The true story is told of a man named Captain Francesco Schettino, who cowardly left his ship in the midst of the Costa Concordia disaster off the shore of Giglio Island on January 13, 2012. This lily-livered man, threw the noble age-old protocol of women and children (the most vulnerable) first to the wind, and grabbed one of the few life vessels for himself. As you can imagine, he was widely reviled for his selfishness. After all, not only did he violate maritime law which speaks to a captain being responsible for the safety of the ship and its crew, no matter what, but he also violated the moral ideal of chivalry tied to sacred honour, service and respect for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Even though 4.200 people were rescued, 32 lost their lives, and arguably, could have been saved, had he acted differently, instead of taking one life boat for his lonesome self.
Fast forward nine years to the Santa Maria De La Antigua. The words fell like a bomb on the ears of his shell-shocked audience. Say what?! A stealth bomb! Said our good captain: “Hear this, my comrade. Your [captain] got vaccinated, and he is still alive . . . and well. No symptoms . . . whatsoever.” When one of the persons with whom he was engaged queried incredulously, “Who got vaccinated?” the captain brushed aside the question with a curt, “All right, let’s go, let’s continue!” And when the other party in the trio asked again, rather disbelievingly, “Are you saying you got vaccinated Mr [Captain]?” our good captain again sidestepped the question. To say that Antiguans and Barbudans, the men and women of goodwill, with a sense of right and wrong and good form were left slack-jawed is putting it mildly. Nobody could believe it. Not even the card-carrying members of the ruling party. Wow!
But believe it, folks. As Maya Angelou once said, “When people tell you who they are, believe them.”Seems,not all of us are created equal. Some are more equal than some. We are talking about the captain of this blessed ship, the Santa Maria De La Antigua, and the few wealthy privileged elites who privately secured the vaccine and had it administered to themselves. To hell with the frontline workers! To hell with those who are putting their lives on the line every day to keep us safe! To hell with the most vulnerable. To hell with everybody else except the captain and his kith and kin. Folks, much like the ancien regime in pre-eighteenth century France, where society was divided into unequally treated classes, privilege and connections is pervasive here, and it has become indefensible and odious. Indeed, it stinketh up to high heaven. And the angels weep!
Of course, we, mere unequal mortals, who dare not encroach on the domain of the wealthy and the connected and the good captain, will inevitably ask the question: Did the other members of the crew also get vaccinated? Or did the good captain take the doses all for himself and his wealthy friends? What about the good Minister of Health? The Chief Medical Officer? The good head of the testing laboratory? The head of the Mount St John’s Medical Centre? Were they left out in the Covid cold? Hmmmm! Was there a LORD OF THE FLIES situation where, in a life and death situation, civility and decency and ethical norms were cast aside as every man looked to himself? Hmmmm! Enquiring minds want to know.
The thing is: why the stealth? Why the cloak of secrecy? Was it because it reeked of bad form? The optics were clearly not good. And it will leave a sour taste in the mouths of many people for years to come. We shall not soon forget this.
True, the captain had boldly proclaimed that he would be the first to take the vaccine when it became available (we assumed to all of us). We also assumed that he would do it publicly on national media as a way of encouraging those with anti-vaccine reservations to jump on board. We saw a number of captains all over the world, including US President Joe Biden, doing it that way to inspire and assure the public. But not our good captain. We only learned that he’d gotten the lifeboat by way of the Freudian slip to which we referred earlier. Then again, perhaps it was thoughtless braggadocio. A major faux pas anyway.
Gypsy sang a popular calypso many years ago entitled, THE SINKING SHIP. In it, he chronicles the many ills facing the good ship, La Trinidad. The lead-up to the chorus says, “Meh blood crawl / Things start to fall / Ah hold meh head when a sailor bawl / [chorus] Captain, this ship is sinking / Captain, the seas are rough / We gas tank almost empty / No electricity, we oil pressure reading low / Should we abandon ship / Or should we stay on it / We don’t know, we don’t know, we don’t know / Captain, you tell we what to do.” Hmmmm!
Folk, don’t look to this captain for leadership and direction. He missed an opportunity when he donned the life-jacket and took the life boat some three weeks ago. In secrecy.
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