By Jamil Matar
Initially, I wanted to open with some light humor but I am wary of being accused of taking things too lightly in times like these, so I am just going to repeat a single joke to tickle your endorphins, then move on to more serious observations. One of my WhatsApp contacts responded to a forward I sent her of a Covid-19 update by telling me that she has been getting so many forwards on the coronavirus that her phone no longer cheeps upon receiving a notification; it now coughs!
Joke aside, Monday 23 March was a historic day in four key areas of the global pandemic. Belize confirmed its first Covid-19 case. Wuhan, China, reported no new case within the previous 24 hours, and Italy reported a drop in the number of fatalities, again in the previous 24-hour period. Finally, yet importantly, the Federal Government of the United States announced that it was considering re-opening up for business perhaps within two weeks or no later than Easter.
We all know that the United States is the wealthiest country on earth, and if they cannot handle a shutdown, what about poor little Belize? Personally, I question if money is more important than thousands of lives, as in our case, at a 2% mortality rate. I think Belize is on the right path with the implementation of the sequestration protocols implemented by our authorities. Try to stay indoors, fellow Belizeans. Until a vaccine is identified, let us not take things lightly. Better to lose your job than your life. When this passes, there will be other jobs, trust me.
The nuisance in this entire health crisis is the level of ignorance exposed by certain individuals obviously hooked on the popular simple pills circulating freely in the blue political camp and its surrogate groups. To wit, how can any Government, itself having seen its very revenue base eroded, literally sustain its entire population with free food, utilities, and individual debt servicing? We have to be realistic when posting demands on FB; not everything can just become free, man. If the utility companies do not charge, how will they keep supplying us with water and electricity? I mean, the Government and some private establishments can assist, yes, but they cannot just put everybody on Easy Street. I am more inclined to support low, or no-interest public loans rather than outright grants. Maybe I am too cold-hearted, or maybe I am not running for political office and can afford to be open with my opinions. For example, for decades we have witnessed hundreds of poor, homeless people suffer on our streets, and we turn our heads when passing near them, hoping they will have their faces hidden by their cardboard boxes. Yes, me ina da rush too: I am no Mother Teresa myself. At least I feel shame about it.
These days, some of us are out of our $800/week job for two weeks and want everything free? Two bloody weeks of inconvenience and we stand on a podium and hurl insults at the men who are trying to manage a national crisis? Cut down on the above-mentioned medication, Almendarez. You are overdosing, sir.
Let me curve your lips with an Orange Walk folklore story before I sign off this week. I told a friend that I have to try another line of business to pursue since a grocery shop is not profitable especially with the prevalence of these outlets all over town. I told my friend that some of my neighbors spend all their money at the store and later come beg me for credit. I send them back. My friend told me to be careful: a bird in the hand and all that. He gave me the story of two Orange Walk icons, who were discussing starting a novel business in the seventies. It is said that Mr. Dodo Miller went to see Mr. Balan Japun ( pronounced Ha-pon), and told him that he had a farm with many palm leaves and since Japun was a talented weaver, they could go into business making children’s hats for a shilling each. Japun told Miller that they might sell 100 hats initially, but “knowing Belizeans, they will probably born their pickeney without heads” so as not to buy our hats! Those were the old days of deep cynicism, no? Take extra care, my brethren.
By Jamil Matar