A fateful and historic mistake

I think there must be a majority of Guyanese deeply worried that the festering animosity between the political parties and the incessant jockeying for position and narrow-spirited search for partisan advantage is greatly harming Guyana’s progress as a nation. I am sure even in the parties themselves there must be very many who are concerned that Guyana is taking a distant also-ran position compared to party.

It is inevitable that this is going to have tremendously detrimental consequences for the nation. If this is generally recognized – and how can it not be – it is inconceivable that things will not be changed by responsible leaders. Yet this terrible dereliction of a crying-out-loud national duty seems to be taking place. Our ostriches are not only hiding their heads in the sand they are slitting their throats while doing so.

ian on sunday In the course of a recent article in the New York Review of Books, Freeman Dyson writes of the greatest political blunder of all time. I found the account fascinating and instructive especially because the blunder was occasioned by pursuit of party advantage with the future of a whole great nation/civilization disregarded.

The great blunder was made by the emperor of China in 1433 with the decision to stop exploring the oceans and to destroy the ships capable of exploration and even to destroy the written records of their voyages. Before the decision China had a fleet of ocean-going vessels bigger and more capable than any European ships. Also, China was roughly equal with Europe in scientific knowledge and far ahead in the very important technologies of printing, navigation and rocketry.

As a consequence of that fateful decision – the result of powerful cliques pursuing partisan squabbles and neglecting the long-term interests of the empire – China fell disastrously behind in science and technology and eventually in wealth, power and influence and is only now catching up after six hundred years.

One does not pretend to equate Guyana with the great Chinese empire and civilization of the 15th century. But what one can easily dare to do is perceive the eternal similarities – great scale and miniature – in what happens when short-sighted men make a much greater good subsidiary to a petty cause. And so it is not wrong to derive a lesson from what happened in the great Chinese empire to illustrate what can happen anywhere at any time – in this case in Guyana in the early 21st century.

Somehow our leaders must cast aside their doubts and suspicions, allay the fears of their more fanatic supporters, meet and meet again and reach at last a grand Guyana Amity Pact to take the nation forward. Or at the very least history must be able to record that they really tried and if they fail tell posterity why exactly they did so.


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