Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Gordon Robinson: Stupidity worse than a mosquito bite

Published:Sunday | January 24, 2016 | 1:51 PMGordon Robinson, Contributor

The Ministry of Health’s (MOH) most recent attempt at obfuscation has me thinking (always dangerous).

MOH wants three million Jamaicans to help combat the Zika virus (ZIKV) by postponing all pregnancies for one year for fear babies might become infected and their brain growth stunted (microcephaly). If this wasn’t so obviously a smoke-and-mirrors trick so Government can avoid its responsibility to eradicate Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes, it’d be hilarious.

Incredibly, people have expressed shock at the suggestion that mosquitoes can be eradicated. Well, it’s an historical fact that sustained eradication programmes accomplished exactly that in the Caribbean and continental Latin America by 1962. Because Cayman continued its programmes, there are virtually no mosquitoes in Cayman to this day. Jamaica, on the other hand, was single-handedly responsible for the reintroduction of Aedes Aegypti into the region thanks to its underfunded, corrupt, incompetent waste management and sanitary practices.

In the 1890s, with yellow fever the latest ‘plague’, Havana’s chief sanitary officer, Major Jefferson Randolph Kean, persuaded Cuba’s governor general to focus government’s efforts on eradicating Aedes Aegypti (suspectedly the sole source of the disease). Previously, Cuban government policy was to disinfect all walls and furniture (philosophically identical to stopping all pregnancies) instead of attacking the problem at source.

Under martial law, Havana was divided into 20 districts and teams of sanitation officers assigned to each. Mosquito-breeding grounds were their primary targets. They covered all stagnant bodies of water with a layer of oil and ordered Havana’s citizens to oil or screen barrels of drinking water. Many Cubans resisted this seemingly absurd decree mainly because they feared oil might pollute their water supplies.

However, the majority complied after the governor imposed a penalty of $10 for disobedience.

The governor also demanded that all yellow fever cases be immediately reported to American authorities. On receiving the report, sanitation officers were sent to the victim’s house to begin fumigation. They sealed the house and burned pyrethrum to kill any mosquitoes that had already invaded. The officers adjusted isolation periods for yellow fever patients in accordance with the discovery that infected humans can transfer the virus to mosquitoes only during the first few days of illness and mosquitoes cannot transmit the virus until nearly two weeks after being infected. By 1901, Havana recorded fewer than 20 yellow fever deaths.

ZIKV isn’t yellow fever. Only about one in five who get the virus break into symptoms, which are usually mild. Symptoms can include mild fever, rashes, pinkeye and joint pain. However, concerns about a possible connection between infected pregnant women and the microcephaly birth defect are slowly growing. It’s important to note researchers haven’t definitively established a connection, but the jump in microcephaly cases is alarming and researchers are focused on the likelihood of a connection.

Who wants to tell me that, with the aid of modern science and computers, Jamaica can’t do to ZIKV in 2016 what Cuba did to yellow fever in 1899? Who wants to tell me that the best plan we can devise, over a century later, is to ask women not to become pregnant for a year? How many 45-50-year-olds, desperate for one last try despite the odds, must sacrifice their dreams of motherhood on the altar of 'pinchy-koby', lazy, inefficient, uncaring government policy?

I understand citizens being asked to help by covering up, using fans or air-conditioning and mosquito repellents, especially at dawn and twilight. But, why halt the propagation of Homo sapiens for a year? Like across-the-board anticipatory abortion? When does the year end? Will all mosquitoes (or just ZIKV mosquitoes) be gone on that day? Or the day before? Or the day after? C’mon, man!

All this hot air from Government started me thinking about conception, so I asked Twitter the following questions:
• Do you believe man and woman can create life without God's help? Or do you believe conception includes an infusion of the divine spirit by God?
• I believe the ‘miracle’ of conception is more divine than scientific. Science explains the mechanics of it. God is the real Creator. Right?
I received ‘likes’; no dissent.

If you begin with these spiritual truths, you must throw away religious dogma that shows God as an old man with a long, grey beard sitting behind a desk in the sky aiming lightning and thunder at earthbound sinners. The reality must be that God, who infused his Holy Spirit into each of us at conception, ‘resides’ within each of us. Each birth represents a little piece of God arriving in this world within the baby.
Jesus (responding to Phillip’s request, “shew us the Father”):

“Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?      The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the          Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
    “Believe me that I AM in the Father, and the Father in me: or else      believe me for the very works' sake.
    “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works      that I do shall he do also; and greater WORKS than these shall he      do; because I go unto my Father.” (John 14:10-12).
You’ll not hear Pastor often read this. Why? The clear message directly from the horse’s mouth would put a severe cramp in Pastor’s collection drive. Goodman’s Law strikes again! 
At verses 19-20, Jesus seals the deal: 
    “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me:       because I live, ye shall live also.
     At that day, ye shall know that I am in my Father and ye in me,      and I in you.”
Please stop looking outwardly for God. Look within. Come to God in prayer/meditation. 

And, for Pete’s (and Sam’s and Joe’s and Frank’s) sake, MOH, don’t tell women to stop doing God’s work. It’s an impossible, stupid edict. Do YOUR job. Eradicate mosquitoes and treat the sick. Implement real public-sector reform to make this affordable. Reduce and merge unnecessary or surplus ministries/agencies. For example, we still have THREE gaming commissions headed by THREE separate chairmen with two sets of politically appointed commissioners and three staffs. The Jamaica Racing Commission (JRC) and the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) have ‘merged’ (DWL); purchased and ‘refurbished’ premises on Hagley Park Road where they waste more space and expenses than ever before. Meanwhile, the Casino Commission (CC) has moved into the old JRC building on Winchester Road.

Why three regulators for one industry? JRC employs more than 50 to regulate horse racing conducted on 80 half-days per annum at ONE racetrack. BGLC employs another 50 odd to regulate a betting industry, including slots that ought to be 100 per cent online. Is it? If not, why not? Why are non-computerised betting companies licensed? CC has been in existence for more than five years without a single casino to regulate.  These bureaucratic monoliths are operating at creaking speed in an anachronistic gaming scene and busy creating mini-dramas about how many hotel rooms/how much investment will qualify for a casino when the modern reality is standalone, land-based casinos are obsolete.
Our three gambling regulators still don’t understand their role, which is to facilitate business, thus increasing government revenues while eliminating corruption. We still believe that, in order to justify our jobs, we must block new business. To our regulatory dinosaurs, regulation means strangulation at birth, not nurtured discipline growing up. Any wonder we deal with an imminent ZIKV attack by anticipatory abortion?

Modern gaming commissions need only an executive chairman (due to the nature of the industry) and two external directors with expertise in accounting and security. International gaming commissions regulate ALL gambling/horse racing at the back end by tapping into licensees’ computer systems and are staffed in single digits. Regulatory expenses are paid by profiteering licensees, not by taxpayers.
Not so here, where ‘same-old-same-old’ is the order of the day. Government’s task is to assign blame. So, sustainable mosquito eradication is unattractive, expensive and a threat to passing IMF tests.  Better to pass the buck to women unpatriotically wanting to become pregnant. Who needs sex anyway? Not our geriatric parliamentarians who seem to prefer seats-for-life without threat from Generation Next. What better way to achieve this ideal?
Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.