Are we really going anywhere?

Dear Editor,

The local scene continues to be mind-numbing and, at times, sleep inducing.  In times past, it would have been fashionable to seek the help of spirits, bottled ones.  Getting too near to the swirls of action can be unhealthy for foreigners like me, which I am beginning to feel more and more.  As I observe random happenings, the question that came to mind is this: are we really going anywhere?

First up is the challenge (challenges now) to a debate on race.  That is fine, though decades late at this time.  Still, it might be starting somewhere, scoring some points by both sides, and the announcing of “the winner is…. “ This is sure to set off another round of debates at all levels in this society, just like we have been doing for the past million years.  Here are my next questions: and then what?  Where to?  Separately, I must commend Dr. Hinds for possessing a cast-iron stomach and constitution, as I am unable (and unwilling) to be in the same zip code with some folks, much less in the same room.

Second, there are these great warming, stirring contributions in the media re Gecom staffing matters.  There are wonderful dissertations on performance appraisals, policy craftsmanship, political history (and science), mandatory criteria and the rest.  Utterly lovely things they assuredly are.  But I regret to say that all of these are reduced to useless paper if not powered by the honourable and the principled.  They mean nothing if not utilized (or it was never intended to) for all the clinical cleanliness and noble objectives embedded.  People make them come alive; people of a certain kind very scarce in this country; it is a kind not related to either politics or colour.  Think progressive; think all that is some combination of the meritocratic, the idealistic, and the pragmatic.  For the cynical, I recommend a refresher with those Drug Master Plans of old and the existing constitution.  These documented efforts are meaningless if meant to decorate shelves and gather dust and rest in eternal peace. In a nutshell, the proof is in the people; and the people must then demonstrate the quality of the pudding of which they are made.

Third, I am reading yet another work on the making of the U.S. Constitution, a sacred document and world renowned.  I am reminded that some very stellar names-Madison, Wilson, Hamilton et al-entertained serious reservations about the popular vote and the role of the people in electing the president.  These heroic American Founding Fathers had little to zero confidence in the virtues and ability of the commoners for them to be entrusted with such a weighty responsibility as voting for the chief executive.  As anti-democratic as it may sound, I am beginning to understand and appreciate that lack of trust in view of what exists here at the people level.  For regardless of the issues and challenges, and no matter the immaculate nature of the oratory, honesty, decency, and credibility expressed and manifested, all roads always revert inevitably to the personal and collective tribal wills.  Look at us: nothing gets done, no movement occurs.  And now in the 21st century with oil booming (at least in the ear, nose, and throat), there are calls for debates about race.  Fitting it is. And like I asked earlier: then what? Perhaps the suffrage should be suspended….  How is that for constitutional reform?

Fourth, as I strayed onto the oil patch I am forced to continue.  Approximately two long years ago I wrote several times in SN and other places about Sovereign Wealth Funds, public-private partnerships, prudent management, civil society watchdogs and the rest.  Two years later, there is an unending parade where the same themes are expounded upon more expertly and more expansively ad nauseam.  Foreign pens and vocals are overwhelming in bulk and volume; save for Messrs. Ram and Thomas, and of late the newly christened oil consultant now oil academic Mr. Ramson, it has been wave after wave of overseas pundits.  Yes, we know what we don’t know (I do), but mushrooming petroleum imperialism anyone?  A whole body of material is already available for the opening of an entire faculty for the study of a new discipline.  I have a title ready: Crude Ethics 101, 201 and all the digits upwards.

Last, and to close things out on a serious but more painfully humorous note there is this eyewitness account.  It is 05:50hrs and I am observing the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation complex.  Someone is speaking insistently and in more and more strident tones to get the gate open so that their workday can start.  This goes on for close to ten minutes with no movement from inside the hospital compound, though someone is present.  The bitterly complaining employee (I believe) left and walked an entire block to access another entrance.  I wondered if that was a patient, or an emergency, what then?  I wonder, not for the first time, when the oil comes what will become of us.  And I wonder, if we ever settle the race question, if we will know what to do with ourselves….

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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