If there was one outcome of the Carter Center sponsored UG symposium last Friday it was that constitutional reform is difficult, but I did not read that there were any solutions. So, assuming that attendance at that exercise meant the usual unwillingness of people to think deeply about anything has been suspended for a while, I should like to seize the season to launch into some reasoning.
I begin with the problem of self-reference in logic. A famous example is the liar paradox recorded in St Paul’s letter to Titus [1:12] in Crete. It enables us to identify the nonsense of the loud, usually drunk, Guyanese who, upon hearing of a single alleged instance of mistrust, would generalize and proclaim the principle that “Guyanese always lie”. The nonsense lies in the invalidity of the statement coming from him. For if it is true that Guyanese always lie then he, a Guyanese, must have lied, which means that all Guyanese are not liars, which contradicts his original claim.
Another version of this is the card paradox. On one side of a card is written:
The Sentence On The Other Side Of This Card Is True.
On the other side is written:
The Sentence On The Other Side Of This Card Is False.
Our politicians are happy when we tire ourselves out picking rice with their draft legislation (to make their work easier for more pay) while swallowing the caiman of the Constitution and their selective implementations of it that permit them to ignore us without penalty.
Another kind of paradox was popularized by its discoverer, Bertrand Russell, as the plight of a village barber who boasts he is a man of principle who shaves all those villagers and only those villagers who do not shave themselves. The problem with this can be seen when we try to answer the question, ‘Does the barber shave himself?’ If he does shave himself, then he shouldn’t, according to his principle, because he is also a villager; and if he doesn’t shave himself, then he should, according to his principle.
Our Constitution is a set of principles. It was imposed on Guyanese via a fraudulent referendum and we are still persisting with the nonsense that we have a valid Constitution. Why? Because we go through the unpleasant experience of learning to reason in school, leave with or without various certificates of competence, enjoy the new-found freedom to reason loudly without examination sanction, and proceed via mere attainment of voting age to make our own contribution of chaos to society, some even going on to become politicians with the knack of taking advantages of the at first fewer manifestations of discordance.
The exercise of valid thinking does not have entertainment value in a society that thrives on appearances. When the sharp reality of truth inevitably punctures the façade, it is treated as a new disaster instead of as the consequence of living lies.
Our constitution was constituted by a certain set of people for the same set of people to enjoy political power with the least effort. We are acutely aware that when this illegitimate narcotic fell into the hands of those immature persons who were clamouring to scrap it, they started to enjoy it.
Likewise the West Indies Cricket Board remains unmoved by the Patterson or any other report it does not like, because it is unwilling to forego all the ease of remaining unaccountable to no one but itself. The regional cricket boards enjoy similar autonomy and thus we have insoluble conundrums like the validity of the Guyana Cricket Board, which in turn spoils the smooth function of our county cricket administration.
The biggest caiman of the imposed constitution is its conferment of presidential immunity, which means that any alleged accountability of the president is unenforceable. The framers of the constitution might have been lauded in their legal spheres, but they did not master the larger sphere of valid reasoning, and either did not associate with or heed persons who did.
For it to be valid for a system, such immunity has to be conferred from a superior system, and cannot be sustained by an elected official who is simultaneously expected to be accountable. Some other countries still happily live with a divine right. Our Cooperative Republic has to endure the equivalent of questions like ‘Does the barber shave himself?’ and of turning over legal cards while our ruling politicians live happily.