Kindly permit me a space in your newspaper to express my response to Dr Mark Devonish’s article; “Irfaan Please Take Down Those Victory Bill Boards”, in the Guyana Chronicle, June 25, 2020. Editor, I have been living abroad for too many years but never lost interest or love for Guyana and all its ups and downs. For the past fifteen years, I have been reading on average two of our daily newspapers – one being the Chronicle – and have never commented on an issue. This is my first attempt.
As an avid reader of at least two of Guyana’s dailies, especially the Chronicle, Dr Devonish’s position on the political divide is no news to me, and, I have absolutely no problem with his political views and opinions and that is his right – to freely express himself. What actually caught my attention in this article is his use of the sports (boxing) metaphor, where in Tokyo in 1990 Buster Douglas knocked down Mike Tyson stone-cold, and, that was it, “final is final”. I have been a cricketer, a coach of the University team, Captain of the Br High Commission team, Director of Sports at a University and Manager of the National Cricket team; with a booklet on “An Introduction to the Sociology of Sports.” These, I think, qualify me to speak on the subject. Let me remind the learned doctor, that sometimes we “see” what we want to see, and have been enculturated to see.
Editor, kindly permit to deviate. The American scientist/philosopher Thomas Kuhn in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions noted: What a man sees (I think he meant person) depends both upon what he looks at and also upon what his previous visual-conceptual experience has taught him to see. In the absence of such training there can only be…. “a blooming buzzing confusion” (my emphasis), and, a necessary intellectual paradigmatic shift to comprehend our political-electoral impasse. Any critical analyst, within the Guyanese body policy, would agree that since 1955 many of us cannot see beyond that narrow, myopic political/ethnic, rural/urban dichotomy.
Here is my sports metaphoric response to Dr Devonish’s article. It is “known” that God and Satan usually meet to discuss global issues. Such meetings, I suppose, are to ensure some sort of equilibrium in worldly affairs and, as it was known in the 1960s, among us West Indians, it would have been impossible to exclude cricket in the discourse. At the time too, Alexander’s captaincy was called into question. God tried to convince Satan that he/she would be the best captain for any cricket team. Satan would have none of that; a heated argument ensued.
Finally, it was agreed that God and Satan would each select from the cricketing world a team to play a match at Lords. Then, it was also agreed that a toss would be spun to decide who would select the first “eleven.” God won and began with Sobers, Kanhai, Hall, Gibbs, Richie Beneau and so on. To his surprise, as God was selecting, Satan kept smiling. God continued with Godfrey Evans, Apte … and finally Basil Butcher. God said to Satan, it is your turn. Satan selected his first eight players, relatively good players, then told God he will select the two umpires and the scorer.
Do I need to say more?
When God’s team went in to bat the two umpires met and extended the boundary-line by ten yards; a six from Sobers, the scorer, recorded two; a four from Kanhai recorded as one. A ball touching the batsman, out, LBW. Obviously, a low scoring side. When Satan’s eleven went in to bat, the two umpires unilaterally reduced the boundary-line by twenty yards. Every second delivery from Wes Hall was a no ball. God, frustrated by this process, called out Satan to discuss these anomalies (someone shouted “take you licks like a man”). Satan, like Emperor Nero, pontificated; “according to the MCC cricket rules, umpire decisions are final, I cannot interfere. God suggested inviting an international arbitrator. Satan and his cohorts kept shouting, this is a national issue, we do not need foreign interference. Simply because Satan says “final is final” does not necessarily make final, final.
We have been living as neighbours, sharing a homeland since 1838, over a hundred and seventy-five years. Sometimes – like Mash, Christmas and Phagwah – we behave like friends and neighbours and relatives, at other times, like National Elections, we behave as though we want to (xenophobically) animate “the other”. Whether we understand it, or care not to, we are in a symbiotic relationship, like two toads clamped together.
Now, if one accepts that premise, when you struggle to get at the top it means that the toad at the bottom will have to carry you (parasitic, isn’t it?). Let us go sideways thus, each toad will carry its weight. No one is either going to send anyone back to India or to Africa, nor is anyone going to push anyone into the Essequibo, Berbice, Demerara or Corentyne River. Without a sense of national unity and a strong sense of moral conduct to guide us all, the oil wealth would be wrestled away by those who are waiting with their pumps at our door.
Andra P Thakur, PhD
Professor and HRA,
Vancouver Island University.
Nanaimo, BC Canada