Zeno the Greek philosopher once said that fear was an expectation of evil.
The stoic also described panic as fear with pressure exercised by sound, and mental agony as fear felt when some issue is still in suspense. Consternation, he pointed out, was fear due to a presentation of some unusual occurrence. But perhaps the fear which must most be guarded against, in the interest of the masses, is that of nervous shrinking, the fear that one will have to act.
And this brings us to the hotly debated, and unfortunately politicized isolation centre proposed for the Enmore Clinic. That there is a need for such a centre really has nothing to do with Ebola. Every nation should have such a facility, whether for Ebola or ‘panicbola’.
We live in a democracy and we respect the sentiments of parents, residents, alarmists, or anyone else, who have publicly indicated their aversion to the placement of the centre in the proximity of the Ursuline Convent, St. Gabriel’s, or any other place where children and adults congregate.
Within the context of our democracy we also appreciate the right of individuals to march, to sign petitions, to write letters of protest, to speak in the valley, and to sound off on the mountain top. But we also acknowledge that in many cases, panic, mental agony and consternation can make men and women of usually ordered thought abandon their sounder reasoning.
At 166 square miles Barbados remains spatially an insignificant dot. Elongated straight travel for perhaps two to three hours equates to a sea bath. There have been suggestions that the centre be taken to a more isolated area. We have not yet been apprised of the existence of any “isolated” locations in Barbados. Petitioners are adamant that the centre should be moved to another location. To our nation’s immense credit no one has suggested a location close to the Barbados Learning Centre or the Pinelands Community Centre.
We recall the hue and cry from the idyllic parish of St. Andrew when suggestions were made to close the Mangrove Pond Landfill in St. Thomas and relocate our waste to Greenland. While folk in Arch Hall, Bennetts, Seaview, and the surrounding areas, mimicked our latter-day petitioners for many years, St. Andrew folk were unperturbed by the travails caused by Mount Stinkeroo. Such is human nature. The foul mound was not in their community.
But has it dawned on anyone that schools operate in a controlled environment. That pupils and students are under the supervision of principals, teachers, and in many instances, security personnel. That encroachment on a very visible facility such as the isolation centre at Enmore is highly unlikely, and if done, unlikely to go undetected. That authorized human traffic on school premises is usually for a period of seven to eight hours of a 24-hour day. That locating such a centre in an ‘isolated’ area could offer greater lapses in terms of supervision of movement to and from the facility.
That being said, and putting fear aside, some credence must be given to the words of Minister of Health John Boyce. “The centre does not pose any risk to persons in the vicinity,” he said, while adding that the Enmore facility had been designed “in strict compliance with the international standards for infection control, waste management and air quality.”
So what do we do?
Do we accept the decision of the experts who are responding to the threat of Ebola or other infectious diseases with a strategy which we assume has been well conceived? Do we follow the politicians who smell a vote in every cause to which they attach themselves – almost virus-like? Do we adhere to the dictates of parents and residents, who understandably, look at any threat – real or imaginary – through selfish eyes?
Truth be told, one is likely to find habitation in every ‘isolated’ area in Barbados. And if it is only one resident, that individual has the right to make an objection to any change or addition made to his or her surroundings.
But in the final analysis, decisions should be made for the many, not the few, and actions taken by those in authority should not be a reflection of nervous shrinking.