile, the Little Creek Bridge remains unfinished, and the Cades Bay Bridge still does not appear to be a gleam in the eye of the Ministry of Works and its garrulous Minister. This, after a whole year of dilly-dallying and inertia. And don’t talk about the long, dangerous crater in the middle of the road at Crabbe Hill. The good Minister appears to be pontificating more than anything else. We certainly subscribe to the suggestion that he ought to DO MORE, accomplish more, and cease and desist with the verbiage.

And let us not forget the profusion of mini-forests that have taken over many of the streets and gutters, in and around our faded city of St. Johns. The gutters on the Old Parham Road, as well as Fort Road are eyesores, never mind health hazards. So too are the sides of Friars Hill Road, from Cedar Grove to Dickenson Bay Street. Seems, much like Rip Van Winkle, those charged with the responsibility for keeping our gutters and roadsides clean, have fallen asleep.

Rudolph Giuliani, a one-time Mayor of New York City, and most recently a disgraced adviser and confidante to former President Donald Trump, has been credited with transforming the city from the drug-infested, graffiti-marred, crime-ridden place that it once was. New York is now one of the most-visited cities in the world, on account of its remake, thanks to Giuliani and his ‘broken windows’ theory. Giuliani posited that the city would change for the better if those in high places began paying attention to the broken windows – the seemingly small things, that if left unrepaired and unattended, could soon blossom into bigger, more complex problems. He targeted street walkers, vagrants, petty thieves, panhandlers, squeegee cleaners, graffiti artists, fare evaders, three-card-monte types, and other hustlers. And he demanded that the police take action against jay-walkers, as well as those who litter, and those who sleep on park benches and relieve themselves in public. He felt that if those seemingly small things were not addressed and reversed, that all would fall down. While we are hardly fans of Giuliani’s, we must commend him for his vision and his determination to bring about meaningful change to New York City.

Here in Antigua and Barbuda, windows are breaking all over the place, and those in high places do not seem to give a damn. This shocking dereliction of duty ought not to be forgotten. They have failed us in so many ways – so much has fallen down.

But then again, perhaps we expected too much of them. After all, their lacklustre performances and apathy over these past seven years are testament to their feebleness and lack of vision, and they too now lie prostrate on the ground! Apparently, much like Humpty Dumpty, the mighty have fallen, and all the king’s horses and men cannot put them together again.

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