There is a passage in the holy scriptures that speaks of “Men’s hearts failing them for fear.” It appears as though we are living in a time such as that, what with the daily diet of disturbing news. For example, in the past several hours, we have heard of the South African variant of the coronavirus showing up in a patient who is now hospitalised in New York City. We have also heard, as reported by the British Broadcasting Corporation yesterday that, “Scientists have identified another new variant of coronavirus in the UK with some potentially troubling mutations.”
Then there is the news that the deadly Ebola virus has once again reared its ugly head in Guinea. Add to that, the sneaky, conniving and utterly disgraceful way in which a number of government ministers in Peru, a country hit hard by the coronavirus, went behind the backs of the people and selfishly had themselves inoculated. Peruvians are calling for their resignations. And rightly so. Who needs leaders who would cast their lots with the rich and the powerful, rather than sinking or swimming with “my people” as did the Biblical Joseph, Moses and Queen Esther. Away with leaders who shed crocodile tears, posing as populists, even as they curry and dole out favours to those with deep pockets. It is a shameful symbiotic relationship. These leaders are charlatans, and by their fruits, we now know them. May history record their elitist and weasel-like behaviour.
Here in our fair State, we are having heartbreaking news of our own. Our sincerest condolences certainly go out to the colleagues, friends and family of dear Nurse Cynthia Byers who departed this life at the frontlines of this dreadful war against Covid-19. Let history record that she gave her life, so that we might live. She was our Florence Nightingale, and her loss has left a void that will be difficult to fill. May she rest in peace!
Then there is the grim reality of the extended curfew hours which took effect at 6 pm last evening. This further curtailment of our freedom will undoubtedly take a toll on our psyches. Studies have shown that many people worldwide, have contemplated suicide on account of the restrictions of movement and association, and the mind-numbing uncertainty of it all. Of course, we here at NEWSCO support the new curfew hours and the downsizing of gatherings to no more than five persons. We see it as a necessary step in arresting the situation that has been clearly spiraling out of control. Seems, notwithstanding the smugness of this administration, and its premature self-congratulatory pronouncements, those in high places did not know what the hell they were doing. Our low numbers up to the end of last year, were the result of pure dumb luck. But dumb luck runs out after a while. It is the law of averages, and it appears as though our dumb luck has. This is our moment of truth.
All the obfuscation and fudging of numbers, and the sweet-talking of the people with false assurances and pretenses that they had everything under control, have been laid bare. All the silly intellectual conceit displayed by those in high places who looked down on those who dared ask probing questions have all been exposed. Hopefully, at news conferences henceforth, there will be more humility, and less condescension and bs.
There is a very real sense among the populace that the dashboard, with all its caveats and convoluted explanations, is nothing more than a careful/clumsy attempt to manage the data, and an increasing number of Antiguans and Barbudans have lost faith in it. Indeed, every dashboard is greeted with a great deal of skepticism. As currently constituted, the dashboard has outlived its usefulness.
To be sure, it is not only the dashboard that the people no longer trust. Au contraire, the people have lost faith with the many pronouncements emanating from the mouths of those in high places. At a time when truth and transparency and forthrightness are of utmost importance, we cannot shake the eerie sense that we are not being told the whole story, or that we are being fed itsy-bitsy morsels of half-truths, designed to fit the political narrative of the ruling administration. This war against the coronavirus is an existential one, and it appears that Truth is a major casualty. Actually, it was a US Senator Hiram Warren Johnson who originally coined the phrase in 1918, “The first casualty when war comes is truth.” We however like an expansion of that adage by Samuel Johnson in THE IDLER, 1758: “Among the calamities of war may be jointly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interests dictate . . .”
Take a peek, if you will, at the hard-hitting poem, OUR LIVES, OUR PAIN by our poet laureate, Dotsie Isaac, penned a few days ago. It sums up the angst and the disgust of the body politic. It encapsulates the tenor and temper of the times. Not to mention the terror. Recites Dotsie: “Apparently, WE don’t need to know on a daily basis the truth about the escalation of Covid cases / Dashboard skipping a day of data, delaying the grim news for later / Some say, ‘dash-way de dashboard’; throw it overboard the sinking ship / As the number of Covid infections increases, the truth, or any semblance thereof, decreases / They feed it to us in bite-sized pieces like the truth is going to choke us / Or perhaps expose the jokers they are in the vigilant eyes of the nation / After all their so-called preparation; seventeen beds and ventilation / But forgot to figure-in staff; go figure / Cabinet meetings and lengthy briefings / Insidious press conferences with little tolerance for the press / A fumbling, bumbling Minister of Misinformation / A doctor uncomfortable, avoiding certain questions / Why so defensive? / Erecting see-proof fences around the truth / A panel of Hippocratic oaths, and two hypocrites desperately seeking votes / Not diverting from their scripted notes / Telling us hospital lies about the hospitalised / Hospitalised cases twenty-eight / Oh no, wait . . leh me see, it is actually forty / Every move is calculated; information and numbers manipulated / When there is that much deception in the equation, there is no trust / And trust is a must . . .” Hmmmm! Seems, “They can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”
But they’ll keep trying nonetheless. Those in high places. It is their stock in trade. And, much as famously thundered Jack Nicholson in the classic, A FEW GOOD MEN, they are saying to us: “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!!!” Sigh!
Be that as it may, all is not lost, our fellow Antiguans and Barbudans. We will yet win this war against the coronavirus, despite the comedy of errors of those in high places. For example, see the quarantine and isolation facility at the Holberton Hospital and the renovation of the adjunct hospital on Nugent Avenue. The latter is overrun with stray animals and bush, a white elephant, a monument to ineptitude, palm-greasing and failure.
We understand that the very first vaccines will be administered today. Thank God. Early estimates were that the vaccines would be here sometime around March, but the process seemed to have been sped up. Again, we want to thank the good government and people of Dominica, and the government and people of India. Their beneficence will never be forgotten. The COVAX facility must also be saluted for the sense of urgency demonstrated in its haste to get the vaccines to the many islands that are part of the regime.
Almost on a weekly basis, we here at NEWSCO have written an editorial calling on our brothers and sisters to protect themselves, and by extension, each other. It is the need of the hour. Mask-wearing. Frequent handwashing. Good social distancing. Good coughing and sneezing etiquette. Boosting our immune systems. Getting a good night’s rest. Gargling. Sanitizing our cars and work areas. Refraining from wearing the same articles of clothing twice. And so on and so forth. If we abide by the above, we will be alright.
A National Day of Prayer might also be a good idea. In these dread times, we think it useful to look to the Almighty, the Higher Power, to protect us and give us that ‘blessed assurance.’ After all, GREAT IS HIS FAITHFULNESS; He has been our HELP IN AGES PAST.