It is part of the fulminations of life that nothing happens in isolation. Every trend, every event, even seemingly sudden individual actions, are intimately connected to a complex skein of other forces or conditions that either flow to or flow from that action.
Many professional journalists or documentary makers routinely reveal these connections in their work, leading to an understanding of the event itself, and, more importantly, to an understanding of the wider world seen in those connections.
A book dealing with the Ali-Frazier heavyweight championship bout in Manila, for example, will unavoidably deal with the wheeling and dealing behind championship boxing matches; it will explain the personal journey that led Ali to Islam and to his consequent ridiculing of Frazier; it will discuss the economic fact of a group of American businessmen funding the early stages of Ali’s professional career; it will deal with the relationship between Ali and Angelo Dundee, his trainer ; it will reveal the concern for Ali’s frequent dalliances with women; it will treat race relations in the USA; it will explain the financial reasons behind the siting of the bout in the Phillipines. Consequently, to do research on a subject, as the Ali book writer did, is to begin to understand history as it was being played out then. Such stories, or documentaries, are fascinating for the aspects they present and for the changes coming from the event or series of events.
Right now in Guyana there is a story developing that will one day serve as a piece of Guyanese history because of the subjects imbedded in it. On the surface, the present furor between two airline companies at Ogle is simply a case of two competing business entities in search of prominence. But looking at the playing out of that search, one begins to see the wider ramifications – the developing paths of this country are subtly but powerfully interwoven there, and a perceptive journalist or film maker, looking at this business clash years later will ineluctably convey a time in our history. The pieces are there interwoven.
A fundamental part of it is the economic development of Guyana that began with the Hoyte era and continues upward. The business interest at the Ogle aerodrome is a direct consequence of that growth. In the earlier leaner economic times, there was demand for only one airport (Atkinson Field; now CJ International, Timehri). The fact of the Ogle aerodrome now, partly developed with government support, is, in effect, a barometer of economic development. You don’t have to preach to anyone about our improvement in services; just drive them to Ogle and let them look. A documentary film, switching from an Atkinson Field shot to Ogle airport confirms the growth; it declares the widening. It will show one man, in the lumber business, starting with one plane, morphing to several companies and some 40 planes today.
The emergence of technology in our country is also on stage here. The airport is not only festooned with a range of electronic and communications gear, but is the repository of an array of cutting edge modern equipment. And that change, including the use of the cellphone, now so common that it is virtually invisible, would be used by an historian to evidence rapid change in the country. Indeed, the heart of the dispute, focusing on a company’s importation of its own fuel, is itself an indication of evolution in Guyana in that the technology to achieve that safely is at hand now. In effect, without that transfer technology, the fuel conflict would never have arisen; another revelation in parallel.
Intricately caught up in this story, as well, is the fate of our interior. Given the absence of roads and railways, air travel, from the Art Wlliams’ days, has been a linchpin in the opening up of the interior, initially to people living or travelling there, and, latterly, as a growing economic fact in the tourism/vacation market for resident Guyanese and visitors both. In recent years, with the hinterland’s gradual economic rise, and the more recent surge driven by the increased price of gold, there is increasing demand for air services to the interior. We are now seeing daily airlifts of equipment, foodstuff, hardware, and even such sophisticated items as pre-finished wood doors and microwave ovens. In effect, the story of Guyana’s interior development is inextricably the story of the Ogle airport; another evolving history.
In its structure, as well, the model of government and private sector partnership at the aerodrome will be treated by future writers researching this story, and it is critical for the lessons it holds for future ventures in this vein. Based on the previous socialism failures, Guyana still holds some vestige of reticence for government-private sector marriages, and the growth of such things in the future will probably be determined, to some degree, by how the attempt at the Ogle airport turns out. It will be part of the present story, and it will affect future ones involving other government-private sector partnerships; future courses are being shaped now.
The story is also a manifestation of the presence of the personality affecting individual events. In this case, there are two principals, two young businessmen, sons of successful fathers, each seeking to succeed, and there is no doubt that a researcher, in later time, will engage in unravelling the details of who these men were, and the influences that fashioned them. Colleagues and employees will be contacted; family and friends, even schoolmates, will be interviewed; newspaper quotes and video clips will be dug up. The intention would be to find out who the principals were; what kind of people were they; what drove them. As it will be all part of the story then, it is so now. In effect, who these men are is operating actively to influence what they do, and why and how they do it.
As of this writing, we don’t know the end of this story, but the nub of it is that all the factors above, and many more, are on display here. It is an emerging drama we are watching, and years from now we will look back on it and see more than a controversy about fuel: we will see Guyana growing, our interior changing, our adaptation to technology, our understanding of human nature, all there in a seemingly isolated episode. Right now, a lot of media attention is focused on the broken gate; it would be interesting for some dedicated journalist to engage the wider story there. It is happening right now.