The pandemic brought on by Covid-19 is the worst global crisis in the lifetime of most of us. It is probably the worst regional calamity we’ve seen, and I have heard conversations to the effect that it is worse than hurricanes Irma and Maria in many ways.
It was United Kingdom Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill around the time of World War II who commented, “We should never let a good crisis go to waste.” More recently, United States President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel amplified this by saying, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”
In the VI
There is much consternation here in the Virgin Islands with respect to the Covid-19 pandemic, but especially the “second wave.” Maybe we had hoped or expected that we would be spared. But the reality is that it is here. How can we capitalise or even benefit from it? How can we be sure that the crisis is not wasted? I have listened attentively to those who have blamed a “few” selfish people who have gotten us to where we are because of greed, and I have wondered to myself whether we aren’t all to blame. We used to be a much more caring society in which we were all our neighbours’ keeper, but I have had cause to reflect on something my grandfather said to me in September 1976: “Money don’t have any friends.” And I wonder if our “prosperity” has done us more harm than good.
We used to embrace strangers. In fact, I am sure there are those of us who know only too well the cup in the safe that was reserved in case someone stopped by and needed a drink of water. That cup was never used for any other reason. It was purely emblematic of the caring, God-fearing people we were. Certainly, in the VI I grew up in, we had a sense of “the greater good.” Those days, which defined generations, were the days of boat building; pouring of concrete to help neighbours build their home; and, in my own experience, planting season in Josiahs Bay.
At the risk of romanticising the past, I believe there was virtue in the selflessness of that era as compared to what is now being referred to as selfishness.
We should use the present crisis to recapture that virtue. We should spend time exercising our minds to consider how we can build a bigger economic pie so that it can be shared with the greater number. We should adapt the principle a friend once shared with me that his grandfather taught him: “Whenever the tide in the harbour rises, all the boats in the water will float.” This crisis should give us an opportunity to reset our thinking and lead us on a new path. After all, this is a new dispensation; a new normal that we can help to define.
I have seen a few instances that create hope in this direction, and they are most encouraging:
- more people are investing in home gardening of both flowers and vegetables;
- more people (probably not necessarily by choice) are taking vacations locally, which is great; and
- there is a greater awareness and use of our environment, especially our beaches.
These are all positive developments. They help us to appreciate what we have and should give greater incentives to invest in adding value to it all.
When I first returned home from medical school back in 1986, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the type of hospital and the services we now provide. We were then barely providing the basic necessities.
The present crisis has been a sobering experience in that many of the services, especially surgical, that previously would have required transfer overseas have been successfully done locally at both the public and private institutions. This speaks volume to what can be achieved nationally once the will exists. It should serve as inspiration for the new generation of health care providers to dream of the possibilities. If necessity is the mother of all invention, then this crisis should not be wasted.
The younger, more curious minds among us must find new and innovative ideas to propel us forward. The VI has made great strides in the blue economy, an almost infinite arena for new thinking. We are more marine than terrestrial in the spaces available to us for living, and the ocean is the new frontier.
We know the travel industry will rebound, so we need to be ahead of the curve. We have trained a number of people in the greater understanding of the financial world, so it is time for ideas that will lead to a quantum leap in providing international services in this arena.
Many a person can testify to how crises and unforeseen circumstances force them to think and change directions for greater success in their individual lives. Maybe this is the time for us here in the VI to use our individual and collective energies to create a greater good and build a bigger pie. The generations to come would be proud of us and would feel that we did not allow a serious crisis to go to waste.