Jamaica Gleaner - - ARTS&EDUCATION - Orville Tay­lor

STU­PID­ITY IS a worse disease than the cholera spread by the UN peace­keep­ers in Haiti be­cause at least with the lat­ter, if you ob­serve sim­ple rules, you won’t get it. More­over, if one con­tracts cholera, one might not im­me­di­ately know it, but in­vari­ably, its nox­ious ev­i­dence flows in the end.

Now, after Hur­ri­cane Matthew hes­i­tated just like his name­sake did in writ­ing his gospel, it was dif­fi­cult to hear logic amid the cacophony as flu­ency turned to ef­flu­ence. Imag­ine a trop­i­cal cy­clone that at one point, was a Cat­e­gory Five hur­ri­cane and four times wider than Ja­maica. With swirling winds of 250 kilo­me­tres per hour, faster than any car ever raced at Dover or Jam­world, if Matthew had even brushed wind ’gainst us, we would have fought in vain to stop the mas­sive de­struc­tion.

Never mind the miss or the fact that our houses are bet­ter con­structed. More than 200 Haitians lost their lives, up to last Fr­day’s count and thou­sands are reel­ing from the ef­fects of Sain­tanor Duter­vil stands with his wife in the ru­ins of their home - with hardly more than the door­way left be­hind – de­stroyed by Hur­ri­cane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, last Thurs­day.

ef­fects of this mon­ster. Wealth­ier and bet­ter-pre­pared Ba­hami­ans are lick­ing their wounds, and even more pre­pared Florid­i­ans had their butts kicked. In evac­u­at­ing the more than two mil­lion res­i­dents, Gov­er­nor Rick Scott warned, “This storm will kill you.” In­ter­est­ingly, around 29,000 Haitians live in Mi­ami’s Lit­tle Haiti, and per­haps as many as an­other 180,000 in South Florida over­all, and ap­prox­i­mately 40,000 to 50,000 in The Ba­hamas. So it looks like Matthew is re­ally after them.

None­the­less, given the ex­pe­ri­ence we have had with hur­ri­canes and trop­i­cal storms over the past 60-plus years, our dis­as­ter-prepa­ra­tion team was on alert and not tak­ing chances. Apart from the white­tail dove, black ants, and other of God’s crea­tures, which have their ways of pre­dict­ing a storm, our only re­li­able sources are the in­ter­na­tional data and years of sta­tis­tics about the prob­a­bil­ity of the path hur­ri­canes will take. Th­ese are pro­vided by in­ter­na­tional part­ners who have air­craft and dare­devil pi­lots that fly lit­er­ally into, and above, the cy­clones to give us solid in­for­ma­tion.

But hur­ri­canes are like fires. They gen­er­ally fol­low ex­pected paths and cour­ses. But like fires, they will strangely not touch some­thing be­fore them and in­ex­pli­ca­bly oblit­er­ate an­other dwelling that was slightly off the beaten path. In­deed, there are amus­ing sto­ries of bel­liger­ent res­i­dents who at­tempt to set fire to their neigh­bours’ house, but as fate would have it, the only ar­son is their own home and, of course, that which their com­mu­nity mem­bers give to them.


How­ever, it is a fool who, when told to pre­pare for the ad­vent of fire, stocks up on wa­ter and ex­tin­guish­ers but then curses the mes­sen­gers when the fire burns houses next door and stops at his gate. Such is the non­sense from the crit­ics of the warn­ings from the Met Ser­vice and the Of­fice of Dis­as­ter Pre­pared­ness and Emer­gency Man­age­ment, which did ev­ery­thing to pro­tect us. Per­haps the cans of ‘bully beef’, sar­dines, mack­erel, and Vi­enna sausages will spoil within three weeks. Or maybe the ex­tra rolls of toi­let pa­per won’t be used ... . Well, cer­tainly they ought to be. The irony is that the ma­jor­ity of those who com­plain that they stocked up on too much food and wa­ter didn’t have lots of money to fill a larder any­way.

On Wed­nes­day, I went down and prayed, giv­ing thanks that Ja­maica was spared the wrath of Matthew, al­though some of us were silently hop­ing that he would come and blow the cover off the gun­men who have been wreak­ing havoc in the west.

Still, in all the rev­er­enc­ing and recog­ni­tion of a greater power, there was also the big­gest bit of fool­ish­ness. Doubt­less, some deeply re­li­gious souls whose per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with Je­sus is closer than any­one else take credit for prayer-war­rior­ing the hur­ri­cane away. This oc­curred be­cause we are a God-lov­ing peo­ple and Je­sus al­ways an­swers prayers.


While I don’t want to rudely awaken them by ask­ing them where in the Bi­ble Je­sus said to pray to Him, I have to pose the de­fault ques­tion. “So if Matthew avoided Ja­maica be­cause of God’s love for us and the gen­uine­ness of our prayers, does this mean that He hates Haiti and it’s be­cause the Haitians don’t pray? Or per­haps, God only speaks English, and when Haitians say, “Bondye!” He doesn’t recog­nise His name.

Maybe that is why our pas­tors pray with fake trem­bling lips and in ‘Jamer­i­canPat­glish’. In­deed, even the most in­com­pe­tent speaker and writer of the Queen’s English feels that she has to take on the un­wieldy post-El­iz­a­bethan King James dic­tion and strain her jaw­bones with end­less, thine, thou, art and ye. The most gen­uine prayer I have heard re­cently is that of a lit­tle ba­sic-school boy, who hon­estly and in­no­cently asked, “God, help me not to ... cause is big peo­ple ting dat.”

Of course, the same set of prayer war­riors don’t deny that they serve a jeal­ous God who does what­ever and when­ever He pleases. Fur­ther­more, it is nei­ther rocket science nor ‘sciance’, but for all its voodoo and poverty, Haiti’s homi­cide rate is a third of Ja­maica’s. Th­ese ‘evil’ Haitians don’t mur­der each other with the fre­quency that godly Ja­maicans do. Ask the ‘gun-for-food’ traders; guns are not ed­i­ble to the Haitians, but a Ja­maican butt-ex­pos­ing shotta in his sis­ter’s tight pink pants would pre­fer to starve than sell the ‘ma­chine’ and buy food.

We dodged the bul­let and that’s that. Sim­ple! As for our neg­a­tive view of Haitians, the maxim ‘But for the Grace of God, there go I’ must be borne in mind. True, we have bet­ter in­fra­struc­ture and many other so­cio-eco­nomic vari­ables. How­ever, we need to un­der­stand that Haiti’s de­vel­op­ment was stymied be­cause the West pun­ished it for dar­ing to lib­er­ate it­self from France and be­com­ing the first mod­ern black state. We need to read and learn that al­though the Haitian Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War, which be­gan in the 1790s, was the first suc­cess­ful ouster of white slavers by en­slaved Africans, our own Dutty Bouk­man was part of that ini­tial spark.

One should also note that Chief Tacky had an amaz­ing run in mid-1760, and from all in­di­ca­tions was well on his way to rout the Bri­tish from here and es­tab­lish a black na­tion in the Amer­i­cas a good 30 years ear­lier. Given the sig­nif­i­cance of Ja­maica to Bri­tain’s in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion, the world would not have for­given us and we would be up a ship’s creek, hold­ing the wrong end of the stick.

So, in all the post-Matthew hys­te­ria and hind­sight, let’s give thanks and share our corned beef with the Haitians. It tastes the same in Kweyol.



OC­TO­BER 9, 2016

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