Kaieteur News – A few days ago, I witnessed an amazing scene. A funeral cortège was making its way along a public road, led by the hearse.
Scores of vehicles driven by impatient drivers were overtaking the cortège oblivious for the need to show respect to the dead. One minibus moved alongside the procession of vehicles, loudly blasting irreverent music.
Such a scene would have been unthinkable 50 years ago. Back then, no one attempted to overtake a funeral procession. Cyclists and pedestrians upon seeing a funeral cortège would stop and stand aside. The men would tip their hands and the women would bow their heads.
People showed respect for the dead. And because of this they valued life.
Yesterday, there was a movie shown on cable television. It was called Taking Chance. It is a gem of movie, devoid of action or drama, it, however, sends a powerful message about respecting the dead, particularly the men and women who served in the Armed Forces and who give their lives for their country.
The movie is the story of a desk officer who volunteers to escort a Marine who was killed in Iraq and whose body was brought back to America. The movie shows the details of the great lengths and the rituals which the Armed Forces of the USA engage in preparing the body and transporting it to its final resting place in Wyoming.
As one review noted, the movie chronicles how Americans, civilians and servicemen, honour and respect those who are killed while in service to their country. The movie is about loss, personal and national but it is extremely revealing about the great lengths which the Armed Forces go in showing reverence for the dead.
Yet, in our society, particularly in Guyana, we appear to be losing the traditions of showing respect for the dead. And it is this loss of reverence for the dead and the sensitivity for their victims’ families that is also translating into lack of regard for the living.
We are living in a terrible period in our country and in the world. People are dying in great numbers. On Thursday more than 7,000 persons died around the world from COVID-19; on Wednesday more than 8,000 died.
The deaths are mounting in Guyana. Last month, September, there were 169 COVID-related deaths. This is twice the amount of death recorded in August and 70 percent higher than the previous highest total one year ago.
The number of infections has also spiralled out of control. Last month there were 6,279 confirmed cases of COVID 19, more than double the previous month. Yet, nothing has changed. No one is on the rooftop shouting for the tighter restrictions.
People seem to be unperturbed by the mountain of deaths which are taking place. No one is writing any letters in the newspapers calling for action but many letters are appearing over a suggestion to name a street after a Mahatma Gandhi.
What is the country coming to? And who does one explain this widespread indifference to the deaths which are taking place daily in Guyana.
Perhaps, it has to do with the decline in respect for the dead. That loss of respect translates to loss of respect for life itself.
When money and profits are more important than human life, this is the sort of indifference which will result. And if selfishness is more important than support for others, this indifference will result.
Our President went to Barbados recently and railed against what he called vaccine polarisation. He complained bitterly about the fact that how the developed world treated the rest of the world in respect to vaccines.
But what about here right home? How different is what the developed world did with the vaccines from what we are doing in respect to not taking additional measures to stem the spiralling deaths and infections.
The failure to show reverence for life can be traced right back to the decline in respect for the dead. And this is one of the main reasons why few seem bothered by the fact that so many of us are dying each day.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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