Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Playing Fair

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 04 August 2010)

When I was a child, I thought as a child, but even then I knew and understood the principles of playing fair. I knew that each person should get their turn and that if I brought candy into a group of playmates, I was to share with the others.

Sometimes there are children who do not live by these simple rules. For example, my youngest daughter – who is now 17 years old – is very stingy. What makes this so ironic is that she has three older siblings who always share everything they have with her.

In fact, I have seen her brothers and sister sacrifice the last of whatever they had and give it to her. Yet she will not share with others, not even her siblings. When I force her to share, she feels she is being dealt a blow of injustice. Since she is the youngest and the others are grown and have lives of their own now, she has more than all of them. Yet she finds it difficult to share. It seems at times that the more a person has, the least likely they are to share.

In fact, the older my daughter gets, the less she likes to share with others. I suppose that is typical of all of us though. The older we get, the less likely we are to share what is ours with others. How is it that we understand and abide by these principles when we are children and lose sight of them as we get older?

There are some very strong insinuations from various places that the PPP does not share. It has been suggested that the current administration only gives contracts to their own supporters and that government officials (and their friends and family) live in the lap of luxury while portions of the country struggle to acquire the most basic of life’s needs – like water, electricity and food.

Of course, if this is in fact the case, it will not be the first time politicians got rich while governing a country. George W. Bush and his administration gave contracts to cronies and they are all fat and happy now. Some of the poorest of countries have politicians who, using aid money from other countries, indulge in extravagance while right outside their doors people die from starvation.

However, just because other leaders do not know how to share, it does not give pardon to those in the government of Guyana who have forgotten the childhood rules of playing fair. Moreover, I really must point out that some of this greediness has produced self-destructive behaviour.

For example, why on earth would the head-of-state of any country deride the top two hotels in the country? It is not guaranteed that the Marriott will in fact be built and President Jagdeo has cut off his nose in spite of his face. He needlessly and self-destructively scorned the top two hotels in Guyana in pursuit of a possible third hotel of more grandeur.

Did the president not think that his words could impact the tourist industry between now and the time the Marriott opens (if it does open)? Did he think about how those from outside Guyana must have thought, “Well, if the president himself does not like the hotels in his country then they must be very bad?” Who wants to stay in what the president claims are sub-par hotels?

In essence, he has negated all previous and future promotions for the entire national tourist industry just to make two hotels look inferior so he can justify his desire to build another. It would seem that greed (and possibly revenge) has coloured the current administration’s common sense in a way that will damage itself more than the source of its anger.

Sometimes it is difficult to share. I admit that I am not a sharing person. I am often floored when others are generous to me and it seems to come naturally for them. I grew up with very little and as a result I still hold on tight to what comes my way. I have to make a conscious decision to be generous and sharing – and even then it is not as easy and enjoyable as I wish it was. But I do try.

However, I have to wonder if I was a leader of a country and the money with which I governed came from the people of that country (and as foreign aid), would I be a stingy politician, too? Greed can rear its ugly head in even the best of us. Regardless of what I would do, greed is one of the reasons I think it is important to rotate leadership as often as possible.

I can chastise my daughter for being stingy and explain why it is important to share with others. However, when it comes to chastising a government that has become stingy and greedy, the best way to reprimand them is in the voting booth.

I suppose there is still time for the current government to show the nation it has changed its ways. It can start playing fair with others. It can give contracts to bidders who are not PPP supporters. It can even sacrifice some personal luxury to funnel more money into villages that need water and electricity.

Of course, a generous spirit is something that has to come from the heart. Here’s hoping there are still some hearts in the government that are not as hard as rock.

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