Ian McDonald

Ian McDonald

Festive season

I regret I write with grimness in this festive season. Perhaps it is good to remember that for countless millions in the world this is, as T S Eliot reminded us in the greatest poem ever written about the birth of Christ, “Just the worst time of the year.” So this column records an event which I vividly remember once cast a shadow for me over the festival of goodwill and love and peace.

Beauty at home and abroad

Nothing can compare with the beauty and warmth of life at home. Bred into bone, steeped into blood, is the everyday sweetness of living in Guyana with its river-light and forest green and soft air and garden quiet in the sun and rain.

The individual and state power

We should beware the over-mighty state. A state that gathers all powers to itself drains initiative away from where it does most good ‒ at the local level, at the level of the small group, the family, the individual.

What will survive of us is love

Reading is a good friend, whether the wind blows good or ill. There is not a single day it does not yield knowledge of interest, insights of value, moments of surprise, shocks of recognition and even visions of splendour.

Anger management

Many companies in Japan have a special room for their employees which is called, in free translation from the Japanese, a “letting off steam and bile” room.

My father

I have been thinking of my father. Since he died in 1995 at the age of 89 I have not written very much about him.

Reading

Even in the worst of times – and who can doubt that the daily, brutal, unstoppable exploits of uncaught criminals have made this time one of widening and deepening fear and frustration – reading comes to the rescue by revealing other worlds of experience where cruelty and mindlessness and man’s inhumanity to man do not continually have the upper hand.

Rectify the names

It is described how Confucius when asked by one of his disciples what he would do if he were given his own territory to govern the Master replied that he would first and above all “rectify the names” ‒ that is, make words correspond to reality.

Life and work

At the ripe old age of eighty-two, when one is fully aware that it is time to make sense of what has happened in one’s life, I am convinced about two major things.

A 4000 year old poem

Good poetry holds its truth and relevance throughout the ages. It may retail the facts and thinking of its own era, but part if it will always express what is eternally true and recognizable.

A generalised anxiety

In Guyana, there is a pervasive anxiety about the state of things in general which currently focuses on the seemingly unstoppable spread of criminal activity and violent crime in society.

What matters by far the most

“The writer must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honour and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.” -William Faulkner: Nobel Prize Speech, 1950 Once, immersed in the hectic daily round of mostly trivial happenings, hurrahs and harassments which make up life.

How to govern sensibly

Isaiah Berlin, who died a few years ago at the age of 89, was in my view the most distinguished political philosopher and historian of ideas of the 20th century.