The disobliging functionary

There are few problems in Guyana which are more intractable than the problem of bureaucracy in all its deadly guises. We are caught in a trap whose four walls continually close in, rather like the torture chamber in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum. The four encroaching walls of the bureaucratic trap are Red Tape, Committees, Unnecessary Meetings and Disobliging Functionaries.

Committees pose a major threat. They are a snare and delusion in trying to get anything done. They are often created not really to solve problems and get work done but to give the impression that action has been taken and to postpone the fatal day when an actual decision must be made. Many committees also have the subsidiary purpose of providing places for idle but self-important hacks anxious for the maximum of paper-prestige and the minimum of work. ….

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Travelling by the book

My tutor at Cambridge, Professor Nick Hammond, authority on the history of ancient Macedonia and on the life of Alexander the Great, used to coach me on what he called “exercises of the mind.” He knew I played tennis for the university and he put it to me that just as I trained hard for the tennis so should I stretch to exhaustion the muscles of the mind.

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A Cambridge education

In a recent column I mentioned Nick Hammond who was my tutor at Cambridge.

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Adventures in words

These days, as increasing age makes the discovery of new lands much less likely, it remains perfectly possible to voyage in the mind as adventurously as ever by reading books and talking to good friends.

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‘A dreadful spirit of division rends the society’

Winston Churchill, exasperated by opposition politicians constantly questioning his policies and his own credentials and frustrated by having to consult and compromise on measures which in his judgement were straightforward and ripe for introduction without hesitation, once exploded: “Democracy is the worst kind of government!” Then he paused, thought a little bit, considered the alternatives and ruefully concluded – “Except all the others.” Democracy ensures, or should ensure, that the differing views, varied cultural persuasions and diverging concepts of how the people’s affairs should be managed are allowed expression and none ever squeezed into resentful, and eventually festering, silence.

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No sport more popular and delightful

There is a book of great beauty given to me as a Christmas gift by my wife: A River Runs Through It, by Norman Fitzroy Maclean published first in 1976.

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