Christmas amidst challenges
It is heartening to note that despite all that we have gone through these past two years, it has not dampened the enthusiasm for Christmas and our Christmas traditions, even though the reverence for the significance of its meaning may have been somewhat eroded over the years. In spite of the necessary restrictions for instance, the Nine Mornings Committee has still been able to produce a modified version of the festival, not without the criticisms of some traditionalists and the usual nay-sayers.
It must not be forgotten that this is the second consecutive year that we have had to face up to the impact of the Covid pandemic on social life in our country, having to adjust to its unpredictable impact on our lives. Too many of us have not been prepared to make the adjustments and sacrifices necessary and prefer to spend our time moaning and complaining, rather than adapting and moving forward.
It is by no means an easy situation, to be sure. All over the world people are coming out in open rebellion at the restrictions on their lives, and in many cases one can understand their frustrations. But besides the personal inconveniences the lack of faith in their political leadership, best demonstrated in Boris Johnson’s Britain, is also partly to blame. You cannot expect people to accept restrictions while those who impose them are not only are not complying, but cynically doing the opposite while laughing at those called upon to make the sacrifice.
Yes, leadership, and not just political, mind you, is an important ingredient in social acceptance of the sacrifices necessary to get us out of such crises and those in leadership positions must be prepared to lead by example. Fortunately, difficult as our situation is, we are in a far better position to many other countries where restrictions on personal freedom are concerned. When are we going to accompany this “personal freedom” ideal with “personal responsibility”?
It has not been easy for the working people in countries of Europe and North America for instance, cooped up in large cities with lives regulated by strict work and social regimes, to have to give up their social recreation whether in parks, museums, sports, restaurants and bars, and other social activities, to be told that even in their own homes, the size of your visiting families for Christmas must also be limited. Meanwhile those whose political representatives impose these restrictions, are not only benefitting financially through the crisis, but can fly out on private jets to Mustique, Bali, or Montego Bay to enjoy Christmas in the sun.
So, comparatively speaking, even in Caribbean terms, we in SVG have had to endure far fewer restrictions on our personal freedom than most. If anything, there may be merit in the criticisms that we have been too lenient. Our biggest “beef” seems to be one concerning our individual and collective safety, that of mandatory vaccinations for front-line workers.
This is where leadership has been sadly lacking. There will always be persons with individual objections to social policies, but when something as vital to the collective health, and wealth, of our nation is concerned, we cannot take any narrow, individualistic position, for we are all in this together. How could those who call themselves “leaders” encourage and support people to give up their jobs on the basis of personal objections, and then blame Government for being “heartless” for depriving those who have voluntarily surrendered their breadlines, for leaving families penniless at Christmas?
Shouldn’t responsible leadership not first, try to advocate an intelligent alternative to the globally accepted vaccination policy? Should responsible leadership, before trying to engage in fruitless “protest action”, not have counselled, or at least sought to provide counselling to those planning to take action damaging to their families, about the ramifications of such actions? Did they explain to those planning to sacrifice their breadlines about the economic and social implications, and the limitations of their organizations in providing income support to those affected?
It is all well and good to boast about “going to court” and “winning”. But what are those without income to do in the meantime? All the “wicked” and “criminal” epithets hurled at the government will not answer those questions. Old people say is like “full belly telling empty belly, keep heart”.
It is sad that we should come to this at a time like now. No doubt that, besides those emotionally or politically charged, there are genuine persons with reservations, but my contention is that one must always think of the consequences of actions before engaging in them. That is why there is social leadership, to advise, to counsel, to try and devise actions in support of one’s demands that are not suicidal. We did not have to come to this.
Finally, much as I appreciate the efforts of Government to provide income support to thousands at this time of year, something in me continues to stir in restlessness about the economic implications. I suppose that Budget 2022 may answer my fears, but our Opposition is so inept, that many of the Parliamentarians are more likely to engage in “gunslinger talk” and “bad john behaviour” than in serious analysis and counterproposals during the Budget debate.
My other concern is, based on reports so far, what is the impact of all these shoppers, many without masks, on the further spread of the pandemic? Have we with our few dollars forgotten about the threat among us? Santa Claus may well turn out to be the “superspreader” we claim to fear.
Enjoy a peaceful, quiet, and safe Christmas and extend the love and concern to all.