Even a casual observer of the various debates in the public spectrum of Guyana will notice that the subject of raising standards in the society is an abiding condition in the mix. It may not be overtly stated, but to see past the general media smoke is to see that matter being raised time and again by a variety of voices. A good example is Dr. Ivelaw Griffith, of the University of Guyana, who frequently stresses the need for standards as he and his team wrestle with the day-to-day running of the institution. But there are many others on board the same concept of our need to elevate, to aim higher, to abandon what I call the “it can wuk suh” mentality that confronts one in Guyana almost as a constant. I deliberately use the word “constant” there as a relic from bygone days in Guyana when it referred to the fixed wheel sprocket on bicycles, before the variable three-speed “ticker” was invented, that inevitably had riders pedalling furiously in order to keep up: it is a fitting analogy for many of the problems we face in the society now as we pedal strenuously to stay in the chase. In the long list of those urging higher standards – Ian McDonald, Freddie Kissoon, Gordon Forte, Nigel Hughes, Joe Singh, Charlie DeFreitas, Ralph Ramkarran, Christopher Ram, etc. – we see a call that endures, and in both this country and others where I have lived I have been continuously intrigued to see that it is epidemic as ethnicities and tribes, the young and the old, the educated and the unschooled, the businessman and the labourer, are involved in the shout.
Abroad, it was there in Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau during my early days in Canada, and also in James Bodden, the political leader in Cayman when I moved there in 1980, but looking back to a much earlier time, I could see it operating as well at home in a tall, angular man named Galton Peters, whom I have mentioned before as the leading figure in the gang of men who loaded the DC-3 aircraft at Atkinson Field when I worked in the office of B. G. Airways there in the 1970’s. Galton never expressed the matter of standards overtly, but it was clearly operating in his attention to detail, in his measured positions on work-related matters, and even in the matter of how he was dressed, and in how he disported himself in discussions, mild or heated. Galton was a class act. I was in my teens, fresh out of school, but I recognised it instantly; it stood out. He didn’t have to declare it; you knew.
Joe Singh, for example, doesn’t have to tell you; you see it. One would assume that he was moulded into that position by the persons in his family, or in his immediate circle, or from his time in the military, but, however instilled, that attention to making sure things are done “the right way” stands out in him like a sign hanging over his head. It was there several years ago as we discussed the details of my doing a performance for a GT&T anniversary (something I labelled ALL IN WAN), but it is also there since in Joe’s other endeavours in Guyana across the board. Similarly, Brudda, who has done several house-painting jobs for me over the years, is a man who comes and does his work with almost zero input from me. I tell him the job, and the colour of the paint. Brudda (what is his last name?) doesn’t need anything else and never gives me any cause to complain when his work is done; he clearly has his procedures firmly established. He and Joe Singh, miles apart in functions, are both class acts.
So, too, is my friend Gordon Forte – we go back to the early 1970s when Tradewinds first appeared here – who doesn’t shout his priorities or aspirations but demonstrates them clearly time and again in positions he takes or responses he gives you, which is either do it right or leave it alone, and if you do it wrong, expect no sympathy from him.
Indeed, that aspect of establishing the priority is part of the process with these “standards” people; they hardly ever use the word but that is their focus. It is reflected, for example, in a note I saw online in a recent press release regarding the work of a Mr. Mark Jacobs in Guyana. It read: “A small agro-processing company is in on the move to transform the industry in Guyana, while at the same time, providing hundreds of jobs, particularly for youths. Jacobs Agro, located at Hauraruni, Linden Soesdyke Highway, has been in operation for just about a year.
However, it has already been making headway in markets locally and internationally.” The note goes on to say “The work of owner Mark Jacobs and team received high commendation from the Minister of Finance who toured the farm recently.” I hadn’t heard of him previously, but Mr. Jacobs is clearly in the “standards” mode, full bore. In the same vein, although on a different subject, there was a stirring post recently on Facebook from Reginald Chee-a-Tow, who chimed in on the subject of our racial divisions here as follows: “We need a government that addresses the needs of all groups and communities irrespective of race and culture. After Singapore, Guyana stands the most to exemplify to the rest of the world how people of diverse races and cultures can live in peace and harmony. We have it in us to do this. Let us not vote for a candidate on the basis of race but on what he stands for.” Mr. Chee-a-Tow is clearly a “standards” man, in the mould of those stalwarts named above; we need more of such persons in Guyana stressing that message.