Deja Vu

“Deja Vu” is a dreamy, rambling song by Crosby Stills & Nash, from their deep hippy days, from the iconic album of the same name.  After the tinkling acoustic guitar opening, David Crosby starts singing, “If I had ever been here before I would probably know just what to do.” Then the song slows right down and Crosby and Nash ask, “Don’t you wonder what’s going on?”  (It moves into a lovely jazzy bass solo, later on, with Crosby and Nash harmonizing sweetly behind it).

Crosby Stills and Nash on the front porch...back in the daze

Don’t you wonder, indeed.  What is going on is… The same thing over and over, only worse.  I quote from a recent Jamaica Gleaner article, headlined “Disaster Deja Vu.”  It begins,  “In 2008, Tropical Storm Gustav brought a wave of destruction, impacting more than 200 homes, and Prime Minister Bruce Golding said he intended to address the continued occupation of disaster areas.  He even established a task force to address the issue.  Unfortunately, history repeated itself last week with another wave of destruction.”


Tropical Storm Gustav in August 2008
Jamaica smothered by Tropical Storm Gustav


Yes, it happened all over again, folks.  A large number of residents, who had built put blocks and zinc and cement together to create homes right on the banks of the Hope River… well, continued to live there, task force notwithstanding.  Where some homes (and residents) had been swept away, new houses were built, or rebuilt.  A mere upgraded tropical storm (again, no full-fledged hurricane), Nicole, brushed by Jamaica, bringing overwhelming floods, death and destruction.  Once again, rebuilt homes were teetering on the edge and crumbling at the edges as the river surged and cantered down towards the sea.  In 2009, a Gleaner editorial noted the Prime Minister’s particular interest in the Hope River area, where “informal” settlements perched unsteadily on the edge of a rocky, bleached river bed.  And?  (Of course, please bear in mind that most of the year the river is a trickle of water slipping through stones – or not there at all, having been siphoned off to feed one of Kingston’s hungry reservoirs during our now-regular droughts).


Homes in Kintyre, St Andrew on the Hope River
The tottering homes of Kintyre, St. Andrew on the Hope River


The Gleaner reporter obviously caught the head of the government’s stressed-out disaster preparedness agency on a bad day.  He said “persons, government officials and residents are unwilling to comply with no-build zone requirements.”  Now who does that not include?  The hard-working public servant added wearily that the issue of homeless people grabbing land and building on it, no matter where, no matter what, was “extremely frustrating.”  What a thankless task he has.  And there seems to be more emergency management than disaster preparedness in his work, these days.

How can squatters perched on a gully wall (where they may dump their garbage and other unmentionable things) or nicely settled on what they think is a riverbank (where they may wash their clothes, their bodies or dump garbage) possibly be prepared for a disaster?  Did the task force (who were they?) ever walk over to the Hope River, Sandy Gully or other urban/rural locations and see for themselves the little games of chance that people of very limited resources play in their everyday lives?

Oh, and in 2010 it’s too taxing to remember that tropical storm – what was its name? – just two years ago, and what happened then.  And who remembers what the task force discovered – and what action it actually took?

One has this vague feeling that… in the words of Crosby, Stills & Nash, “We have all been there before.”


Deja Vu
A Japanese image of Deja Vu - vision and dreamlike action

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3 thoughts on “Deja Vu

  1. very true… prevention is better than cure. govt. needs to stop trying to enforce rules without looking at the cause of things, as was rightly mentioned the number of homeless (and desperate) people living in these areas are only growing. (why?) shuffling them around will not solve much, clearly they choose these unsafe location for other (seemingly) more practical reasons – necessity. education & jobs would surely help curb the problem of squatting.


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