Jamaicans are a spoiled and ungrateful lot.
I witnessed it during the recent Rio Olympics, when some folks complained about the silver medal won by our hard-working women’s 4x100m relay team, instead of being thankful that our ladies didn’t leave the race empty-handed. I heard it in the murmurs about our medal haul – why didn’t we get more? If only So-and-So had done this or that differently or better. And now, I’m seeing it in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, as people grumble and complain that they were “forced” to spend money on groceries and emergency supplies, only for the storm to bypass us yet again.
What. The. Actual. HELL?!
Are people legitimately complaining that we weren’t battered by a category 4 hurricane? I must be having a slow couple of days, because my brain just does not compute. Either that, or I’ve woken up in some kind of alternate universe where everything is turned upside down.
There are thousands of people in Haiti right now who would love to have this problem, of stocking up on items only to have to save them for later use as the storm turned away. Have these complainers even seen what is happening in that country as a result of Hurricane Matthew? In case you missed it, let me paint you a picture: DEVASTATION. According to the New York Times, the hurricane has killed at least two people, wrecked homes, swept away livestock and cut off communications and transportation in many places. This would be terrible under normal circumstances, but lest we forget, the country still has not recovered from the magnitude 7.0 earthquake in 2010 that left more than 200,000 dead, and the capital city of Port-au-Prince in shambles. In fact, some 60,000 Haitians are still living in tent cities and makeshift shelters.
On top of those losses, the country is now facing a water crisis. Many storm-ravaged areas don’t have access to clean water in the best of times, so things are much worse now. And with flood waters inundating the place and settling, there is also an increased threat of water-borne diseases. Bear in mind that the cholera epidemic which broke out following the 2010 earthquake is still an ongoing problem.
Do the complainers realise that we escaped calamity by the skin of our teeth? Had Matthew not shifted, hundreds of us could have been left to pick up the pieces of our lives over the weekend. Despite the slight brush, some places here still saw major flooding and damages. Imagine for a second what would have happened to us if Matthew had made direct landfall, and sat over us at its slow crawl, dumping buckets of rain and whipping us with winds strong enough to send trees airborne. If your powers of imagination fail you, just remember Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
That was a category 1 storm when it hit us directly, yet it left a trail of destruction in Portland, St Mary and St Thomas, taking one life, destroying houses and farms and ripping the roof off of the Annotto Bay Hospital. Seventy per cent of Jamaica was left without electricity. All told, we were left with an estimated US$100 million in losses. But we escape a direct hit and people sit and complain, some fixing their mouths to speak and fingers to type horsecrap statements about ‘government scams’ and ‘supermarket scams,’ even accusing our meteorologists of misleading the public. I had no idea Andrew Holness was the Avatar, y’all! Or that supermarket, wholesale and shop owners were airbenders and waterbenders. Smh! Look, if you’re that pressed about having a few extra loaves of bread or tins of bully beef and mackerel, how about you donate them to a shelter, or offer them to the homeless people who didn’t have the luxury of houses to batten down and cupboards to stock?
I also have to address something else that grinds my gears to dust whenever a storm rears its head in the region: the rhetoric that God, somehow, has more love for Jamaica than anywhere else in the Caribbean. For the love of all things holy, STAHP. I am a Christian. I believe in the power of prayer. I’ve been praying about Matthew since last week, even led a special prayer for protection for the people in the path of the storm at church on Friday night. So don’t come for me. What I have no patience for is people acting like Jamaicans are the only ones who pray that a storm won’t hit their country, like God’s ears are only open to our voices. That is a bare-faced, dry-eyed lie! And it is rubbish. What that line of reasoning suggests is that God then lets the storm loose on our neighbours, because clearly, dem nuh know how fi pray. It would also suggest that God hates Haiti, which has been pummeled by natural disasters dating back to the Middle Ages. Espousing this belief only feeds into a sense of entitlement and arrogance, traits that we dislike in everyone else. Look how we mocked American athletes for this same kind of behaviour just a few weeks ago during the Olympics. It is hella unattractive. Pride is a sin and doesn’t bode well for those wearing it like it’s their favourite shirt.
Instead of being unconscionable ingrates, let us be thankful that we were once again spared a direct hit. Let us be thankful that most of us were able to buy the things we would have needed, just in case. Let us show and speak gratitude that we have not lost any lives as a result of the brush that we did receive.
And instead of being smug about our purported “special connection to God,” let us pray for our Caribbean neighbours Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas, and those places in the USA that are now directly in Hurricane Matthew’s sights. If there are tangible ways we can offer assistance to people in need, let us move to do that, as well. These are much better uses for our time and energies.