EDITOR, The Tribune
As a (construction) owner’s representative/Project Manager in the Bahamas I spend the vast majority of my time refereeing and (trying to) keep a fair balance between some extraordinarily wealthy globe-trotting foreigners and some incredibly poor and downtrodden local construction workers (plus a fair share of legal Haitian immigrants). What has taken me some time to get my head around and put a voice to – is the glaring inequality of this lockdown.
In case anyone needs reminding. The poor in this country wake up every day without knowing if they are going to make it. They spend their entire lives surrounded by friends and family dying young. Disease, murder, domestic violence, childbirth, lack of adequate diet and healthcare, industrial accidents, etc, etc. For a lot of the able-bodied young men that chose construction, they only had two choices. A short and fruitful life of crime or long hard years of labour on a building site. Toiling in the hot sun for peanuts. Making just enough money each week to hopefully pay the rent and buy enough overpriced food to feed their family. When I say to these guys they cannot work because there is a mysterious disease out there that might spread and kill, the overwhelming response is “Oh, just another thing to die from this week!” They do not understand why that means they should not go to work. All they understand is that without an income their children are going to go hungry because there is no safety net for these people here.
On the flip side, you have this minority of middle class and wealthy people who do not need to think about where the next meal is coming from (yes, myself included). They/we have wonderful lives full of self-expression, vacations and pursuing the next material reward whilst planning on living another 20 or 30 years beyond the average life expectancy. A class of people that have nothing better to do than get completely hysterical about the possibility of an untimely death regardless of what the probabilities of it actually are.
Can you feel the disparity? We fortunate minority have been OK with the majority of people in this country living in a permanently hostile environment and now that the environment has gotten just a tad hostile for us, we are asking the majority to stay at home and behave themselves so that “they” do not spread the disease to “us”. And! It is unbelievable how indignant and angry these entitled few are getting at all these poor people that cannot possibly imagine what all the fuss about dying is.
People vilifying their brother and sisters and as if this weekend’s 48-hour house arrest was not some kind of corporal punishment for the masses? This is nothing but fear and anger bringing out the worst in us. The next problem is that I can see all these fit young construction workers staying at home right now and being obedient whilst the wealthy ruling elite plays with graphs and charts and makes up new rules every day. The virus can go around the globe in a month but apparently the scientists can cordon off an island that is 20 by 10 in a weekend? Anyway, at some point when people’s bellies are groaning for food and the risk of dying from this virus seriously takes a back seat - the government is probably going to lose credibility. At this point, if we are very, very lucky, all the working class will do is demand to go back to work. I am guessing the first stage of lawlessness is going to be the workers going back to work whether we like it or not. I don’t even want to think about the next stage of lawlessness beyond that but if the government thinks they can forcibly contain an army of free-spirited, starving Bahamians, all of our lives are going to take a very serious turn for the worse.
So in the meantime, I recommend that you all do everything that you can to beef up your immunity system. There is nothing like a healthy immune system to stave off a virus and I am very surprised our top doctor is not talking about this fact a little more often. I do want you all to be safe and do as the government says but just try and think about what’s really going on and ask yourself what is going to happen after the shutdown. Are too many of you sitting on your couch chanting ‘stay at home’ and trusting that this government-run ‘science experiment’ of global isolation is going to work when the reality is that no one really knows what is going to happen next. The richer and more you have to lose the better and longer the lockdown is right but we just don’t really know what will happen next. What if the lockdown doesn’t get rid of the virus and a second wave hits as soon as curfew is lifted? What if the government starts making demands that are not acceptable to the majority? What if the global food supply network fails in two months and we could have started farming already? What happens if the B$ collapses because of zero foreign income and our dependence on imports? What if the international drug companies can’t figure out a vaccine for years?
What if the lockdown drags out so long that it fails because all of the poor people have to go back to work because of the socio-economic model that we have subjected them to for all these years? As the compulsive referee between the have’s and have-nots, if the lockdown does fail, please just be reminded that we all have had 50 years of independence to raise everyone’s standard of living and create social nets ...... and we haven’t.......so “what’s next” will be all of our responsibility.
PEACE & LOVE TO ALL
April 6, 2020