Letters & Opinion

COVID 4.4 How the latest corona virus has changed how we see everything, even how some ancient scribes and scribblers’ see their most secret thoughts!

Image of NRC Chairman Earl Bousquet
Image of Earl Bousquet
Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

I awoke on the morning my 44th year as a journalist doing just like always during my nearly four-and-a-half decades: nobly toiling in my vineyard, chronically chronicling what’s making the world turn around me – and with me as a passenger.

It was another April 1st – except, this time around, with a COVID-19 State of National Emergency, plus a Curfew underpinned by a Stay At Home prohibition and underlined by a Social Distancing edict that requires humans to stay as far away from each other as possible.

In my 44 years on this watch, I’ve seen and done much – very much.

But never have I been afforded such an indefinitely interminable amount of time at home to use as I like, to laze or labor, or both – to choose between living at Home Sweet Home or in a Jail At Home, Living Under House Arrest.

Chronicling COVID-19 since the All Fools Day extension of the Curfew here, I’ve been seeking, as always, to find and share information useful to readers, viewers and listeners, to hopefully help them better understand that what is happening here and in the wider Caribbean with this much-feared virus is not disconnected from similar happenings elsewhere.

With 4.4 decades of research and documentation lodged in the infinite storage of the eternal hard drive of my memory bank and still unwilling to know that anything of global import happens anywhere in this age of information at our fingertips, I remain glued 24/7 to all those instruments I use to tap into the news of the day, every day and everywhere.

The ease and speed of information flow today is 400 times what it used to be when I learned the rudimentary aspects of being a scribe of yesteryear.

Now, I’m a scribbler of Ice Age origin in the age of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The transition hasn’t been at all easy for me: from writing with fountain pens, ball-point pens  and pencils on blank or lined sheets of paper to learning to use a typewriter, from fingering word processors and computer keyboards and seeing microphones, tape recorders and cameras replaced by a telephone to writing into a computer or phone that suggests, recommends and/or simply changes words for you, or before you can.

There are many downsides that come with 44 years of doing the same thing every day, but never enough on my plates to outweigh the ups that’ve come with slowly climbing the long ladder step-by-step.

But all of that is nothing compared to how COVID-19 has changed our lives and how we work – and how we face the challenges that come with what used to be described as ‘occupational hazards’ (or the dangers that come with the job).

Back in the age of AM, FM and Medium Wave (MW) and HAM radio, when my father taught me the Morse Code and to recite the three bars of letters on the typewriter with my eyes closed, the media and the world depended on ‘war correspondents’ to know how the fighting was going; today we’re prepared long in advance by war propaganda from the warring sides.

Today, 75 years after World War II ended, governments hijack narratives through media manipulation: US President Donald Trump has 90 million Twitter followers and sets policy by tweets; and some European governments have basically outlawed media coverage of COVID-19 if not officially cleared and/or authorized – just like during the 1918-19 ‘Spanish Flu’ plague that didn’t even start in Spain and which some governments back then simply banned press coverage of.

Today too, the Main Stream Media (MSM) is equally challenged and indeed numerically overwhelmed by the Alternative Media, especially the Social Media platforms equally available to everyone.

The Saint Lucia government has established a 24/7 COVID-19 Information Command Center ran by and from the Government Information Service (GIS) through the National Television Network (NTN) that keeps people up-to-date on official related information, in both English and Kweyol, through several platforms – an admirable effort bought into by professionals outside the government information system committed to volunteering in a time of national crisis.

But the independent or non-government media also has an equal chance to provide wider coverage than would be entertained in or by the state media.

Example: I was invited on April 4 to be a guest on the radio station Blazin’ FM’s popular Sunday program ‘Blessed Love’ hosted by Rodneil Theodore.

I ‘worked from home’ with my phone and talked and took calls and answered questions on air for all of four hours and 28 minutes non-stop, everything COVID-19 and related questions that went into subjects like: Saint Lucia and the Caribbean’s preparedness for COVID-19, How the Saint Lucia Government is handling the COVID-19 Crisis, Availability of Beds and States of Health Services, Effect of COVID-19 on the Speed of Transition from Victoria Hospital to OKEU, the Race to Complete Unfinished Hospitals and Health Facilities, Impacts of Tradition and Culture on Adherence to Emergency Restrictions, Need for More Information Sharing About The Medium and Long-term Implications of COVID-19, Cuba’s response to COVID-19, the 113-member Cuban Medical Team in 14 Days of Quarantine While the Virus Penetrates, Reparations and Repatriation, Living in the Shadows of Slavery and Native Genocide, Fake COVID-19 News and Media Manipulation, the CARICOM Presence at the OAS, Climate Change and The Environment, Ecological Factors Driving and Driven by Nature, ‘Acts of God’ vs ‘Man-Made’ Disasters, Post-Disaster Insurance, the COVID-19 Threat to Food Security, World Bank and IMF Attitudes to Developing Countries, CARICOM’s Standing as a Regional Institution, the Ongoing US War on Venezuela, CARICOM’s Need to Avoid Repeating the Grenada error – and much more.

Spending over 4.4 hours listened to widely by people stuck at home and with a window on the world on 4th day of the 4th month of the 44th anniversary of my first day as a chronicler of chronicles was just another unplanned play-out of some of the poetic aspects of my life story, including having married my wife on her birthday, which also became our wedding anniversary – and the day she was buried in 2017, after having departed in Cuba on our first son’s birthday, also Carnival Monday. And seven months later her sister died on my first son’s birthday…

I’ve never associated my entry into the profession as having anything to do with All Fools Day because it just happened to be the first working day of my first job, doing what I always wanted to do after already having traveled the seven seas and five continents at the tender age of 20.

All of 4.4 decades later I still wake-up every morning addicted to thinking traditionally and scribbling electronically, every day trying to get better at what I do – and most of all, continuing to practice and preach what Larry King means when he says: ‘I never learned anything while talking’ – same as the wise old Kweyol proverb ‘Pwesse koute, pa pwesse parler!’ (Be more prepared to listen than to talk.’)

For as far back as I can remember since entering the IT age, my days start with very-early-morning check-ups on today’s electronic version of what used to be letters and newspapers posted by Air Mail and/or delivered by walking postmen and the GPO (General Post Office): browsing my e-Mail and WhatsApp Messages.

Today, thanks to COVID-19,  my inboxes are become (almost) unmanageable: I awoke on my 4-4-44 with 422 WhatsApp Messages on my Digicel phone and 340 on LIME, forcing me to strain and filter like never before, one of the two sets even entering Download Lockdown mode.

Five days later I had been receiving an average of 185 new messages per phone per day, 75% of which would be COVID-19 related.

Then came Day Ten of April, when my last son turned 24 – and shared his At Home birthday celebration with friends by Go Pro, through WhatsApp, Facebook and other Now and Next Generation online platforms.

This coronavirus pandemic, like all others, has affected or is about to affect everyone, everywhere.

It’s also affected my life as a journalist starting the third decade in the 21st Century still with much of an electronic caveman’s mentality in the IT Age, affecting my work and infecting me directly through a malware version of the feared invisible, equal opportunity virus that’s inflicting the rest of the world as if it was actually sent to change the world like it’s doing right now.

But just like Humankind has survived every challenge and moved on to be better at making life better for humans, the artificial differences between people have also been virtually and virally exposed by the virtual power of today’s very viral media.

All that said, all I can say now is that I was born at the right time!

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