De mouse dat roaring

Cassandra's Candid Corner
Stabroek News
July 30, 2000

Can you imagine a native from a mountain top peeping out of the Caribbean sea telling us that his country can teach and show us how to run we business? If a flea made a mistake and defecate on a map of the world where Anguilla is situated (if at all that fact is ever documented on a map), this small island would disappear. Dee blasted place ent even got a newspaper, and you could walk 'round it during the interval between two cricket overs. People of my generation would remember Anguilla wanting to secede from some organsation or the other (was it the Commonwealth?). Eight - yes eight', dear readers - paratroopers landed on the island and took it over. End of secession. Dis is de mouse dat now roaring - Look, gimme a damn chance. I can understand Venezuela ranting, and Suriname's eye-pass has to be placed in a context. But Anguilla? Look, tell dem shut dey mouth, or else we gun send some National Guard Service retirees to drop in and tek over dee island. Of course, they dare not blink, or they might bypass the speck.

* Anyway, let's get serious. Let's talk about some aspects of AIDS. Not a day goes by without some or all the media telling us about the pandemic. The biggest noise concerns AIDS awareness. The kids (=teenagers) must be made "aware" of the disease, especially how it is contracted. So, let's start with that. Are social and health care workers, parents and teachers and preachers still believing that the teenagers don't know that they should use condoms? I don't know if anyone, Professor Danns and his team for example, has done surveys on this matter, but I for one believe that teenagers damn well know that if they have several sexual partners and they do not use protection, the odds of getting the virus will increase. But, they don't care. This disease is a plague on the young, but youth feels it is invincible. Young people never think of death and the possibility of dying. And we, who are custodians of their welfare, stick our heads in the sand and come up with all sorts of shilly-shally excuses and wishy-washy theories about how we should approach the problem. The other day, in an attempt to shock some sense into our nation's drivers, a TV station graphically showed some gruesome footage associated with the latest bit of road carnage. Never have I seen the skeletal body of an AIDS victim - with all the sores and sadness - on the front page of a newspapers. Give them the shock treatment. All these talkie-talkie sessions with bleeding heart liberals with the velvet gloved 'solutions' are making no impact.

In the Caribbean it is quite different from Africa and Asia where the cultures and social stratification and educational levels preclude meaningful discussion on AIDS. We have passed the stage of imparting knowledge. Practically every school-attending teenager in the Caribbean knows how the disease is transmitted. They must know by now that promiscuity and the changing of sexual partners as if they were pieces of clothing has a significant chance of killing them slowly, painfully and cruelly. Let's shock some sense into their collective heads. Film a consenting AIDS victim from the time of personal disease recognition right through the agonising debilitating phases to the ultimate excruciating death. Exhibit graphically to male and female teenagers a baby with AIDS and its mother. Just as how the media has carried the message to say no to drugs, kids must understand how important it is to say no to promiscuity.

While I am on this point, let me offer the opinion that the sharing out of condoms - left, right and centre - will not work, simply because in the moment of passion or coercion, the last thing a young man is going to do is to put on a condom, an act which entails finding the correct pants pocket, stopping to tear open the package and fidgeting to get the right side on. Added to that are the macho myths reflected in the phraseology ranging from the lyrical "sex with a condom is like having a shower with a raincoat" to the crude "sex is not sex, if it is not flesh on flesh". And I have not even referred to the 'great wisdom' inherent in the Catholic Church's diktat which actually forbids the use of condoms.

Worst of all is the fight against AIDS in the highly publicised 'revolutionary arguments' of excusionists. Apologists as high as Thabo Mbeki have propounded and dispersed 'theories' about the causes of AIDS. One friend of mine from the Commonwealth Secretariat and many of his ilk perpetuate Mbeki's argument that the statistics surrounding AIDS in Africa are all wrong; that people suffering from Kwashiorkor, malaria and trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) etc. are all lumped together under the AIDS figures. Not so. The common viral, bacterial, protozoal and nutrition-based ailments in Africa are quite distinct from AIDS, not lastly in the speed with which many of them kill.

Long story short, we in Guyana at least must look the monster straight in the face, stare it down and use any and every method to destroy it. This will take a concerted togetherness effort of teachers and preachers, doctors and lawyers, parents, politicians and media practitioners, entertainers and sportsmen to confront this emerging catastrophe with truthfulness and the will to act decisively and radically. Our main message must be: 'Promiscuity kills'.

I took a pause after writing the above and thought I was finished with the subject matter. And I am for now. But a colleague and friend of mine, Tony Deyal, has reminded me how crudely we express that which should be most feelingful and romantic. He referred to the word 'lash'. Whereas in the rest of the English speaking world 'lash' carries the connotation of inflicting bodily harm, in Guyana, it is a verb which (whether connubial, conjunctive or merely conjectural) refers to the act of sexual intercourse. Yes, inflicting bodily harm. And we are the only people on this planet earth that use the substantive 'wife' as a verb - as in 'to wife', a variation of another four letter word. I think I am finished for today, before I get myself in (more) trouble with the Sunday editor.

Follow the goings-on in Guyana
in Guyana Today