Saturday, August 18, 2012

Guyana: A National Cesspool of Greed,Duplicity & Corruption I( A Remigrant's Story) by GHK Lall

The wordy title alone gives an indication of both content and style of this book. By the end of Chapter 1, after a Foreword, Preface,Author's Note and Prologue I had to put the book down for a little rest. I recall a friend who read it saying to me that it needed editing.

Purely by coincidence, if there's such a thing ordained by the Universe, I happen to be reading about Aristotle's works and was on the part about his 'Politics' and was impressed how a statement by Transparency International,Guyana mirrored his view: 'The bond which holds men together in states, says Aristotle, is justice,  "and the administration of justice, which is the determination of what is just, is the principle of order in political society....Man when perfected is the best of animals, but when separated from law and justice, he is the worse of all."
Um, so while we're off-topic - 'a government formed from a middle class of moderate and sufficient property is preferable to "those who have too much of the goods of fortune,strength,wealth, friends and the like" who will establish a despotic oligarchy (PNC? nouveau PPP?) or to 'the very poor, who are in the opposite extreme," from whom will come a degenerate form of government , with power in the hands of the poor and uneducated (current PPP?)'.     He further stated that the 'principal motives for revolutions are: a universal passion for privilege and prerogative; excessive insolence or avarice on the part of the rulers; too great concentration of power in one or more individuals; attempts to conceal the misdeeds of men guilty of wrong-doing; disproportionate increases - territorial, social, economic, or otherwise  - of any part of the state at the expense of the rest; dynastic and family feuds and quarrels and the struggle for office and political power between rival classes and political parties' - mmm Guyana seems ripe for something!

So back to the book-- Ch 2 dealt with the further dealings with the GRA in getting his vehicle and personal effects released from the Wharf and obtaining a Driver's Licence. He grudgingly admits that the latter process was faster then that in NY and I have to say the British did good work in updating the archaic system in both the Driver's and Vehicle Licences obtainable at Smyth Street in a rather run-down building - sad that he ascribed the smooth/fast process to his 'help'
I felt a great deal of sympathy reading about his encounters with City Hall and greedy relatives but wondered how much he contributed to, in his words, the monster - his naivety in believing someone saying 'doan tek wurries' and handing over a Power of Attorney to an already suspect relative surprised me and I thought he was lucky that they didn't move to change the deeds of his relatively recently-purchased house when he returned to NY to sort out personal matters.  Which reminds me of what I thought was the most enjoyable aspect of the book - his capturing the local dialect, sarcastic asides and dubbing people who annoyed him with derogatory but appropriate names... hence the appearance of Lucrezia and Arnold Benedick, I was amused at his caution of avoiding Slander by even changing the characters' spelling!   By Ch 9 he acknowledges his naivety and his contribution to it, however three years later in Guyana he pragmatically pays whatever is necessary to get the rest of his personal effects cleared but ends up paying the 'commercial' not 'personal effects' price- roughly 4x the price and I wondered if it was deliberate, as by then his self-righteous tones might have reached petty, upper ears!
Ch12 I found most interesting as it dealt with the whole Education mess-- a microcosm of the mess being repeated all over and I liked his observation about the Goverment's weak stance on the matter as there was an AFC supporter writing enthusiastically about the young vibrant Minister doing good things in that field where anything is better than nothing but I didn't think over-the -top-praise for just doing what you are supposed to merited such a response.
On the whole the book reflected the Guyanese reality - he tried to end on an optimistic note, asking what can be done -- but acknowledging that what's left is the remnants of a once-moral society- the plaintive moanings of a generation looking back with sadness at what we've become. Today's parents have a lot more outside influences to counter.

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