‘Don’t forget to throw out the lifeline’

Dear Editor,

Some people talk all kinds of things simply because it’s so easy for them to do so, and they have a means by which they can. It is not always that easy to empathize with someone if we have never had their experience, no matter how hard we try to imagine it sometimes. Years ago I read something by a French writer, Regis Debray, who said there are people who can write but have nothing to communicate and those who cannot write but have so much to tell.

Now generally, no one likes to be burdened with anything; we all long to hear nice things, and want to experience everything pleasant, but unfortunately, that is not the way things are in the world. There are some terrible and reprehensible things that just don’t add up, and the least that decent people who care are expected to do is to speak up when the opportunity presents itself. In writing on various issues from time to time, persons would often meet you or seek you out and tell you about their plight, some even without restraint would bare their bosom, or in general complain about some irritating matter which, though as wrong as two left side shoes, has become the norm. You listen attentively to the things people tell you. Some are so absurd, you are astonished and overwhelmed, and it makes you wonder how on earth they manage to make it from day to day. Definitely, the human spirit has a remarkable ability to rise above oppression. Take this one:

A woman who worked with GuySuCo for 24 years and now seven years after leaving without receiving one blind cent and by a daily miracle is trying to cope, suffered a stroke, can hardly take care of herself and has no money to pay for an assistant. She experienced a second stroke and is hospitalized. She is required to have some kind of scan, but it is not available at the GPH and the only way for her to have it is at a private institution at a cost of $40,000 plus! Definitely she will not have it. This individual, though two years past the age of collecting NIS benefit is not receiving any. Lord have mercy!

Here’s another: A woman whose husband died and left her with two children (minors) was receiving social assistance of about $6-7000 monthly. She was not idle and did various types of work, including sewing. But her eyes got bad; the eye drops that the doctor recommended as being the most suitable cost approximately $6,000 – take note that eye drops don’t come in large bottles – but here’s the rub with our system and order of things: Some two-three years into her receiving the benefit the NIS suddenly woke up and discovered that she was receiving more than she was entitled to, so to retrieve the extra payment they ceased her monthly benefit until they recovered in full what was overpaid! She was callously penalized for their bureaucratic blunder.

Why is it that almost always, whenever necessary drugs are prescribed by doctors, they can hardly be found at the very public institution which prescribed them, and can only be had from a private hospital or pharmacy at an exorbitant price. People complain of buying 7 tablets for $3,000, 10-14 tables for $4,000 plus, of not being able to afford the cost of a month’s supply of medication; it’s so ridiculous not to expect the poor to get sick. Still, you have people who would tell you, “All over the world is the same thing, outside more dear than hey.“ Even if this is so, how does that help? People have to keep running twice as fast to stay in the same spot. Some keep saying that crying doesn’t help – true – and neither can we wish things away. But how does one cut corners, or cut and contrive in addressing a medical condition? We have got to be practical, unless we can perform miracles. Some situations we just have to keep pegging at stubbornly until they are remedied or else life will remain hell for many unfortunate souls.

And what do we say about Fitzroy Williams from Glasgow who was allegedly brutalized in the New Amsterdam police station and suffered “a cracked knee cap.“ Or “tales of a Sophia Rasta” by Earl John, as appeared in SN on Wednesday, May 23. These are certainly ugly and dreadful stories of advantage and naked abuse of power that gets your hackles up.

It does appear that this kind of behaviour by the black clothes police on patrol has been regularized; these incidents are too frequent. Barrington Braithwaite a few years ago described their predecessors as “sick, troubled, unbalanced personalities from troubled backgrounds which the system had captured and created soulless mass murderers out of them.“ Should we blind our eyes to their outrageous acts? Bob Daylon sings: “How many times can a man turn his back/ Pretending he just doesn’t see?“ The least people who care can do is let their voices be heard, even as citizens the world over are daily being brutalized by the police. It is by our silence that we encourage such behaviour to continue.

No doubt, there are some who have everything – good for them – and give not a toss about anything, while there are others who have nothing, and it is not always entirely their own doing. Ours is an anomalous system that dictates an order that is lopsided; those who work the hardest receive less and are asked to pay more, while those in high position get a free ride and pay sometimes virtually nothing. That’s why I subscribe to the notion that the poor cannot afford to always play by the rules for they will die.

“…the poor will forever be among us pathetically suffering,“ someone wrote. Well if that be so then the most that we could say is ‘Amen.‘ Still we can try to balance all that out by remembering that we are all members of the human family, and ought to look out for each other.

That is why we have to keep pegging at the things that ought not to be, and hopefully they will sooner rather than later be corrected.

And while we cannot carry everyone’s burden, we can at least share some concern; people should not be made to feel alone. As radio announcer Oswald Singh likes to say at the of end his breakfast show: “Don’t forget to throw out the lifeline.“

Yours faithfully,
Frank Fyffe

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