Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Stella Says…Let’s Continue Our Discussion on Autocratic Rule

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 24 Jan 2006)

In my column on Sunday, we began a discussion that took a closer look at how Venezuela’s President, Hugo Chavez, is slowly and slyly replacing that country’s democratic status with an autocratic rule. The purpose of this exercise was to determine if any of these practices could be applied to Guyana and its sitting government.

I drew some interesting behavioural correlations between Chavez and the PPP, which included the distribution of wealth only to those who serve a political purpose, allowing the national infrastructure to decay and of letting crime run rampant as part of a Hobbesian approach to governing – which maintains that the more barbarous a populace is allowed to become, the more it will want a government to intervene into almost every aspect of life to preserve a form of personal security. Hobbes maintained that the more chaos is allowed to reign, the more the people will desire state intervention.

This latter point is where I would like to resume this discussion by examining the current flooding situation. There is no shortage of complaints of governmental incompetence over this issue, of which I have also contributed. However, when doing some research on Chavez and the way he manipulates these types of situations to make the people more dependent on him and thereby creating a stronger sense of public loyalty, I realised that perhaps the PPP is not as incompetent as they appear to be at face value.

This thought was further solidified as I read an article by Emile Mervin in Sunday’s issue of the online publication, Guyana Gazette. The article, “Decision 2006: ‘It’s About the Economy, Stupid,’” takes a statement made by Bill Clinton during his campaign for U.S. president and applies it to the current pre-election status in Guyana. Mervin said, “‘Stupid’ here is not intended to denigrate as much as it is to differentiate between a commonsense approach and a foolish approach to governance in Guyana. To say that the PPPC's approach leaves a lot to be desired is to put it mildly; but when one takes a hard look at Guyana and Guyanese, what the PPPC is doing flies in the face of all logic and everything sensible. It is downright stupid!”

Or is it? Don’t get me wrong, I thought Emile’s piece was brilliant, but is the PPP really that incompetent? Robert Persaud is no dupe; that is for sure. He may think the rest of us are dupes and that is why he insists on putting out propaganda that is intellectually insulting, but overall he seems to be intelligent. In fact, many in the PPP rank and file seem to be highly intelligent. So how can a party of so many intelligent people be so incompetent? Perhaps we are looking at this the wrong way. Instead, could it be that the PPP is actually very competent in what its true goal is – chaos?

Could the Chavez-like attributes being exhibited by the PPP - the decaying infrastructure, the rampant crime, the perpetual poverty, etc. - actually be a very competent implementation of the Hobbesian philosophy? Has the plan all along been to allow more chaos to reap more control? I believe it is very likely, and if this is the case, it is working.

Last week there were protests by those from the western villages of West Coast Berbice. These people wanted the President’s attention because they believed he was the only one who could fix their flooding problems. A couple weeks ago, the people of Mahaicony greeted the President with a parade amidst their own tragic flooding situation. How is it that a government that is so “incompetent” can get such a warm welcome from the very people who suffer at the hands of that incompetence? This is Hobbes’ philosophy in action.

In short, the more incompetent the PPP becomes, the more chaotic the state becomes, and the more the people will cry out for the government to intervene in every aspect of society. If the PPP is indeed using this form of autocracy, it would explain why Guyana can never get ahead economically and why crime can never be fully reigned in. In fact, it would explain a lot. The national chaotic situation created by a government’s “incompetence” is the tool used to ensure its control over the people instead of the people’s control over the government.

As such, our frustration at the government’s gross incompetence only plays into the master plan as poverty pushes crime to dig its talons in deeper and flooding creates so much confusion and hopelessness that the people cry out for the president to do something. In such a state, it is easy to see how over time Guyana’s democracy will be replaced with an autocratic rule – and most of the people will be happy about it, just like they are in Venezuela – because they do not understand that 1) the government created their chaotic state to start with and 2) their plight will not improve under an autocratic leader because he/she must maintain chaos in order to assure the continued loyalty of the people. Crime can never be gone, poverty can never be gone and chaos can never be gone – or the government loses control.

Consider this, Chavez runs Venezuela’s billion-dollar oil company very successfully. How is it then, that he cannot run the country just as effectively? It is by choice. Even more importantly, consider this, how is it that millions and millions of dollars of international aid rolled in for the flooding situation in 2005 and yet the government was completely and totally unprepared when the floods came this year. Was it by choice?

There are only about 750,000 people in Guyana. Is it really so difficult for a party full of highly intelligent people to be so incompetent that they cannot efficiently run a small country like Guyana? Is this incompetence by choice? Is it actually a very competent implementation of the Hobbesian theory?

With general elections coming very soon, certainly these are questions that should be thoroughly explored before choosing the next government.

Email: Stellasays[at]gmail.com

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