GAP Column: Tale of a Village

There was once a village and it was run by a Headman. Now the way that this village was led, was that the Headman had full power to do anything he wanted. The police had no power to charge him for any crime he might commit. He could not be sued by any villager for any wrong he might do to them. All funds to pay for any public works in the village were under his direct control. He could do anything he wanted to do, with the money and he was accountable to no-one for how he spent it.

He was not really a bad man, at least not at first, and even later he never intended to do wrong to the people in the village.

Now you, dear reader, what do you think would eventually happen in that village? Most people might answer something like this:

“What a stupid question?!

Of course, things might go well for a while, but soon enough, he will be tempted to run things to his own advantage. He and a few of his friends would become rich. Those who said anything against him would be in trouble, some would try to be his friend. Others will sit pretty, because they are his family. It is also likely that the whole village would become run down, since it is rare for one man to have good ideas on everything all the time and he would only listen to opinions that he likes.

But this is not only a stupid question, it is a stupid story! “Where in the world would you find a village organized in such a crazy way, where the Headman could do anything he wants with no control?”

Well dear reader, as far as we know, we cannot name a village anywhere in the world run like that, but we can name a whole country. It is called

“The Co-operative Republic of Guyana”.

If you look at the ills that face that country, you would see that it suffers in much the same way as this village. But let us not think about the ills too much. After all, it is already the festive season. Let us continue with our story.

The Headman in the village, let us call him ‘Bunman’, was a bright man with an excellent command of the English language, but he was not a good  manager. As things went on, there was another man, let us call him ‘Charran’, who thought he could do a better job and tried to get the village to elect him as Headman. Actually, most of the people in the village were related either to Bunman or Charran. More of the village was related to Charran than to Bunman, but Bunman used his power to make sure that Charran could never win an election.

Of course, Charran, being a bright guy himself, realized that the problem was not so much Bunman, but that something was seriously wrong with how the village was organized. So he promised the villagers, that if they elected him Headman, he would change the way the village was run. But he was not clear about exactly what he would change. Then Bunman died.

Now I know that this story is beginning to sound like ‘African Moods’ without the sex, or ‘Khabi Kushi Kabhi Gham’ without the music, but maybe something about this story might seem familiar to you, and, you may want to know the ending.

Anyway, a close friend of Bunman, called Damond, took over the village.  Damond changed things a bit, but Charran insisted that fair is fair and all that. So that this story would not get too long, we would skip the part played by the former Headman from a village to the North. In any event the villagers elected Charran as their new Headman.

Although Charran had promised to change the system of how the Headman operated, he didn’t do much about it. Maybe, he enjoyed the sweetness of the Headman’s privileges, maybe, he thought he needed the power to get some things done, or maybe, he just ran out of time.  Because, Charran then died.

Charran’s wife Jane, ran things for a while, but was forced to hand over to a guy called Deo.  Now, after a while, some villagers began to get on Deo’s case because he still operated like the old Headman, although Charran and his crew had promised to change the way things were done.

The villagers acted up so much, that a bunch of guys from neighboring villages came in and had a serious chat with all concerned. Well the result of all this palaver, was that Deo, still did not change the way the village was run, or reduce the Headman’s privileges, but he promised to think about it. However, he did make one change. He agreed to limit the Headman’s rule to a maximum of two terms.

In a year or so, Deo would no longer be Headman. There are a bunch of people who want to be leaders, (man or woman, you gotta be careful nowadays).  Some are from Deo’s group, some are not. Some villagers feel that Deo’s bunch is real hot, and the only way for someone else to be Head (wo)man, is for all who are not Deo’s bunch to get together. Some feel they are hot enough to go alone.

What will the villagers do? After all, it is their village, it is not the personal property of the Headman or Woman. Perhaps they would simply chose one of those, who offer themselves, and base their choice on family membership, or, what they figure they can get the person to do for them. Maybe, they would see that the problem is the way the village is organized, with so much power in the hands of one individual. Perhaps, they would insist that never again, must the head of the village have so much power. Maybe, they would choose a leader who would change the way the village is run, a leader who would say what changes would be made, and who would allow the villagers to say what further changes they want.

Villagers however, must do their share of work, and be ever vigilant of the Leaders they put in charge of their village.


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