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We have to do this –together!

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“We have to be each other’s keepers”- SEARCHLIGHT Mid-week, Jan. 12, 2021.
This quote, from the mid-week edition of SEARCHLIGHT, sums up succinctly the task facing our people as we try to grapple with the multiple health,

natural disaster and socio-economic threats facing us. In a nutshell it says that we can only achieve success if we work together.
This does not mean for one moment that there will not be differences of opinion as to how we approach the challenges, that there should be no criticism either of government’s handling of the situation or the responses from various quarters. What is important however, indeed critical, is that we do not lose common focus for we are all in it together, whether we like it or not.
The very nature and scope of the COVID pandemic have presented us with unforeseen challenges. We have had a variety of experiences and threats to the health of our nation but never on this scale since the deadly cholera epidemic of the 19th century. Fortunately so far, a combination of prudent responses and perhaps sheer luck, have allowed us to escape any fatalities.

The shifting sands of the pandemic, the inter-connection with international travel and now even the mutations in the disease itself, require us to constantly adjust and re-adjust our approaches as we go along. The protocols developed for today may well have to be modified tomorrow through changing circumstances. Is it so difficult to understand this? This brings with it inconveniences for most of us, but such is the nature of the beast.

In addition, just having to cope with the threat, alongside dengue fever it must be remembered, places tremendous strains on our meagre resources, our human resources most of all. This tests severely the capacity of our health and governmental officials to respond on literally a 24-hour basis to the rapidly changing situation. Excellent work is being done, but inevitably weaknesses will be manifested, fortunately not on any fundamental or fatal scale. While we understand this, it is important for our officials to also recognize that it is a two-way street and that the stresses and strains also affect the wider population. There is no way we can handle all these without an inclusive approach, understanding the limitations and possibilities on both sides and willing to understand each other’s viewpoints.

It is therefore most puzzling to comprehend the motives of some of those in our midst, persons in both responsible and influential positions, who make public criticism of the actions taken by our health and state officials their number one priority. We even heard a criticism that there is no national plan to combat COVID. Are these people from Mars or Washington? Is it not more helpful if, side by side with those criticisms, we provide solutions, understanding the complexity of the situation? Can’t we take a positive stand for once, not eschewing any critical comments, but providing guidance as to how to improve our handling of the situation?

Elements in the media, both the regular and social media, seem not to understand that many of their actions have the effect of undermining public confidence in the very institutions charged with responsibility of leading the response and leaving too many persons vulnerable to rumour instead of fact. Sometimes one gets the impression that there are persons almost wishing for the worst to happen so that blame could be pinned, irrespective of the danger to the nation.

Sadly, there is nothing to be gained by such an approach, neither by the perpetrators or the country as a whole. It would be instructive to look back at our history, particularly the major crisis after the volcanic eruption of 1979. In the face of a national crisis, there were politicians in our midst who seemed incapable of separating narrow political interests from those of the nation as a whole, and rather than give critical support to the national effort, tried to undermine it at every turn.

This negativity backfired significantly when the country went to the polls, eight months after the volcano erupted. Every one of those politicians who engaged in such irresponsible actions was soundly trounced in the December 1979 elections. Our people are not fools.
It is in the best interests of all for us to try and find common ground, to take positive approaches, to find ways that we can all add to the common effort. Sacrifice will be demanded of all of us, some inconveniences suffered, but there is no other way but by banding together. We, the public, must make that effort but we must also demand that those charged with leading the national effort also make that effort. They are not the only repositories of all that is wise and good, much can be gathered by being more inclusive, by listening to the voices of the people, by being more engaging with communities and special interest groups. Let us all make the effort.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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