DR ERROL N BENJAMIN
LIKE THE English poet John Keats in his Ode to a Nightingale swooning over the nightingale’s singing and “being too happy in thine happiness,” I, too, was happy in the happiness of the Guyanese on Sunday in their delirium of having a long lost dream of winning the CPL coming true at last.
Not that I was anti-TKR by any means. But I was inevitably drawn into this moment of human happiness reaching its zenith, more so as it was the culmination of a long period of hope and possible despair once again, having to face the four-times champion who, just a few day before, had brought them to their knees.
And when the moment came it seemed sweeter than anything they may have experienced before, made sweeter with the continuing reminders of how Guyana is now the rising star in the Caribbean with its new-found wealth and markers of its development, the moment made more special with the presence of Irfan Ali foregoing the president’s box and being one with his people.
In a world so full of unhappiness, this manifestation of supreme happiness was infectious and TKR’s loss faded momentarily as I succumbed wholeheartedly. Guyana’s moment in time has been long in coming!
We in this country would have had our own moment in time while countries like Guyana continued to languish. As regards cricket, we won four times, didn’t we? And we reacted no less. But this is not merely about the cricket. It is about the ebb and flow of nations overall, over time.
I recall the vaingloriousness with which we spoke of the old guy from the country walking with a brown paper bag full of money to purchase a new brand Cortina, as we used to say, from Macearneny’s on the Coffee" in San Fernando, symptomatic of a time when “money was no problem.” Texaco then was in full cry raking in the petro-dollars at over $100 a barrel of oil. Atlantic LNG was a gas producer second to none, and Point Lisas seemed to have had a significant share of the international market with its fertiliser, methanol and iron and steel, inter alia.
So much so that in indulging the vanity as an “oil and gas economy” on par even with OPEC countries, we saw Caroni Ltd as a lowly "agricultural enterprise” out of sync with such status and therefore expendable, never mind its capacity for exportable downstream products such as methanol as fuel, as in Brazil, exotic rum and molasses, agro-processed products such as corn and soya, celotex and chipboard, inter alia, and the fact that it was the livelihood of a significant sector of the population.
With “money to bun,” as we used to say, we never thought that the rainy day would come, blind to the necessity for good economic management to continue the sustainable development of our lucrative life strings. Instead we cultivated all the indulgences that excess money brings, like profligacy and waste, nepotism and corruption, consistent with the emergent “feeding off the trough culture,” exacerbated by a race-based politics where oversight and accountability are null and of no effect.
We had our time, yes. In the cricket, however, our star seems to be fading and on September 24 we were hushed into silence. Otherwise, without the foresight of good leadership we killed the goose that laid the golden egg and we have been reduced to cap in hand virtually begging Guyana to incorporate our defunct refinery into their grandiose oil future, but to no avail. And we are now hoping to get a second chance so that our dragon can dance at the behest of one who deceived before.
With the money virtually gone, our people are at the mercy of the taxman and rising inflation and higher prices, but worse. Some of us can weather the storm, but others looking for a quick buck are not as industrious and are prepared to get it the easy way, reducing law-abiding citizens to the trauma of perpetual worry on whether they will survive another night or not.
How patriotic you may say, extolling Guyana as the next rising star and seemingly denigrating your own country! But true patriotism is not to hide under a bushel and sulk over your misfortune as others rise.
The cricket is merely a symptom of our downward slide. We need to look ourselves squarely in the face and see what we have become and look for models that will place us on a path of recovery: like Irfan Ali, one with his people in the stands that Sunday, or following his example of keeping the “cane" for his people as the oil overflows, or using the oil money to truly improve the lives of the people.
Maybe we too can have a second spring following the Guyanese model.