If only for the benefit of the memory-impaired, permit me to reintroduce The Good Samaritan parable: “On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
“ ‘What is written in the law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’
“He answered: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.’
“ ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’
“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘and who is my neighbor?’
“In reply Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him for dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road when he saw the man. He passed by on the other side. So, too, a Levite; when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was, and when he saw him he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ Which of the three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’
“The expert of the law replied: ‘The one who had mercy on him.’
“Jesus told him: ‘Go and do likewise.’ ”
Upon my recent re-reading of the above, two thoughts had occurred to me: “neighbor,” as used in the parable, differed from the ordinary meaning of the word: “One who lives near or next to another . . . a person, place or thing adjacent to or located near another.” Rather, it seems to refer to a person of charitable disposition.
It had also occurred to me, for the first time, truth be told, that the parabolic Samaritan had not gone a-begging on behalf of the mauled and helpless robbery victim. He did not, in the fashion of some po-ass pseudo-socialist, robinhood some ostensibly rich citizen on behalf of the ubiquitous all-purpose malaway.
He certainly wasted no time shedding headline-grabbing reptilian tears. Oh no; the proverb’s Good Samaritan dipped into his own pocket and pulled out two dinarii (ancient Roman silver coins, one of which in their time was worth ten asses)—a selfless demonstration of generosity that brought to mind our own political Good Samaritans whose manifestations of love for neighbor and others extra-regional are, for the most part, paid with the lifeblood of the poor and gullible in the presence of mindless reporters with video cams—never with coins or paper from their own pockets!
Several hours following the unstoppable visit of Erika, more than one Newsspin regular called to express deep sorrow for our victimized brothers and sisters in ravaged Dominica, while also acknowledging the need to assist “in whatever way we can.” Alas, for many such assistance did not include donations from long beleaguered St. Jude Hospital. As one ostensible empathizer put it to the show’s host Timothy Poleon: “The hospital is so deprived that patients are required to supply their own bed sheets, medicine, bandages . . . so how is it the hospital can send medical packages to Dominica? Charity should begin at home.”
Tim dutifully reminded listeners that immediately following the Christmas Eve trough of 2013, we had received “from our sister islands” much help—including a million dollars from St. Kitts-Nevis. Said Tim: “St. Kitts is not rich but that did not prevent its people from coming to our aid.” He followed that up with a small lecture on neighborliness.
In the meantime my mind had scrolled back to August 2009 when the government of Saint Lucia, then as now in the debilitating grip of countless recession-related consequences, had donated a check for some $400,000 dollars to Taiwan, “to help the country recover from the catastrophe resulting from Typhoon Morakot.”
Keeping in mind the unending salacious speculations concerning the government’s relationship with Taiwan’s then ambassador Tom Chou, it is all one can do now to stifle a cynical chuckle. A published photograph of Stephenson King and Chou holding the sealed brown On St. Lucia Government Service envelope that conceivably contained the check, even now suggests cheap showbiz at its most obvious. One cannot help wondering why the gentlemen had chosen not to be photographed holding the actual check, as is the custom, especially when Taiwan is involved. Was King’s made of rubber? Was it a stage prop? It continues not to make sense that a government, whose survival, even now, relies on Taiwanese largesse could conceive of no other way to express in the cited circumstance sympathy and gratitude.
Observed King (at the time channeling the Good Samaritan in his government’s soul): “This donation is specifically in return for the grass-roots projects that the Embassy of ROC (Taiwan) in Saint Lucia has been doing in the past two years to help people who live in remote and less privileged areas on this island.”
It was his wish that Taiwan “will rise out of this disaster with an even greater will and determination to put measures in place to fight future natural disasters with the resilience, hard work and tenaciousness of its people ad government.” If only King had instead chosen to invest that $US100,000 in hurricane mitigation at Fond St. Jacques or in desilting the Bexon River or in fortifying the Deruisseaux Road . . . If only he had used the money “to put measures in place to fight future natural disasters” at home.
But then, nothing is ever as it seems when political Good Samaritans are involved. It was not the first time the Taiwanese ambassador had willingly or otherwise lent himself to transparently stupid, not to say embarrassing government initiatives here; and certainly it was not the last.
Returning to the Dominica episode. One is not suggesting oh-so-Christian Saint Lucia ought not to have lent a hand in the wake of Erika.
But did our reaction have to be so obviously related to cheap politics at popular expense? We are demonstrably a generous people, especially so in the wake of disasters, natural and of our own dumb design. Even before the extent of the damage to Dominica had been hinted at, the local Red Cross, as well as several private sector entities were engaged in various forms of rescue. But there must be limits to generosity, especially when such generosity must be paid by our most vulnerable. It makes no sense to me that our bereft hospitals should voluntarily send to a country in distress medical supplies denied the sick and dying at home—call me heartless, if you must. Dying is dying, whether from being too long without food or from being washed away by water gone wild.
Shortly before Erika struck, the United Workers Party undertook a much-advertised fashion show, the proceeds from which were in advance marked for local distribution. But soon after Erika the party let it be known that the poorest of Bruceville, Fond St. Jacques and so on would have to go on being deprived a while longer.
Evidently there was more political hay to be made from donating the realized $5,000 to the cause of trough-ravaged Dominicans. I am here reminded of 1Timothy 5:8: “But if any provide not for his own, and especially of those of his own home, he hath defiled the faith and is worse than an infidel.”
With good reason Starbucks has been widely criticized for caring about the Amazon while neglecting rank and file employees.
As often our professional pullers of our chain have reminded us, even as conveniently they cite Derek Walcott and Sir Arthur Lewis, “we are a very imaginative people.” Surely we can conjure up a hundred ways by which to prove we care for distressed Dominica, other than by permitting our political Good Samaritans to sacrifice us in their own selfish interests. For one, it might’ve made a wonderful impression had each of our MPs determined on their own to donate a year’s or even a month’s wages and entertainment allowances to a relief fund in the name of Sister Dominica. With some luck, Dominica’s MPs might’ve been inspired to follow the Saint Lucian example!