Seems, there will be no honeymoon from the daily diet of bad news that is engulfing this terrestrial ball; there will be no rest for our weary world. Forget the New Year resolutions and the psychological lines of demarcation between the old year and the new – the so-called ‘fresh beginning.’ The travails of the earth continue unabated.
The news that some 200 fires are ravaging the eastern part of Australia, leading to the evacuation of hundreds of thousands, is certainly distressing. The Australian fires followed the apocalyptic fires in the Amazon last year. In both cases, the environment suffered immeasurable damage. The depletion of the rainforests in the Amazon and Australia have contributed much to climate change and the type of destructive weather that we’ve experienced here in the Caribbean and other places. For example, Indonesia is experiencing its worst flooding and landslides in over a decade. Some sixty souls have already perished. And we need not rehash the horror inflicted on Barbuda by Irma, and the Bahamas by Dorian. Mother Nature is angry!
Then there is the news that Turkish forces are moving into Libya to support the internationally-recognised government in Tripoli led by Fayez al-Serraj. The situation there is a tinder box because al-Serraj is under grave threat from a renegade general bent on ruling all of Libya. That region of the world is at a heightened state of volatility. See also the ongoing civil war in Yemen.
Not surprisingly, the storming of the American embassy in Iraq, and the retaliatory killing of the commander of the Iranian Quds force, Qassem Soleiman, ratcheted things up significantly in the Middle East. As is their wont, the Iranians have vowed to exact revenge, and Trump, he of the over-sized ego, is not expected to give the Iranians any quarter. In fact, he has pledged to hit 52 targets in Iran if and when the Iranians strike at America or American interests. For their part, it is being reported that the Iranians have put out an $80M bounty on the head of Donald Trump. This cannot end well! Yesterday’s killing of three Americans in Kenya by Al-Shabab militants is also likely to set-off Donald Trump and provoke another big response. Remember, it was the killing of an American that precipitated the American airstrike that killed 25 militants in Iraq. Let it never be said that Donald Trump is a weakling or a pussy-footer.
Of course, almost all of the problems that are now rearing their ugly heads anew, much like ‘devil grass,’ are holdovers from 2019 and even earlier years. We’re talking about the seething cauldrons of discontent in Hong Kong, Haiti, Lebanon, France and Iraq. The troubling issues (inequality, poverty, politicians feeding fat, nepotism, corruption, less freedom and more victimisation) all remain unresolved. The anger persists, and it is a fair bet that we will be reading more about them in the days and months ahead.
Then there is the situation in Jamaica where they have already recorded seven murders so far this year. At this demonic pace, 2020 could even surpass 2019 in homicides. Mind you, 2019 was deadlier (1, 300 homicides) than 2018 with 1, 101 homicides. Why such a reckless disregard for human life in the land of Garvey, Marley and “One love, one heart; let’s get together and feel all right?” It is so sad! Jamaica’s murder rate is almost eight times the world average, and according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), murder/crime is Jamaica’s biggest stumbling block to economic growth. And don’t talk about Trinidad, where, in the very young hours of 2020, the Land of the Hummingbird recorded its first homicide. Then just yesterday, there was a triple homicide in Arima. This disturbing start does not portend well for the future, but we trust that 2020 will not be anything like 2019 which was the second-highest murderous year in Trinidad’s history. Sigh!
Mercifully, here in our bit of paradise, we only recorded three homicides in 2019 – that of Nicoma McFarlane (25 years old), Carissa Chandler (29 years old) and Keon Carr. Of course, one death at the hand of another is one death too many, and we are certainly praying that we can record zero homicides in this year 2020. The year began with a protest by the executive of the opposition United Progressive Party in front of Government House, calling on the Governor General, Sir Rodney Williams, to initiate an inquiry into what could have been the fourth homicide in 2019. We’re talking about the shooting of Customs Officer, Cornel Benjamin, one of the internal investigators looking into alleged shenanigans at the Customs. Naturally, we could wax speculative on a whole host of intriguing aspects to this story, but we will refrain from joining the social chattering classes with idle talk. The fact is, we don’t know enough, and it is for that reason that we are calling on the authorities to quell the speculation and the anxiety, and at least, let us know that this brazen assault on a limb of the law – this affront to our senses and sensibilities, is being treated with the seriousness that it deserves. Our right to live in a society free from fear demands it.
Meanwhile, we are demanding that the government step up its efforts to solve some of the problems that bedeviled us in 2019. We cannot continue to live in a state where we seemingly lurch from crisis to crisis. We need a government that is proactive, rather than a reactionary ‘whack-a-crisis’ administration that merely responds to each crisis by affixing a band-aid to mute the cries of the suffering people. We’re talking about roads, water, sidewalks, unmet promises to complete major buildings, reliable pension and monthly payroll disbursements, and so on and so forth. Even our Prime Minister, the Honourable Gaston Browne, is admitting that the much-hyped notion of Antigua as an ‘economic powerhouse’ is, at least for now, a bridge too far.
The title of this piece is taken from the 1984 Steel Pulse album and classic song by the same name. In it, the pathos of the lament is unmistakable, and it speaks to an extant crisis around the globe. Here’s a peak at some of the lines, which are clearly universal: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof / He gave man His love, and he reward it with violence / In these last days, lend ears to what I say / Man in his ignorant state has signed and sealed his own fate / . . . Misguided people, they don’t seem to care / Higher taxes and cutbacks . . . / Your life is in their hands, just waiting to explode . . . / [Officialdom] has a plan undermining Third World man . . . / Suck our lands of [wealth], creating famine and pestilence throughout the land / You hear what I say, inna dis ya, inna dis ya earth crisis / Are you suffering / Earth crisis, are you suffering . . .”
This earth is yours, Lord! Help us, we beseech Thee!