More people die from poverty than from disease! (Are we stupid and we know it? part III)

I was having my first breakfast of this New Year when I received from an overseas friend who normally video-calls me at least twice weekly the following Instant Message query: “Rick, I hope the year begins right for you. Someone just asked me if I’d read your farewell article but I can’t seem to find it online, or anything else you’ve written relating to a farewell. Please tell me what’s going on.”
I chuckled knowingly and after I’d polished off my three-egg (yes!) cheese omelet of my own making (yes, again!), I Skyped my clearly concerned friend: “Hi there,” I said at the sound of his voice. “Are you receiving me clearly?”
“I certainly am,” he exaggerated. “Like you’re in the movies. You look great!”
That settled, I proceeded unfairly to subject him to my famous gossip repellent. I challenged him to explain with greater specificity what his informant had meant by “Rick’s farewell article.”
“I have no idea,” he said, laughing nervously in anticipation of hornets from their inadvertently disturbed nest.                         “That’s what a friend just told me minutes ago. He wanted to know if I’d read ‘Rick’s farewell article.’ I haven’t a clue what he was talking about, so I contacted you directly.”
Following a few minutes of friendly chastisement, I explained that I was unable to supply him with a useful response, since he couldn’t tell me for certain what he and his Saint Lucian contact needed to know. Did he mean to say I’d written my last newspaper article before retiring to, well, if not the life of Riley then at least something resembling Hugh Hefner’s? Or that I’d served notice on STAR readers of my imminent return, whether to dust or ashes?
“He is normally so damn reliable,” said my overseas friend (a fellow journalist of note!) , somewhat sheepishly. “Once he’d said what he’d said I took it for granted he
knew what he was talking about. I decided out of personal concern to seek verification from the horse’s mouth.”
Temptation got the better of me. I said: “Well, dead men are seldom in a position to verify anything, neither are bar flies, drunk or sober. By the way, might we be talking about a certain fellow scribe particularly famous as an ambulance chaser?”
“Oh, no, no,” my friend assured me, “but my source is usually on the ball when it comes to events on the home front. I don’t mind telling you who he is, since I know you won’t hold it against him. Besides, he really didn’t speak ill of you. He probably formed his own impression from reading what you’d written and wanted to know what I thought of it.”
He then volunteered his informant’s ID, which not only surprised the bejesus out of me but also had me laughing so hard my precious IPad almost dropped out of my hands to the concrete several feet below my kitchen verandah.
My first 2013 caller and I had good reason to laugh at the obvious irony. We were well aware that his Rock of Sages contact had for some time been lumbered with his own health burdens, for which, incredibly, he had sought no specialized attention, choosing instead to place his trust in bush quackery dispensed by total strangers. Not helping his predicament were the consequences of a recent near fatal road accident.
Then again, to be fair, my friend’s informant may simply have missed the whole point of the opening two episodes of my new series entitled “Sexy . . . But are we also stupid and we know it?” It’s one thing to read unfamiliar words and altogether something different to understand them as their author intended—especially when you’ve programmed yourself to disagree with whatever opinion the particular author might express.
I daresay my friend’s friend on the Rock of Sages was not alone with his outré conclusion that the cited two pieces amounted to some kind of deathbed confession.                 Permanent residents on our favorite chunk of volcano vomit are not used to science-based discussions about our health. You want to talk about sweet couche, imprudent, fwaydee and windimynabel? Great, expect standing-room-only turnouts. But AIDS? Heart disease? That’s altogether another bouillon. Evidently it’s easier for us to admit we make our living as alley hookers than to take advantage of free HIV tests.
We have a similar attitude when it comes to publicly acknowledging mistakes and misjudgments—unless of course we’re at death’s door and facing eternal cohabitation with horny devils.
To reveal the slightest knowledge of, say, the secular history of the Man from Galilee is to advertise you’re on your way to an appointment with the Grim Reaper—unless your name just happens to be Pastor Ben Jones whose unabashed perseverance has been rewarded with the right to have his unquestioned way with The Word.
Doubtless, we’ll return to this peculiarly Saint Lucian idiosyncrasy.  I strongly suspect it has much to do with why, in this enlightened age, we continue to stuff our bloated bellies with all kinds of hit-and- miss panaceas from roadside purveyors
that have never learned to read but remain at liberty to dispense science-defying cure-alls.

• • • •
Now if there is one thing I pride myself on it is my first-hand knowledge of how things roll around the Rock of Sages. I am particularly conscious of our natural propensity for celebrating other people’s woes. I ask you: Who celebrates Emancipation Day the way we do? True, we’ve been known to prance and dance whenever Darren Sammy has had a good day at the wicket but (incontrovertible cynic that I am I am!) I have a hard time shaking the feeling that our boisterously expressed joy has less to do with the young man’s undoubted talents than with his provision of a more or less legitimate excuse for irrational exuberance reminiscent of carnival and post-election displays. (Okay, okay, so I jest—but only just a teeny bit!)
To hear our repetitive apocryphal tales, the untutored Martian observer might easily conclude we remain, after some five hundred years, so addicted
to the crack of the master’s whip that we have little choice but to annually recreate in our heads its flesh-tearing sting. Seldom do we hear something from our ritual Emancipation Day hot gospelers that might be construed even as a limp-wristed guarantee against future enslavement. The Jews incessantly talk, sing, write and make movies about their own holocaust—but always with an obvious determination never again to discover themselves on their knees, except on prayer mats.
Indeed, even while they pray they remain armed to the teeth, with arsenals of intellectual weaponry and WMDs!
We, meanwhile, have merely exchanged one set of shackles for several others seemingly unbreakable. We are as ever dependent on those who once had bought and sold us with our own connivance as beasts of burden. At any rate, we rely on their proud and prosperous progeny. Small wonder our governor general recently had cause to remind us that “we are a people used to hardship”—notwithstanding our proud Helen of Troy umbilical connections!
I suspect our cowardice in the face of wickedness is related to the way we were taught Christian behavior. Without the excruciating pain and endless suffering of others, without harmless lambs to be butchered for selfish interest, with no blood running down someone else’s back, how would we get our vital daily doses of schadenfreude?
Consider the way we celebrate the worst days in the short life of a particular Middle East preacher who, before his broken and bleeding body was delivered to his mother, was tortured in ways that make water-boarding sound like a Sandals recreational activity.                 This poor man who according to all the available literature never harmed a fly or a mosquito, let alone belly crawlers of the fork-tongued variety; who loved more than he loved himself men and women regardless of their professional status; who never let one cheek be slapped around without also exposing the other to similar treatment; who never let anyone go thirsty—even if it meant he had to turn bad-tasting water into the finest wine—was picked up bodily by enemies he knew not and declared guilty of uttering criminal words against the state, for which only one punishment was horrid enough.
Thousands of years later, no story brings greater joy to hearts on the Rock of Sages than that of how a certain individual had “died for our sins,” never mind what the records claim. You’d think—if a man paid with his own good life for your unspeakable wickedness—the best way to show your eternal gratitude would be to cease such wickedness, right? Well, tell that to current-day birds of prayer, in particular those for whom the only tales worth listening to have absolutely no relationship with The Word.
The above random thoughts came to mind upon receipt of several e-mails and phone calls from readers of the first two episodes of this series that have less to do with my recent travails than with what on our beloved Rock of Sages pass for love and charity and walking a mile in your neighbors shoes.
I can discern nothing outside the Labor Code that even acknowledges the existence of citizens unable to walk without assistance, not at our schools, not at our commercial houses, places of worship, our public transport—not even at Government Buildings
or at the House. Sadly,
I, too, was blind to this sorry fact until quite recently. But we’ll get to that in due course!
It’s as if the following were to be found on the first page of the Constitution of Saint Lucia: “If you can’t climb the Pitons, if you can’t run from the police, if you can’t stand on your own without a shoulder to lean on—if you’re unable to groove Gangnam Style—then you’re simply not good enough to participate in daily life on the Rock of Sages.”
As earlier stated, this series is not a deathbed confession, far from it. Neither is it related to my imminent departure from this planet. It is being written as a reminder of a truth so inconvenient that not even our medical profession dare speak it: that poverty kills more Saint Lucians annually than does disease, children in particular. It is also intended to
let the truly uninformed know that one out of every prized eight women of your circle—dear readers, that includes your wives, mothers, daughters and their female offspring—will be struck by breast cancer.
As for the men, one out of every six (including you, my fellow machomen who consider your butts sacred!) will inescapably have to deal with life-saving anal penetrations.
Alas, I’ve used up my allotted space and must pause until next time, when I will drag you along with me as I seek medical attention in the United States, not available at home. En-route we will discuss the vital importance of a support system, something most of us are too arrogant even to contemplate until we are most in need of one.
We will also discuss what we mean when, obviously without much thought, we refer to our drinking partners, workmates, parliamentary reps, girlfriends, even our spouses, as “best friends.”
We will take time to talk about the cost of healthcare and why that has never
been on the agenda of campaigning or incumbent politicians!
Stay tuned and read the next installment. It could be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself and loved ones!

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