In considering the present local situation, Aristotle was right when he said: ‘What is common to the greatest number gets the least amount of care. Men pay most attention to what is their own; they care less for what is common or at any rate, they care for it only to the extent to which each is concerned.’
Trinidad and Tobago appears to have no owner. Nobody cares enough to save it. They say ‘leave the virus to the government’, as though they live on a different island.
Politics is people’s lives. Politics is not only about winning elections, nor is it a team sport. The politics of a country tells us who we are and what ambitions we have for ourselves.
Nobody wins when there are misguided policies or decisions. Nobody benefits from a never-ending drama. When we engender a loss of faith in governmental action, we trigger a cycle of failure. When people do not believe in governments, the government’s power to act is reduced.
When political leaders become hesitant, they deliver less, and the people believe less in them. When they carry the load by themselves, mistakes happen. When blame is shared, more chaos is unleashed. It is not easy to reverse this decline, even with the election of a new government.
People are dying while partisan trolls empower and excite each other. These trolls goad their bases into adopting more extreme positions. In times of national emergency, as we now face, this behaviour weakens rather than strengthens us.
Lacking national cohesion, we refuse to sacrifice for the common good. When we believe that others are out to hurt us, we will be slow to trust and collaborate with them. We choose to believe lies rather than a member of the other ‘tribe’.
We are mistaken when we believe that private sector companies could access vaccines. This assertion is inaccurate if one reads the international papers; the sovereign guarantees demanded are staggering. Help in the form of vaccines is not altruistic, but a ‘quid pro quo’ for votes or other symbols of solidarity.
The truth behind the ‘world’s pharmacy’ is the naked geopolitical games played. This reality makes the hobbling of the local vaccination drive by emphasising the blood clots of AstraZeneca and downplaying the credentials of Sinopharm a sinister cruel game that will cost lives.
It is painfully evident that the Ministry of Health’s infrastructure is sagging under the sustained weight of the last year. A most critical need is increased testing. Delayed results worsen our situation. Why does not the private sector, through its many locations and network of professionals, make tests more affordable?
We have precedent of public health education changing personal behaviours. In the early 1980s, our nation faced a challenge caused by our babies dying from gastroenteritis. At the infamous Ward 54 in the Port of Spain General Hospital, hundreds died annually.
Through a multi-media campaign and the cooperation of media houses, Dr David Bratt with Dennis Ramdeen, changed the course of events. Simple direct messages. Mothers changed their behaviours, and children lived.
Where are our present business and professional leaders? Where are our advertising agencies? Covid-19 is a scaled-up challenge. Instead of busily looking for what the government can do for them, why are they not building multi-platform campaigns to change behaviour?
Where have our touted philanthropists disappeared? At the time of our greatest need, where is the physical and psychological support for the weary health sector workers?
Our school children are struggling, and our Ministry of Education is at its wit’s end. Why are these exemplars sitting on their hands? Where is the IT support?
As the nation plans for mass vaccinations, has the private sector offered logistical help, or are we waiting to criticise when things go awry? Press releases are not sufficient.
To whom does Trinidad and Tobago belong? Is it us or some foreign body? Will our private sector leaders step up and partner, or will they continue seeking short-term profit?
Will we take personal responsibility to do the right thing? We can solve this crisis if we put our minds to the task.
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