Noble: Polarising a nation—are we trying to help our country, or ourselves?

It is indisputable that Covid-19 represents the most significant health and economic threat faced in this generation. We have had raging arguments about the effects of efforts to contain the virus. Achieving the scale of the required changes in personal behaviour is challenging, but such changes are integral to success. 

The nature of the responses to Covid-19 makes it as much a political decision as a public health one. Visions of what the nation should do to manage the fallout and spark an economic recovery compete. Some even wonder about God’s role. Scrutiny of our leadership at every level is present. Being held accountable is not an attack, since the decisions taken are literally life and death ones. 

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (right) addresses the media while Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh (centre) and Minister of Finance Colm Imbert look on.
(via Office of the Prime Minister)

Shorn of the illusion of being a wealthy country, we are now dealing with the inadequacies of our health sector. Unable to quickly fix that shortcoming, we need to squash the exploding demand for health services.

Our first battle is with those who live in a conspiracy-fuelled fantasy. Conspiracy theories spring from two sources: the spinning of tales of victimhood to appeal to those who feel powerless and those who seek to keep their followers distracted. For both groups, the enemy is the ‘other’. 

Social media enables the spreading of the selective narrative. Facts become victims. The perpetrators (per an adult Vlogger who threatened to beat up Dr Keith Rowley this week) use visceral language to convince their base of perceived harm. Bending the truth appears acceptable since, for these players, there is a more important cause to serve.

Destroying faith in Dr Avery Hinds and the lead medical team is seen, in this context, as collateral damage. These actions result in vaccine hesitancy, which is correlated with specific geographical locations and beliefs (MFO, 2021).

Photo: CMO Dr Roshan Parasram urges citizens to get the Covid-19 vaccine, shortly after taking his own shot.
(via MoH)

This past week highlighted that our leaders could not rise above partisan impulses. In June 2015, these were the words of encouragement from then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar:

As a nation, our greatest strength must always be underlined by our unity, our compassion for each other and our dedication to live well, share, uplift and move forward together. There is no greater time to consider our shared unity and compassion than in those moments when our focus is on the things we see and think about differently.’ 

In January 2014, she said: ‘[…] We are blessed with everything to make us a great nation. But there can be no great nation without great people, no great accomplishment without great purpose and no greatness at all without great humility. And the greatest form of humility is to bow before God.’ 

But this week, her call ‘to formulate a better plan than lockdowns and prayers’ caps a year in which there were misguided appeals to foreign governments. 

A house divided against itself cannot stand. Were we fed high-sounding words, or is it that not even God can help us in this wretched situation? 

Photo: UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and UNC Senator and PRO Anita Haynes.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament)

God is no ATM; we cannot manipulate Him. We have to deal with Him sincerely. Is it impossible to confess our faults one to another and ask God for mercy? Or do we see the ‘other’ as evil personified, making peace impossible? 

Is Proverbs 25:28—a person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls—applicable to our current leader? Why does he rise to every bait? As Theodore Roosevelt said, ‘the future lies with those wise political leaders who realise that the great public is interested more in government than politics’.

The weary nation, troubled by the rising death toll and the fragile state of our hospital system, cries for leadership and a vision. Leadership is more than trumpeting your right; it is doing your duty. 

We appear to be facing a more highly transmissible variant, and idle conjectures about sourcing vaccines should cease. False hopes will kill people. 

Partisan politicising leads to fractured responses. It is tough to overcome initial opinions with factual messages, and so all the elites must unite around the same message. Failure means a never-ending disaster. 

Photo: Health care workers at the Couva Hospital.
(via NCRHA)

All our political decisions cannot be about short-term gains. We must tackle the significant challenges before us. 

Do we genuinely love this country, or do we only want to further our ends or win the next election? 


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