Help or hinder… fight or flight


Help or hinder… fight or flight


Friday, February 28, 2020

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There is something strange going on. In a time where tragedy is now a spectator sport, humankind appears to have lost a sense of self-preservation and an understanding of empathy.

There is a long-standing joke that Jamaicans are known to run towards the sound of gun shots. Last week we saw the amazing response to that deadly gas station fire in Mandeville. Bystanders were seen trying to get closer in order to watch the blaze with little or no appreciation of the inherent danger.

Ordinarily Jamaicans are “action” people. If there is an accident or a mishap you can be sure a crowd will gather. There are those brave souls who will immediately launch into action, helping to get the injured to hospital, or rolling boulders out of the way after a landslide. These are the “fighters” in the fight-or-flight scenario. These are the people who we later hail as heroes. Then there are the “tek weh meself” responders. “No sah. Mi naw stay round mek sump'n happen to me!”

Now we have a third category — the gawkers who are not content to watch the goings-on. They need to record it for posterity so that they can be the centre of attention as they share and spread gruesome events to their friends and the wider public.

The family of the gentleman who succumbed to injuries from the fire have been begging and pleading that videos of their husband and father be taken down. The gawkers have no empathy for those who are grieving as they forward and share the clips.

There is a reason that the wild spread of information is called “viral”. It can infect and affect anyone. There is never a thought that they may be sharing an accident photo with someone who is still struggling with the after-effects of a similar incident. No concern that his may reopen old wounds and stir up emotions. Worse yet, we have heard reports of families receiving these images before they are properly notified of the tragedy.

Videos that go viral and the hype of Internet stardom are now the make-up of ambition and aim. The video of female students promoting a school event was filled with various “fabrics” to make their post hot. They soon found that their behaviour did not have the intended result. Or maybe it did? The video spread, and the public heaped scorn and damnation on the youngsters. “Look how them wutliss!” Wutliss for emulating behaviour the society seems to value, as this is the kind of video that racks up thousands of views and forwards.

Videos of students fighting and cursing are sure to get attention, while their peers bringing pride to their school through academic or co-curricular activities will get a few random clicks as we scroll to the next outrage.

Questions of the Day: Is this a new version of the chicken or the egg? Has the bad behaviour been exacerbated by the normalising of similar examples?

We have embraced the rough, crass and crude over the years and now we are seeing the results.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think going back to the days of curtsey and lace gloves is the answer. This is a new time and a new generation. We move to a different beat and respond to life in a new way, but surely we can stop and think on our actions a little bit more.

Commendations to the Broadcast Commission on its new campaign that asks the question: What if? What if it was your family or your friend whose worst moment became a public spectacle?

A matter of safety

Safety and health concerns are another element in the aftermath of the gas station fire of last week. Are we any closer to getting the occupational health and safety regulations put to law? Will we continue to just trust and hope that the various sectors of industry are making sure they are taking the precautions and actions to keep employees and clients safe?

Talking with a gentleman recently, he said to me: “The most disliked person in an organisation is the person responsible for safety measures.” Too often we see these necessary rules as an annoyance – one more thing to put on we head as we try to hustle and make the daily bread.

It is now commonplace to see the posted signs at a worksite listing the apparatus required to protect the workers, and yet it is almost as common to see slippers and socks in a construction zone. Motorbike drivers whizz past with the helmet cotched on their head like a cap. How is that going to help if head meets asphalt? Why do we take our safety so lightly?

If and when the Corona virus makes its appearance on our shores, can we rely on our fellow Jamaicans to follow the rules of quarantine and isolation? Or, will we take it as “ah nuh nutten” and go about our daily business spreading sickness to others without a second thought? Wake up, people. Think about your neighbour and your fellow Jamaicans. If you giving up anything for Lent, give up the cold-hearted behaviour. Tek time and tek care.

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or

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