Editorial: Idle hands

The Antigua and Barbuda Search and Rescue (ABSAR) organisation recently made a post on Facebook that has people shaking their head. Accompanied by a close-up picture of a repair to one of their boats was the caption, “We are currently having an ongoing issue of kids messing around with our rescue boat here in Falmouth Harbour. This photo shows where a child put a knife through one pontoon. This type of damage can mean the difference of life or death for someone lost at sea. Please help us to ensure that this type of damage does not occur again. The life we save could be your own.”

There is a lot that can be said about that type of behavior, but it has all been said before. We can analyse the social conditions that led a young child, or anyone for that matter, to commit this type of vandalism, but it will not arrest the situation. What is needed is a hard look in the mirror and action. If there is even a glimmer of suspicion that your child could have done such a deed then please take the time to educate them on the grave ramifications of such an act. We are not suggesting that any parent make unfounded accusations, but we are asking that they take the time to educate their children that the consequences of these mindless acts are measured in lives. 

We are sure that ABSAR has its reasons for referring to the offending persons as “kids,” but if for some reason they are wrong, then we are pleading with whomever the culprits are to stop! Just take those sharp, pointy objects that you feel a necessity to poke into something and stick them into the ground or some inanimate object that no one cares about.  We care about ABSAR and the great work that they do and so should everyone in Antigua and Barbuda.  

Take a look around. We are surrounded by water. When you or your loved ones go adrift, ABSAR is generally the first to respond. They are also there to support water and land-based activities that require professional medical attention in case things go wrong. And they do all that with limited (if any) government support. The vast majority of their resources are in the form of volunteers and private donations.  

One commentator to the post referenced the recent Tsunami in Indonesia and the failure of the warning system as a warning of what could happen when vandals strike. It is a bit more complicated than that but the reference is still valid, and there are lessons to be learned beyond vandalism. Following the deadly 2004 tsunami that killed nearly 250,000 people in the region, including a great many in Indonesia, the international community pitched in for a high-tech tsunami detection system that consists of sensors, buoys and other data gathering and communication devices. The system was intended to give the people early warning of any potential tsunami so that they could get to safety. 

In a word, the system failed. It did not fail completely, but it failed its intent and design. It has been reported that bureaucracy and other delays in getting 1 billion rupiah ($69,000) to complete the project doomed the project’s progress, but more relevant to the point being made here is the fact that the 22 open water tsunami buoys that provide critical data for forecasts have not worked since 2012 because of vandalism and lack of maintenance. Vandalism!?!? Who vandalises a floating buoy out at sea?

The consequences are hard to pinpoint because it is difficult to know how early the warning would have been and what reaction it would have triggered in the communities, but there is no doubt that lives would have been saved. The death toll from the most recent Indonesian tsunami has crossed 1,400, and it continues to rise. The consequences of idle hands poking holes in ABSAR’s boats will not likely lead to these types of consequences but it could lead to the loss of one life; and that is too many. It is said that “idle hands make for the devil’s work,” and this repeated vandalism is evidence of the truth in that saying. If kids have this much time on their hands, that they can vandalise a rescue boat, then they need something productive to do. If the callous acts were performed by older people who should know better, then they do not, and maybe need to turn to the Lord so that their time is productive and the devil does not give them his work to complete.

No matter the culprit or culprits, we implore you to stop! As the ABSAR personnel said, “The life we save could be your own.”

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