The very name of the CARIBBEAN spells vacation, fun — and excitement! It is the dreamland of millions of tourists. But life over there is far from being all "rosy." Here is a firsthand report about the actual condition — the UNTOLD story — of these exotic islands.
Barbados, West Indies "WHERE do I find the American Embassy?" the tourist asked. "Pick up a rock — and follow the mob!" was the answer. The Jamaican newspaper which reported this "joke" had no hostility whatsoever toward the United States. On the contrary, Jamaicans — like most Caribbean's — appreciate American tourists whose dollar actually maintains their country's economy. Thousands of leaflets, pamphlets and brochures have been put out by various agencies to attract the tourists into these islands. But how many tourists actually do take time to look beyond the blue waters and limpid skies and discover what the natives do or feel — or even the way they live? It is one thing to have an exciting vacation in luxurious hotels where food and drinks are plentiful, but another thing to live like most natives do, or witness their extreme poverty. No, it isn't all beauty, fun and excitement! Far from it. Even the calypso songs, with all their nostalgic charm, are misleading because they are primarily composed for the tourists.
Water Shortage in Jamaica
Jamaica, like a few other islands, is actually facing a serious problem: WATER SHORTAGE. Surprising as it may seem, drought is beginning to become a major problem in these quasi-tropical islands where water used to be so plentiful. Prairies are now turning yellow, and the cattle in turn are suffering the consequences. "A considerable drop in milk production has resulted and some farmers are faced with the possibility of going out of business," the Jamaican Daily Gleaner reported on June 22, 1967. A few days afterward, an urgent "USE-LESS-WATER Appeal" was made recommending a sharp cutback in water consumption. "We want to emphasize the seriousness of the situation," a water commission spokesman said. "We are urgently appealing to everybody in the Corporate Area to use less water." But, as usual, people don't pay much attention to warnings. Instead of going down, the water consumption has been steadily going up! "It is true that we are having a drought," our taxi driver told us with a shrug of a shoulder, "but there is no need to worry. Things will work out all right. They always have . . ." This nonchalant way of reasoning — some call it "optimism" or "positive thinking" — seems to be the magic panacea to all of mankind's problems today. "There is no need to worry," people keep repeating, "we have had bad days before — and have survived!"
The Common-Law Marriage
On most Caribbean Islands, the average family is composed of at least six children — but much too often not all of these children have the same parents. The "common-law marriage" is quite common indeed! Not only is it accepted, but also considered most practical! "Our religion forbids divorce," an islander explained to me. "It is therefore more convenient for us not to get married. There are more than enough women to go around. We live with them, we have children, we support our families the best we can — but we don't get married so as not to face divorce problems." Naturally, not all islanders think or act this way, but the number of those who do is rather impressive. If you have travelled in the Caribbean Islands, you must have seen the small wooden shacks, worn out and dilapidated, where most natives live, crowded like sardines in a can. Nevertheless, they don't seem to be greatly bothered by it; they have never known a better way of living. They don't realize what they don't have — and what they don't know, they don't know that they don't know! Again, I repeat, not all islanders live in such poor dwellings, but the number of those who do is large enough to be a matter of concern. On some islands, like Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, the dwelling conditions are of a much higher level, but they do not compare — even remotely — to our Western standards of living.
Haiti — the Land of Abject Poverty
On the plane to Haiti, where we made a short stop early in July, a stewardess passed around U.S. newspapers. I picked up one — a Miami newspaper — because its headline attracted my attention. It read: " 'Less Danger' LBJ Said after Summit." Well, I thought, that certainly is the most comforting news. Away from home, nothing could be more reassuring than to hear our President claim that we were now living in a much less dangerous world. What wonderful news, indeed! So the world tension had lessened after the summit meeting, and this war-torn planet was finally becoming a "safer" place to live. I began to read the first few paragraphs but then stopped at once, filled with disappointments. "LBJ said Summit Meetings `Useful' . . . but on all major issues the two men [Mr. Johnson and Mr. Kosygin] seem to be as far apart as ever . . ." This was the statement under that misleading heading! I thought of our Jamaican taxi driver who said: "There is no need to worry. Things will work out all right. They always have . . ." Next to Cuba, Haiti is the most populated of the Caribbean Islands, with nearly 5 million people jamming its few villages and cities. Haiti is both beautiful and pathetic! With its decrepit airport, its beggars, its venders, peddlers and pseudo-voodoos, Haiti spells abject poverty. Most natives live on the barest subsistence level and the standard of education is the lowest in the islands. But WHY? Why should it be so? Why should this beautiful island, with its blue mountains and gleaming bays, be so backward, so poor and so filthy? The fault, as always, is with men and not nature. It is in the ways men have gone instead of following the ways indicated by the Creator. Haitians are not different from the rest of mankind. They are neither better nor worse. They are just plain human beings! Ignorant of the true ways of life — and unaware of what lies ahead — they too are searching for happiness in what they can get, and not in what they can GIVE. Filled with superstition, they actually lead a miserable life, expecting others to do for them what they should do for themselves.
The Wage Scale
Wages for the natives in the Caribbean are ridiculously low. While in Barbados, which is one of the most prosperous islands, I learned that employees in supermarkets and other similar establishments averaged less than 20 BW dollars a week (approximately 14 U.S. dollars). "It is not fair to expect a person to work as hard as some of them are called upon to do for scandalously low wages," the local Union's General Secretary stated. However, we must bear in mind that most of the other islanders hardly make half of what the Barbadians make. A great number of native Caribbean's are employed in industries such as sugar cane, banana, coconut and other tropical fruit plantations; these are highly competitive and very low-paying industries. How can a man support a family of six children when he hardly makes a couple of dollars a day? The answer is obvious. Even though the cost of living is in itself very low, an income of two dollars cannot provide for the needs of a family; hence, many islanders are in dire need of food and other necessities. "The competition is big — we can't pay much," the industry owners complain. "We are so underpaid, that we don't even feel like doing any work," the workers reply. Ironically, both of these arguments are correct when considered from a human point of view. And the result is discontentment, laziness — and poverty.
Attitude toward the British
A number of the Caribbean Islands are still under English rulership, but the three major ones — Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad — have now gained their independence, even though they are still a part of the British Commonwealth. There is a noticeable fear among the islanders that Britain may someday join the Common Market. In fact, the three major islands which have proclaimed their independence have now formed an economical corporation called "Caribbean Free Trade Area" — in order to cope with the situation. If Britain enters the Common Market, it is believed that she will no longer fulfill her commitments of purchasing Caribbean sugar. Such an eventuality could mean disaster for the islands' economy, unless preventive measures are taken beforehand. Under the existing agreement with Commonwealth sugar-producers — an agreement which is supposed to last until the end of 1974 — Britain has committed herself to buy a substantial amount of sugar every year. However, despite the recent conferences held to reassure both parties of their good in tensions, the islanders have misgivings about the matter. "The most dismaying single feature [of the discussion held about the subject] was precisely the British reluctance to acknowledge the inviolability of this contract" (Trinidad Guardian, July 12, 1967). Britain is gradually losing her prestige in the Caribbean. The more she pursues her desire to join the European Common Market, the more she appears to be neglecting her Commonwealth — or whatever is left of it! "The sun never sets on the British Empire," was the old slogan, but now you hear people say: "There is very little left of the British Commonwealth for the sun to set on!" An article printed in London and reproduced in Barbados under the heading: "What on Earth is Wrong with British Diplomacy?" — we read: "The chief characteristic of British diplomacy recently has been to achieve the opposite of its objectives. This characteristic was demonstrated only too vividly by the war in the Middle East . . . As is now customary, British diplomacy has achieved the worst of all possible results. We do it everywhere . . . For so long the world has looked towards Britain for strength, sagacity and dignity (not least in the person of its Foreign Secretary) as an invaluable balm in world affairs. There could be no greater service that the present government could do for Britain, and indeed for the world, than to restore this reputation" (Barbados News, July 7, 1967). Such articles appearing in Caribbean papers do certainly lessen whatever confidence is left in Britain, but the question is: Can Britain really restore her reputation? Can she regain her empire, her prestige, her past grandeur? GOD Almighty says she won't. Britain has had her "Finest Hour." Neither she nor the United States of America, nor any nation on the face of the earth, will be able to restore whatever prestige or glory they had.
What then is the solution? What will become of Britain and of her fast-vanishing Commonwealth? What will become of these beautiful islands — the enchanting Caribbean — where there is so much sadness and misery and poverty at the present? What will become of these decrepit shacks where so many human beings practically live like animals? Yes, WHAT will become of these "enchanting" islands in agony? The answer is the same for all nations, all people everywhere. The world we live in has had its way for nearly 6,000 years — and it has gone backward. It has followed the ways of total corruption and degeneration. No man can ever restore it, no man can solve its "unsolvable" problems, and no man can save it from self-destruction. No, no man! But Almighty GOD can — and He will! Before long, indeed — however ridiculous or unbelievable it may seem to some people — Jesus Christ will return on earth to restore ALL things. It is He who will do the restoring — and not any physical nation or government. He will come just in time to save this world from Cosmocide. Jesus Christ will succeed where men have miserably failed. He will teach all nations the true ways of peace, joy and happiness. In those days, the Caribbean Islands will no longer have sugar cane problems, nor drought, nor racial disputes. The decrepit wooden shacks will forever disappear to make way for beautiful, clean homes where people will live comfortably and happily. Jesus Christ will return to RESTORE all things! Today, nature is moaning and groaning under the curse of sin. And more than elsewhere perhaps, this is noticeable here, in the Caribbean Islands, where beauty is buried under poverty. But the time of restoration is at hand. What man has been unable to achieve — the very HAPPINESS, JOY, PROSPERITY and HEALTH he has always dreamed of without ever finding — will be achieved at last, but this will be done by GOD ALMIGHTY — and not by man himself! Can you think of better news — or a better World Tomorrow?