Round Table with Oscar
January 14, 2014
To be or not to be victims

Some 5,000 people have suffered loss by death and destruction from the Christmas 2013 weather. That is just a statistic, bold and modest. The territory of the nation has also taken a beating. In a small country like ours, the pain is personal. One woman with whom I spoke at the riverside replied sharply and possessively “I know you, Mr Allen, you does preach give me at chapel”. It is our sisters and brothers who have shared stories together with us, whom now we call “victims” of the disaster.{{more}} They are considerably more than victims. They and their relatives are our friends, or friends of our children, a part of us. In the words of John Donne, the truth haunts us. “No one (man) is an island…Each (person) is part of the main.”

We are a suffering household who must hold on and hold out to one another lovingly. Together we cannot be victims; together we mend our lives and dignify our condition. This is why it hurts to hear one of us shout at another in the shelter “me na expect you fo deh here with we, when you use to turn off you TV anytime he (Dr Gonsalves) going talk”. That rhetoric of owning the shelter and perhaps owning the relief is how the victims of partisan politics want to rev up the ongoing war in their new conditions. Efforts at peace building on the ground must get firm support from a mending at the leadership level. A reciprocal repentance, or as some put it, repentance and forgiveness respectively, is what we need to preach to and demand from Dr Gonsalves and Mr Eustace. In this our household of pain, for leaders to leave and to replenish the daggers in the hands and hearts of the “victims”, turned against each other, is a crime against their humanity and dignity. Undoubtedly Prime Minister Gonsalves is the prime mover and sustainer in these times of partisan divisiveness in the guise of “commander solo” the one almighty chief. Mr Eustace could very well strengthen the initiative for peace by calling Dr Gonsalves to reverse his ways and asking His Excellency Sir Frederick to say a word of wisdom to him.

On the ground, in the shelters, in the communities, our affected sister and brother citizens must be helped to turn towards each other in solidarity, respecting and supporting one another. In this way, they begin to make the change from being empty victims, waiting on our handouts into partners in the relief and rehabilitation. You may ask, what can victims really do to change their situation? Here goes. They can get together and count their blessings; identify and list their priority individual needs and community requirements; they can monitor and expose weaknesses in relief provisions; they can begin to identify their own development resources; they can write their hopes; put a time-line on some objectives; share their plans with other communities and advocate/apply for their input to be taken seriously and become a network of groups with a recovery and development agenda. And we, their fellow citizens can help them to rise to this new level of dignity and enterprise. But Gonsalves and Eustace have their part to play.

Our 5,000 sisters and brothers of the Christmas weather can easily remain just a statistic, social and political measure of passive victims on the charity list. We can change that. Let us add to our agenda of help not only truckloads, barrels and packages of materials, but now the software packages of helpers on the group, equipped with human care skills to open lips and hearts and other avenues into solidarity and hope. We must or we too become enduring victims of the Christmas disaster, by the thousands.