We're not out of the woods
Prime Minister Andrew Holness enters the complex which houses the new European Union. (Photo: JIS)

Troubles certainly come in packs. Whether we believe that the troubles of today are rooted in preordained biblical predictions or are the direct consequences of the actions and/or inaction of human beings does not alter the reality that great troubles are pummelling the globe.

Just when hundreds of millions of exasperated peoples globally were starting to believe they could wave goodbye to the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has so far claimed 6.37 million lives, infected 564 million, and ruined economies worldwide, there was a rude awakening.

Consider this: "The World Health Organization [WHO] said Tuesday that coronavirus cases have tripled across Europe in the past six weeks, accounting for nearly half of all infections globally. Hospitalisation rates have also doubled, although intensive care admissions have remained low.

In a statement on Tuesday, WHO's Europe director, Dr Hans Kluge, described COVID-19 as "a nasty and potentially deadly illness" that people should not underestimate. He said super-infectious relatives of the Omicron variant were driving new waves of disease across the continent and that repeat infections could potentially lead to long COVID". (Jamaica Observer, July 19, 2022)

"COVID nahh keep again," is an increasingly popular utterance in some public spaces these days. Those who have succumbed to that foolish notion had better wake up. The mentioned news item also noted: "WHO said the 53 countries in its European region, which stretches to central Asia, reported nearly 3 million new novel coronavirus infections last week, and that the virus was killing about 3,000 people every week. Globally, COVID-19 cases have increased for the past five weeks, even as countries have scaled back on testing."

The answer certainly is not to become paranoid and flee to the Blue Mountains to live as hermits, but I think it would be wise to continue to observe the basic protocols of frequent hand washing; vaccination/booster shot, if one is qualified for it; and mask wearing in public spaces.

Pre-pandemic normal, as I see it, is gone forever. We need to continue to give ourselves the best fighting chance against a disease about which a great deal is still unknown. This is common sense.

More troubles

A few weeks ago Jamaica confirmed her first case of monkeypox. This disease, albeit only one confirmed case so far, is another reason for Jamaicans to maintain sensible vigilance, even as numerous medical experts say it is extremely unlikely that the spread of the virus will reach pandemic levels.

Something else is also blowing in the wind.

Last Tuesday, The Washington Post reported, among other things: "After the coronavirus pandemic and the rise of Monkeypox cases, news of another virus can trigger nerves globally.

"The highly infectious Marburg virus has been reported in the West African country of Ghana this week, according to the World Health Organization. Two unrelated people died after testing positive for Marburg in the southern Ashanti region of the country, the WHO said Sunday, confirming lab results from Ghana's health service."

Reggae legend Bob Marley sang, "We don't need no more trouble." Sometimes, however, trouble chooses us, regardless. The mentioned article also noted that, "The highly infectious [Marburg] disease is similar to Ebola and has no vaccine."

Troubles waiting in the wings

Here is something else that there is no vaccine for — man's continued destruction of the "house in which he lives". Here I am taking slight liberties with words from a speech by French President Emmanuel Macron.

The needless destruction of our environment for decades is now delivering what some scientists call catastrophic consequences. Last week, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Montego Bay Perimeter Road Project, Prime Minister Andrew Holness noted that, in recent times, massive flood rains in Montego Bay, St James, were happening nearly every two years.

We continue to denude our hillsides and cut down trees at an alarming rate. Holness told the gathering that the tree cover which will be removed to accommodate the road will be replaced with the planting of new trees. Sadly, as the feverish construction of houses, hotels, and other infrastructure mushroom across the island there is an absence of similar concern for the replanting trees by some investors. I fear dire consequences will come sooner or later.

Those who still believe climate change is a hoax need to Google what is happening in much of Europe. The intense heatwave now buffeting much of Europe should serve as another warning to us in the Caribbean.

Last Monday, it was 99 degrees Fahrenheit in London, England; 97 in Rome, Italy; 102, in Madrid, Spain; and 107 in Nantes, France. Experts say Europe is experiencing its worst heatwave in decades. Several hundred people have died in Spain, France and Portugal from the brutal, searing heat. Some weather experts are calling the heat wave a "heat apocalypse".

It was so bad that some infrastructure wilted in London. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported that high surface temperatures caused small sections of some airport runways to disintegrate.

Here at home, it seemed that somebody turned up the sun last week. While we sweat, there is something else that is going to cause much perspiration if we do no prepare for it: The peak of the hurricane season is almost upon us.

On May 24, "Forecasters at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service, predicted above-average hurricane activity this year — which would make it the seventh consecutive above-average hurricane season." (noaa.gov/news)

We best prepare for the worst, while we fervently pray that we are not impacted by any major weather system. The reality is we cannot take any more troubles, catastrophe insurance or not.

My grandfather used to say, "God does not give you more than you can bear." I hope that, as we say in the rural parts, that I am not 'flying in the face of God', but I think we have had enough troubles.

Stained with blood?

Last Saturday, while doing some work in the front yard, two ladies and gentlemen who were distributing Bible tracts stopped at my gate. We had a long discussion. Among other things, we spoke about the numerous crises battering the globe. Midway our exchange the older of the two ladies blurted: "Isaiah 59:3."

"What?" I quizzed.

"The answer is right there: Isaiah 59:3," she submitted.

That scripture says: "For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things. No one calls for justice; no one pleads his case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments and speak lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil." (New International Version)

"It all predestined because of man's great wickedness," she opined.

"Can't we do anything to halt many of these crises?" I asked.

"No, not in this life," she said.

The discussion ended in a stalemate.

I do not agree that humans are merely playing to a preordained script. We are not automatons. In Genesis 1:26 it says God made man to have "dominion over all the Earth". Dominion means abuse to us. That is the problem.

A bright spark

As I have noted previously folks are not gung-ho about ideology and symbols these days. I believe the vast majority of voters are more concerned with tangible results for themselves and kin.

Prime Minister Holness, being an astute political animal, recognises this shift. Relatedly, he has opened the public infrastructure tap and turned it on to full blast. I think he has made a wise move.

Consider this: "Prime Minister (PM) Andrew Holness has indicated that the Government of Jamaica will not be easing up on its quest to roll out major developments across the island to include the construction of at least four multi-billion-dollar urban town centres in rural parishes.

"During a tour on Thursday of the property which was once the Goodyear Jamaica Limited in Morant Bay, St Thomas, Holness said the Government will be pressing ahead with the developments to avoid plunging into a recession.

"The plans that we have now we are going to push ahead with them, because the moment we stop that is when we are likely to fall in a recession. Our investment and development plans, we are going to continue with them, push them, and we are going to keep driving employment and growth, because the best and most secure way of caring for the vulnerable, the poor, and the unemployed is to keep the economy turning so that we all can benefit from the economy. This [Morant Bay project] is just one of the projects that will ensure the economy of St Thomas keeps on turning," Holness declared.

The former Goodyear plant is currently being cleared for construction of a $6-billion town centre." (Jamaica Observer, July 18, 2022)

Poll watch

I think it will be easier for supporters of the People's National Party (PNP) who voted for the Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to again vote for Bustamante's party in the next election. The PNP says one of the reasons it lost the general elections of February 25, 2016 and September 3, 2020 is that many of its supporters stayed home because of discontent with Norman Manley's party. I sense a repeat coming.

The JLP, in the last two general elections, pocketed a number of seats that were traditionally safe for the PNP. Doubtless, the JLP is banking on retaining these. How might they achieve this objective? In the main, the Members of Parliament need to deliver. My information is that the majority are delivering, notwithstanding the bitingly hard times which have been caused by external factors.

I believe that by now even political ostriches realise that the war between the Ukraine and Russia is the cause of the spiralling inflation, rising oil and food prices, and related economic troubles. I believe Holness is making sizeable connections with his infrastructural thrust. Hundreds of Jamaicans are employed as a consequence of the numerous projects happening across the country. Many of these projects are in rural Jamaica. These multiple projects have a multiplier impact on individual families and, by extension, at the local and national economy.

It should be obvious to those who pay close attention to the stirring of the political tea leaves that Prime Minister Holness is establishing broad daylight between himself and Mark Golding, the Opposition Leader. While the Opposition is forecasting imminent weeping, moaning and gnashing of teeth, Holness is rolling out mega projects.

It is obvious that some at 89 Old Hope Road are realising that it is becoming increasingly more difficult for the PNP to win an election, any election. Recently on the political hustings former senator, Kern Spencer, said, among other things: "Comrades, if the PNP should lose a next election in Jamaica dawg nyam wi suppah. Comrades, if we don't win this one [read local government election], it is going to be even more difficult to win any more election for the People's National Party."

I think the greatest obstacle in the way of JLP sweeping the next local government election is the big C — crime. It remains the Achilles heel of the Holness Administration. Three Sundays ago The Gleaner reported that more than 45,000 people have been murdered in Jamaica since the country gained political independence nearly 60 years ago. Upwards of 80 per cent of the 45,590 murders recorded locally since 1962 involved use of a gun, according to Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) data.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Fitz Bailey said recently that the grim reality is that the National Stadium is too small to accommodate the number of people murdered since 1962. Our national stadium can hold about 30,000.

The long-standing problem of crime is sapping the soul of the country. Crime is our greatest trouble.

Garfield Higgins is an educator, journalist, and a senior advisor to the minister of education & youth. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or higgins160@yahoo.com.

People's National Party President Mark Golding (Photo: Kasey Williams)
Mask vendor Kisson Williams has a chat with Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton in Half-Way-Tree, St Andrew. Though masks are not mandatory everywhere, Jamaicans have been encouraged to maintain precautions. (Photo: Karl Mclarty)
The old Goodyear factory lies in ruins. Government plans to transform the site into a civic and municipal centre. (Photo: Jason Tulloch)
Garfield Higgins

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