Friday, March 31, 2023

It’s still Groundhog Day

By on May 4, 2018

Another 1st of May, the same pictures. Many demonstrating on the streets, a few starting a violent fight with the authorities. Demonstrations and other expressions of opinions are a fundamental democratic right, no question. But every right should have its limitation when it limits the rights of others. And I’m not even talking about the inconveniences caused for anybody trying to get to work in Hato Rey or the hundreds of offices that simply didn’t open yesterday. I’m talking about how a few black sheep make us look to the outside world, to the people who consider(ed) coming to Puerto Rico as tourists or doing business. It is difficult enough to compete with other destinations for vacations and business or investment.

If we continue to present ourselves like a banana republic, things will only become more difficult. The only defense we have in how we are being perceived in difficult situations, where people are throwing stones and other stuff to hurt police and others, is the police presence.

My measure is the number of emails I receive from friends and business partners all over the world, once it happens. Last year, I received almost 200. This year, I received about a quarter of that number. Not because I have so drastically fewer friends or business partners, but people outside saw that we indeed do have a police force that acts on behalf of the peaceful citizens to uphold law and order. That was also reflected in the tone of those messages. Especially the German faction, which was utterly impressed by a police force acting with determination, and I congratulate Police Superintendent Héctor Pesquera and interim Police Commissioner Henry Escalera for both concept and implementation. Even more so, I urge you to encourage the police women and men of Puerto Rico to wear their uniforms with pride and be present. That was in fact the first thing I noticed in the morning when driving onto the expressway: Presence!

Contrary to other days, I counted 20 police officers during a 10-minute drive. That’s how it should be, when everybody, every day agrees there are just too many traffic violations. Loud cars passing by at mind-blowing speeds, everybody on the phone, women putting on makeup, others using lanes going against the traffic. Yesterday, with just “the presence,” I didn’t see any of that.

Back to the demonstration. I personally don’t think anybody achieves anything by running around on the streets carrying signs and causing inconveniences for the rest of us, but again, if done within commonly agreed-upon rules, so be it. But I can’t but wonder where the concrete proposals are from the demonstrators, what are their propositions to resolve any of the pressing financial issues that the administration is dealing with? My point being that in a past demonstration, a business partner got out of his car when a road had been illegally and entirely blocked. He walked toward the crowd and started a conversation with some of them—or at least he tried to. But it became obvious, very fast, that there wasn’t really much to discuss, and those individuals only repeated phrases, while they also noticed they didn’t even know the details about the topic they were demonstrating for.

This entire scenario reminds me very much of the extreme history of my homeland, in Germany. In addition, few people manipulated the masses there to their benefit. Here in my chosen homeland, there exists a pattern of self-sabotage. A few in the background manipulate many to go out and carry signs and scream and jump in the streets and demonstrate for something that cannot be solved by demonstrating but through ideas, creating concrete solutions, debating them with different stakeholders. Unfortunately, they even manage to heat up a small group who does so with violence.

If we want a future in Puerto Rico, we have to stop waiting for the big uncle with the checkbook. He has his own problems. We have to stop blindly following ideologies and start acting constructively and doing the right thing even if maybe nobody’s watching. But I do assure you, the world is watching, and establishing law and order with zero tolerance for terrorists is a great first step. Doing the same things again and again, and expecting different results, equals insanity. In that sense, let’s start doing things differently from how they have been done—and start with establishing law and order; an adherence to the rules is a good place to begin for a stable island and a basis for the future.

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