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The best gene is…

The best gene is…

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IF WE HAD any doubts about the danger of modern diseases to the entire world then those must have been quickly and crudely dispelled within the last month or two. Racism implanted within us, even as victims, left us feeling that AIDS and Ebola must be African phenomena and when we heard about COVID-19, it must have been China and their “strange” eating habits. Never mind our love for “Chinee food” and its accommodation to our limited financial means.

The global tide of the coronavirus (COVID – 19) has been such that it has overwhelmed us with frenetic panic to the extent that we are spending what we cannot afford in our usual last-minute bid to avert the worst of impending disaster.

Bad as the health threat is, the uncertainty of its duration and the global reach of the virus have pointed not just to immediate physical casualties, but more so in a long-term sense, the effect it can have economically and therefore on the livelihood of billions of us on this planet.

Whether we reside in Manhattan, New York, Chelsea, London or the exclusive areas of Paris, Milan or Madrid, the repercussions of this latest global health threat are likely to be far more threatening to life, limb and the social fabric than the numbers of dead or affected victims.

In this context it is most disconcerting and distressing to note that, not only in our tiny country, but globally as well, there are persons more inclined to spread or become vehicles for spreading rumours and fake news aimed at heightening panic and sowing doubt about the authenticity of official pronouncements on the virus and its progressions and ramifications. It has become a field day for these instigators of fear and panic and they are trying to take full advantage of it. It is not the first manifestation of such tendencies, but given the global scale of the current crisis it is among the worst and again indicates the worst demonstration of the lack of patriotism of such persons who choose personal gripes, misguided political aspirations and every other type of selfishness above the national good.

Yet in the long run it will make little sense, though it is deeply ingrained in these misfits.

I have lived long enough and, as veteran kaiso bard Chalkdust would say, “..been in town too long” to be sidetracked by these enemies of our nation.

Every national challenge, whether nature-made or man-made in this century has witnessed similar anti-national behaviour. It undermines the collective will to understand and therefore appropriately formulate a collective response to our predicament.

But it is not just a 21st century phenomenon. It was manifested at the very height of our worst national disaster of the last half a century, the Soufriere eruption of 1979. Then like now, elections were on the horizon and all that some could see (on both sides) was how to use the crisis for political advancement.

Our suffering people were to be used as gullible stepping stones to advance personal and political interests.

That can never be an appropriate response to a national crisis. Such a situation requires, demands might be more appropriate, at least an attempt at national consensus and out of it a national response. Given the global scale of this one, not confined to our shores, it is even more imperative that we seek some such consensus and agreement on the way forward.

Those who try to take advantage of low levels of consciousness among our people do themselves no good. The petty postings in the social media, the rumours and distractions do not in any way advance us as a people. Nor will a response on the other side which almost validates political divisions on what is fundamentally a national matter.

In a follow-up to this column, I will dwell on the economic and social implications of the COVID 19 crisis, but if it has brought home to us forcefully, lessons that those of us of my generation learned since the fifties – the importance of cleanliness no matter what your station in life.

Wattle-and-daub hut, mud yard, one suit on your back, was never an excuse not to be kept clean. Indeed, you could not enter your classroom without a basic rigorous health inspection from teachers. Six decades later, we have to be appealing to people with sophisticated cell phones and expensive “brand” clothing to do the basics – wash your hands, bathe, etc.

We can find all kinds of remedies for COVID 19, but as we are reminded, the ultimate test lies in understanding which gene is the most important of all. In case you have overlooked it, that gene is — HYGIENE.

Economic repercussions of the COVID crisis next week.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social comm entator.

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