Saipan — If all you read (or watch) are news stories, you may wonder why the world has not yet ended. Airplane crashes. Hurricanes/cyclones/typhoons/tornados. Forest fires. Earthquakes. Tsunamis. Oil spills. Terrorist acts. Mass shootings. Crime sprees. Revolutions. Wars. Government corruption. Government incompetence. Politics.
Every single day. All over the world.
As they say in the news biz, if it bleeds it leads.
On Saipan, if you’ve been reading the local news lately, it’s been one damn thing after another — like most news stories elsewhere. The island economy has slowed down, and the government is no longer collecting enough revenue to keep everyone happy. In short, the sky is falling, again.
Meanwhile, qualified parents of children born here can avail themselves of subsidized pre-school/day-care services. All children born here are entitled to free education from K-5 to 12th grade. Several scholarship grants and programs are available to high school graduates who want to go to U.S. colleges. And many of them do. Each year. The brightest of them include students who excel in regional and even national academic competitions. (One of them was a contestant in this year’s AG’s Cup speech competition, an 11th grader who reminded us that: “It is not the government’s job to restrict an individual’s right to choose what they want to put in their body. We must have the right to decide [and] deal with the ramifications of that decision.”)
If you’re not too choosy, there are plenty of jobs in the private and public sectors on Saipan. The wages may be “low” compared to what they pay in the states, but residents here don’t pay much in terms of taxes. There is quite an extensive safety net for low-income residents. And there is no such thing as “heavy traffic” on Saipan. The “rush hour” lasts 10-15 minutes.
There are thefts and burglaries as well as “ice” trafficking and domestic violence incidents, but compared to, say, Guam, Saipan is a safer and much more peaceful island. Homicides are rare — and so are fatal traffic accidents or campus riots/brawls.
This island has one hospital which is obligated to provide you with healthcare whether you can afford it or not. Patients with serious conditions are referred to off-island hospitals. The local public health agencies also offer several free or low-cost healthcare services.
There is littering as well as illegal dumping of trash, but they’re not as bad as Guam’s. (Guam has triple the population of Saipan.) And like Guam, Saipan has a tireless group of individuals, young and old, who conduct cleanup activities all-year round. Saipan remains an attractive tropical island that offers a lot to nature lovers.
Moreover, people unhappy with the way things are can speak out. And they do. Whining and belly-aching and hand-wringing are also allowed. In addition, voters can recall their elected officials, propose laws or repeal them. In elections, they can support and campaign for their candidates — and express grief and sorrow about the death of democracy when their candidates lose.
Can Saipan do much better? Of course. The entire human race can do much better. But Saipan, like other nations or jurisdictions all around the world, will always have problems, and for some of us, it so much fun to predict and expect doomsday scenarios. As someone once told me: just because the bad thing he expected to happen hasn’t happened yet, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, next year…or the next millennium. He’s basically like the Russian Marxist revolutionary, Leon Trotsky who, according to a starry eyed biographer, was so farsighted that none of his predictions have come true yet.
For his part, Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith believed that “there are two kinds of forecasters: those who don’t know and those who don’t know they don’t know.” But what did he know?
I prefer Romanian-French playwright Eugene Ionesco’s “advice”: “You can only predict things after they’ve happened.”
Zaldy Dandan is editor of Marianas Variety, the NMI’s oldest newspaper.