Strong and wholesome community is a great tool against adversity: That has been a lesson from the pandemic.
The social, economic and physical health of the Virgin Islands community is hugely dependent upon the cohesiveness and health of the various components and constituencies that make up that community.
Wholesome community is the basis for prevailing against the winds of adversity blowing over the territory at this time, from Hurricane Irma through to the present pandemic, and now a very public investigation of the VI government.
On the other hand, disunity and disharmony make it difficult for agencies to operate, and diminish the very institutions and moral rules meant to protect and drive a strong society. Politicians who thrive on division eventually fall to their own folly.
Hatred, anger, divisiveness, lawlessness and poverty are very present and increasing dangers for the VI community. They are the direct result of a weakened community structure.
In the 25 years this writer has lived in paradise, he has never seen a more weakened and besieged VI community.
Division is growing between various social groups and has reached the stage where it threatens to tear the community apart. Anyone who has failed to observe the seething animosities and fear bubbling just beneath the surface in the VI is self-deceived.
And cohesion is not helped by irresponsible rhetoric from leaders in the society blaming expatriates for crime, which is clearly an inaccurate assertion.
Irma and the pandemic have increased poverty and placed specific social constituencies in “deprived status.”
Social inequality has increased as a result of the crises, and the society is today clearly divided into them versus us. Social classes, and ethnic and racial groups, are today as far apart as ever before.
Residents during this time of pandemic and economic recession are clearly stressed. Human fragility has been laid bare. There is fear and anger everywhere.
The good thing in the midst of this social crisis is the number of residents engaged in volunteering, and a community that is stepping out to help each other, and those especially in need.
When there is a social crisis, people on the ground must step in to do what government cannot. That is the basis of community: It takes a village.
One recent success was the fact that the community acted on the advice of various health agencies and the health minister, keeping the Covid-19 pandemic under control in the VI and wider eastern Caribbean community. It was the example of strong community that adhered to the protocols, stayed indoors and obeyed the various curfew orders.
The fact is wholesome community is a fortress and refuge in time of trouble.
A strong, unified and compassionate community protects residents against depression, improves the welfare of the elderly, protects children and the vulnerable, helps in the fight against crime, and enables greater awareness of what is taking place — good or bad — in the neighbourhood.
On the other hand, the opposite of community means loneliness, division and social misery. The opposite of community is not knowing how your neighbour fares, or the what, why, when, how and where of your own corner of paradise.
The opposite of community is a life of social isolation that will lead to a host of evils, including poor health and a shorter lifespan.
The best way to live a secure and happy life is to live within a strong, cohesive and wholesome community. But the VI is steadily moving away from that place.