A starving third-world mother. A bruised old woman in a slum. A North Dakotan with Covid-19.

I am the one in ten
A number on a list
I am the one in ten
Even though I don’t exist
Nobody knows me
Even though I’m always there
A statistic, a reminder
Of a world that doesn’t care

“Oh Baby”

They had me at “Cherry oh, Cherry oh, baby.”

The song was on UB40’s international breakout album, “Labour of Love.” You might be familiar with the English reggae band’s most popular hit from that album, “Red Red Wine,” which every junior high kid of the early ’80s heard a gazillion times on the radio.

A buddy of mine had the album, and “Cherry Oh Baby” was the lead track. From the moment I heard Ali Campbell’s rich voice and the steel drums, I was hooked.

In truth, UB40’s music has always been more pop than true reggae, but the band launched what’s become a lifelong love and exploration of the genre. But I’ve always come back; I’ve owned just about every UB40 song that’s ever been sung. 

With recent headlines, one of them smacked me right in the face.

From UB40 to Covid-19

“One in Ten” was a track on UB40’s 1981 album, “Present Arms.” 

UB40 "One in Ten" track cover for Covid post
Click the image to listen to the song.

The song laments the state of a world in which the rich and poor, the safe and at-risk, the plunderers and victims are starkly segmented. It’s a world where a “sad and bruised old lady” sits “in an alley in a slum,” where a third-world mother and her children starve and pensioners are all alone. Each is part of a statistic, “the one in ten” in “a world that doesn’t care.”

I’ve thought about that song a lot over the years, and I’ve asked myself: Do you care about the one, or do you care only about The One, a.k.a., yourself?

One in Ten

We’re all statistics whether we realize it or not. 

For example, of the 328.2 million people in the United States of America, 35 million didn’t have enough to eat in 2019. That’s about 1 in a little more than 9. We’re part of that.

These days, the most worried-over statistics present coronavirus and Covid-19.

For example, as of yesterday 13.6 million people in this country have contracted coronavirus. That’s 1 in 24. If you’ve had it, you’re the 1. If not, you’re one of the other 23. And so far, 269,000 U.S. citizens have died of Covid-19. That’s 1 in 1,220. 

Then, last week, this:

“1 out of 10 North Dakotans have tested positive for Covid-19”

One in 10. 

It’s not just a song, anymore. 

The world of haves and have-nots has been flipped upside down, turned inside out, twisted into something that’s the same but different. If you live in North Dakota, you’re either the coronavirus 1, or one of the 9 who hasn’t had it (yet).

Map depicting coronavirus and Covid-19 cases in the U.S. from the CDC
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map depicting coronavirus and Covid-19 rates. (12/1/20)
Close-up of Upper Midwest on CDC Covid map

The statistic hits all too close to home. My home. My family. Me.

My days are filled with music. I’d like to keep them that way.

But there was also this, from the week before:

“North Dakota records world’s highest COVID-19 mortality rate”

Covid-19 has claimed the lives of 933 out of 762,062 North Dakotans. In other words, one out of every 817 who were alive on New Year’s Day 2020 won’t see another new year.

A World That Doesn’t Care

It seems North Dakota is a Covid world unto itself.

It is, indeed, a world that doesn’t care.

The Republican governor and local leaders keep saying personal responsibility will save us, even as infection and death rates climb the coronavirus curve’s precipitous slope. In the words of Gov. Doug Burgum, “We believe in North Dakotans. We believe in the power of individual responsibility. And we need individual responsibility now more than ever to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

Yeaaaahhh… No. Not so much, Gov.

So here I am, with the other 762,061 North Dakota citizens. One of the 9. I don’t like it, but there’s nothing I, alone, can do about it.

Instead I do what I can to remain one of the 9, protect myself against becoming the 1 in 10 who gets infected or 1 in 817 who dies, and make sure I’m not the reason someone else becomes that 1, either.

I am a North Dakotan in a global pandemic. 

I am a One in Ten.

Green outlined graphic indicating copyright 2019 Martin C. Fredricks IV

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One in Ten
by UB40

I am the one in ten
A number on a list
I am the one in ten
Even though I don’t exist
Nobody Knows me
Even though I’m always there
A statistic, a reminder
Of a world that doesn’t care

My arms enfold the dole queue
Malnutrition dulls my hair
My eyes are black and lifeless
With an underprivileged stare
I’m the beggar on the corner
Will no-one spare a dime?
I’m the child that never learns to read
‘Cause no-one spared the time
[Chorus]

I am the one in ten,
I’m the murderer and the victim
The license with the gun
I’m a sad and bruised old lady
In an alley in a slum
I’m a middle aged businessman
With chronic heart disease
I’m another teenage suicide
In a street that has no trees
[Chorus]

I am the one in ten,
I’m a starving third world mother
A refugee without a home
I’m a house wife hooked on Valium
I’m a pensioner alone
I’m a cancer-ridden specter
Covering the earth
I’m another hungry baby
I’m an accident of birth.
[Chorus]

I am the one in ten

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