We have found the enemy
...It's us!Sunday, March 07, 2021
COVID-19 has become a part of everybody's lexicon. In Jamaica it has been adapted to fit the challenges of teeth and tongue — “covy”, “curry”, “covrid”, “di virus”, or just “di ting”. It is becoming generally accepted that we have to learn to live with 'di ting' while we try to abide by the recommended precautions of washing hands, wearing masks, and maintaining 6ft physical distance.
But I believe that if we were to accept wholeheartedly living with 'di ting' as therapy we would be playing right into the hands of this monster.
The novel coronavirus should be viewed as a bat straight out of hell. It makes eminent sense to try to understand it, avoid it, prevent it, and protect yourself from it. But I can't abide the idea of accommodating it while waiting patiently for a vaccine or other remedy.
This virus is an enemy, an invading army that has to be confronted in combat mode. This pandemic is a bloodthirsty animal; it's vicious, well-armed, and has no respect for status, wealth or position in life. It is a silent killer with a plan to wipe out anyone it meets. It exhibits no conscience or remorse as it moves from victim to victim. It is only satiated after turning the world into a big death field.
It is a difficult battle to fight, much less to win. But we cannot cosy up to COVID-19. We have to fight it.
Like many other countries across the globe, Jamaica has been trying. Give credit to the prime minister, minister of health, Cabinet, the Opposition, and the joint security/education/industry/business/tourism/local government team. They all have been taking on the enemy since its arrival on our shores in March 2020. And our heroic front-line force of doctors, nurses, health professionals, policemen, soldiers, private citizens, and hospitals continue to face the fire.
But here is the rub: The generals have not been getting the support of the army — the general public. In fact, what the current statistics are telling us is: We have found the enemy, and the enemy is us.
In learning to live with di ting we have gone to bed with di curry. Let's face it. An army moves on its stomach as much as it moves on discipline. Our foot soldiers, however, seem to thrive on indiscipline. Wearing masks in public places cannot be voluntary. But 70 per cent of the population get away with not wearing a mask.
Those who party or socialise without distancing or masking up, those who have to be told like babies how to wash hands and to do so regularly, are saboteurs. But they are not being penalised.
After one year in the trenches, after watching the death toll grow, most of us by now know of at least one acquaintance, one friend, one relative, who has been infected. Yet it doesn't seem to matter. From Negril to Port Morant the situation is the same. In spite of all the full-page advertisements, the television messages, the front-page stories, the hospital numbers rising, and the horrific spike since January, we just don't seem to be getting the message.
Minister of Health Christopher Tufton has been indefatigable. As leader of the army he has been on the battlefield in almost every corner of Jamaica, coaching his team, planning his strategies, telling us when to duck, telling us when to fire. But the foot soldiers have not been responding. Instead of answering the call to arms, we are like a motley crew out there doing our own thing, unconcerned about the shots being fired at us, unaware of the danger we are in.
The phrase, “We have met the enemy, and he is us” found its origin during the War of 1812 (June 1812 – February 1815) between Britain and the United States over Britain's kidnapping of a number of American citizens to help them fight their ongoing wars in Europe.
During that war the US Navy famously defeated the British Navy in what is known as the Battle of Lake Erie. For the US it was a battle against odds, as their forces had been depleted and virtually abandoned by their commanding officers. Master commandant in charge of the US flotilla celebrated his astonishing victory with a message to his commandant, Major General William Harrison, with the original words, “We have found the enemy and he is ours,” detailing the booty of ships and boats captured during the melee.
The message was later parodied in American literature to read, “We have found the enemy and it is us,” summarising man's tendency to create his own problems.
In Jamaica's case, this is exactly what we have done with our blatant disregard of the guidelines established for fighting the pandemic and, worse, with the resistance that some have been building up to taking the vaccine when it comes. We are leaving it all up to the front-liners to do the job, and we only react when we see a near relative falling down. Any surprises, therefore, at the numbers?
Now the vaccine is not going to solve all our problems. It could never have stopped everyone from getting the virus, but it is our only reprieve, our only ray of hope, as we go deeper into 2021 with Jamaica's case numbers increasing — and death toll rising.
It may only be wishful thinking, but from my chair I detect a sense of realism and optimism taking hold of the population as news of the arrival of the vaccine is announced, with approximately 65 per cent of Jamaicans being targeted for vaccination by March 2022 ( Jamaica Information Service).
The Government is also rolling out a vaccination 'blitz' plan that will be the largest-ever programme of its kind ever undertaken in Jamaica.
We wish this programme well, and trust that our innate common sense will persuade Jamaicans to line up solidly behind it and into the vaccination centres when they open.
Having said that I was a bit disappointed with the press conference on Sunday, February 28, 2021. It lacked any form of national summons or a call to arms that we have come to expect from the prime minister. Instead, the plans were kind of strewed out (my words) and recited like a Sunday School lesson. It left us sitting down like obedient students waiting to be told what's good for them, rather than galvanising the nation to rise up and make that needed surge forward to arm ourselves for battle — no pun intended — and take charge of our own responsibilities to help to defeat the enemy.
The situation, and the present times, need a kind of “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country” — the kind of motivational speech best delivered by a Michael Manley or an Edward Seaga at the peak of their oratory powers.
The Government needs to tie in this vaccination campaign with a battle plan that would consolidate all strategies and steps being taken to fight the virus and to get the nation united behind the anti-COVID-19 drive. Such a plan calls for an anti-COVID-19 specific period utilising deliberate, emphatic, persistent, and coordinated efforts to get every single Jamaican to understand the importance of adapting to the preventive methods for fighting the virus, hammer home the consequences for non-conformity, and demonstrate the seriousness of our intention to save lives. We need a call to arms that will galvanise our people to act wisely and to take responsibility for their own health. There must be a plan which causes us to all, in the end, understand and appreciate this incredible thing that is happening to us, what happens to the ill ones during and after their period of illness, where we realise that this is a killer disease and an enemy licensed to kill, and whose only agenda is an agenda of death.
The indiscipline, the carousing, the partying, and socialising in crowded spaces need to be reined in by the authorities. The indisciplined behaviour has caused irreparable harm to businesses small and large that have had to go into lockdown with the enforcement of new curfew hours.
The increasing number of people affected by, and dying from, COVID-19 should by now have convinced the sceptics among us that this is no joke. In Galatians 6: 7, St Paul reminds us: “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” In our case, we have sown negligence and disobedience, and we are now harvesting more sickness and more deaths.
Come on, Jamaica. We know what to do. We know how to be safe. Be active in supporting the health authorities in the fight against the enemy. And, in the meantime, let's celebrate the advent of the vaccine. It is considered by the World Health Organization to be the only way to return to normality. Take the jab when it comes, unless you want to live with di ting forever.
Lance Neita is a public relations consultant and author. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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