Dear Editor,
The passage of Hurricane Irma has wreaked havoc on the island of St. Maarten and in its wake has transformed the island’s landscape. Sections of the island now bear a spitting resemblance to a disaster zone with buildings and houses severely damaged and in some cases completely obliterated. Key infrastructure and installations continue to be affected and as a result of extensive damage with some roads still impassable at the time of writing this letter.
However, I am constantly reassured that collectively the people of St. Maarten are very resilient and sooner rather than later that resilience will serve as the catalyst to propel this beautiful island back on the road to recovery.
While some experts have intimated that the destructive power of a hurricane the likes of Irma in one day is equivalent to the detonation of 800 atomic bombs, what was equally and continued to be even more worrisome was the state of lawlessness, moral decadence and anarchy with which sections of the society descended into during the passing and aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Pilfering and looting were widespread almost every- and anywhere the opportunity presented itself and subsequently became the modus operandi for acquiring property, food supplies, vehicles and other material comfort.
Did this behavior mimic a state of nature? Did we render null and void Jean Jacques Roseau’s “Social Contract” in which he articulated that for the concept of society to be upheld its subjects must surrender certain public freedoms and rights in exchange for security and order? Thus far, living within the walls and confines of society seems to be preferred to a state of nature. At the most fundamental level, is this who we are as human beings that if exposed to the right stimulus the beast in us would want to go back to the woods – that primal appeal we all share as human beings of wanting to escape the cognitive mode of experience?
What really motivated some among us to act and behave the way they did? I there a biological basis for behavior that we seem incapable and powerless to control in certain circumstances? In the absence of hard evidence or proof I am of the opinion that it is reasonable to conjecture that there were quite a lot of people whose moral compact pointed them in the right direction and they in turn took a position not to plunder and ravage these businesses and properties simply because their conscience dictated it wasn’t the right thing to do.
Incidentally, though, I am also of the opinion too that some folks weren’t the “holier than thou” kinds in that they had no religious justification for their decisions but just the sheer weight of their conscience, which ironically was the case with many of the sanctimonious hypocrites who were seen entering and exiting looted premises. These are the kinds of people who will sing “Hosana” with you in the morning and in the evening they say “crucify him!”
There are quite a lot of well-meaning people in this society that can be considered as model citizens with a heightened sense of what is right and what is wrong and certainly not morally bankrupt. What, then, are the factors responsible for the moral superiority of the beings? Again I am unable to say conclusively, but what I can say with some degree of certainty from the available evidence is that nurture seems to be leading and dominating nature.
Was reason – that strict untiring governess – convicted of inadequacy, resulting in the savage-like behavior of looters who found immediate gratification at the expense of long-term benefits and implications more appealing?
If one were to examine his or her intended actions prior to a dispassionate way prior to engaging in the act of looting it would have become clear, of not partially clear, that the cost of one’s actions would have far outweighed the benefits, the extent of which this was difficult to deduce I am unable to say.
Those many among us who chose not to go “shopping” during closing hours without either cash, plastic or even accompanied by the Mr. Credit allowed good sense to prevail and understand the implications for themselves, businesses and the island of St, Maarten as a whole. It was very sad and heart-rending to learn that some of these businesses were victims of individuals they have been supporting and sustaining for years, whether in the form of direct employment or indirectly through other services they routinely required. Sad! Very sad!
My hope is that we will desist from biting the hands that continue to feed and provide for the wellbeing of ourselves, families and this beautiful island of St. Maarten. I am very much aware that one should not be judged by his or her worst moments, because as human beings we all have the capacity for change, so let’s use this time to reflect on our actions and inactions going forward.

Orlando Paatterson

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