Youth is wasted on the young

Cassandra's Corner
Stabroek News
March 26, 2000

* Recently, I had the opportunity to encounter the thoughts of our schools' best students relative to what they consider the major difficulties besetting our country and what their hopes for the future encompass. Some of them even offered "solutions" to the problems. Then, last Monday, Stabroek News posed the question of employment creation to a cross-section of our youth. Well, I got to tell you that what all these bright young people had to say was not impressive. In fact, it was downright disappointing. Their contributions were run-of-the-mill and not thought-provoking, and surely not leading to a remedy.

In practically all cases, their "corrective measures" require the Government doing this and the Government doing that. On very singular occasions, one of the brighter young flames might use the phrase "the Government in partnership with private enterprise must invest in... " In no instance have I read or heard young people suggesting that they must create their own pathways, develop their own machinery to overcome a hurdle, must take responsibility for their actions, must pull themselves up by their bootstraps, must identify a focal point and maintain a fixity of purpose. What they do exhibit is an arrogance which demands that everything be placed at their disposal on a platter. They give the impression not only that they are wise, but that their wisdom accepts no new conventions nor does it tolerate contradiction. Listening to their discourses one is overwhelmed by their perpetual self-intoxication with their illusioned rightness.

Should we place issues in the hands of youth for analysis and eventual solution? How often have I not heard that youth must be given a chance to manage, to gain experience. My own experience generally has been that every time management has been placed in the hands of young people mayhem emerges or worse - the body being managed disintegrates. Only recently, two youthful executives of a professional association absconded leaving the latter in a state of disorder, not lastly because the funds could not be accessed without their signatures. The repercussive effect of this bit of irresponsibility threatened life.

Check out which nurses and which teachers stand by their wards in times of crisis. I put my head on a block that the majority will be the older comrades. Irrespective of which parameter you use - punctuality, initiative, objective effort, resourcefulness, non-panic in a crisis situation, understanding the ramifications of a problem, etc., youth will invariably score less points.

Look, my aim here is not the denunciation of youth, though I am told that this activity is a necessary part of the hygiene of older people and greatly assists in their circulation. No, unemotional and empirical observation has led me to be convinced that this ol' peeple t'ing called 'experience' has an immense value, and prudence and discipline will always outweigh impetuosity. I used to want a galloping revolution, now I know it makes sense not to rush in where angels fear to tread.

* I wish to revisit the common all-solving element proposed by the youthful contributions relative to the problems facing the nation. It begins with the words "The Government must... " The Government must create manufacturing and service industries; the Government must invest in education and research; the Government must maintain and create necessary infrastructure; the Government must safeguard the citizenry against exploitation; the Government must find the cure for AIDS; the Government must nurture me from cradle to grave. Well, if I am not mistaken, when a Government does all those things, it is essentially a socialist Government. Yet, only recently we have been advised that socialism is dead. We were emphatic in our judgement that Government's business is to stay out of business. At best the Government must be a facilitator, a conduit, a monitor. It is therefore funny to hear the same comrades on the call-in radio and T.V. programmes exhorting the Government to get back into business. One caller on that quintessential Idiot T.V. facetiously advocated that Barama, GT&T, GP&L, Omai, etc., should continue to rape Guyana, if we are so stupid as to allow the exploitation. What the caller was proposing was that, if we are incapable of negotiating advantageously in the interest of Guyana, then we should not sell. We should continue to own and manage. What with all the blackouts and lack of expansion of GP&L, the acrimonious debates with GT&T, etc., many people are advocating this option. Well, this is a 180 degree turnabout. Only lately we were hollering 'privatise, privatise,' and now many are bawling 'retain and manage.' What is fickle nation!

The answer, of course, lies between the two extremes. Government's business is largely regulatory and protective. Both Jagan and Burnham, to their credit, often displayed immense vision and visceral instincts - be it on matters pertaining to the Intermediate Savannahs, water conservation, electricity generation from hydropower (many small dams strategically located or one massive dam), etc. They also both felt (perhaps for different reasons - Burnham, the control freak, Jagan, steeped in class consciousness) that certain areas that impact on people's daily lives should be kept under state management and never be privatised. Under this rubric would fall electricity, water and transport, for example.

Anyway, the world is currently running with capitalism, so we'll follow suit. That's what we do best. Therefore, I don't want to hear any more from students, from professionals or from the workers that the Government must do this and that and everything. Instead, let the capitalists emerge and take over every activity, every niche where expertise or a service is needed.

I, for one am going to have fun witnessing this new transformation. Education, research, product development and promotion, extension services in agriculture, information acquisition and dissemination, transport, etc., all in the hands of gung-ho, aggressive, dynamic, innovative entrepreneurs. Yes, lads and lasses, progress at last. Quickly a question before I close today: How is Guyana Airways 2000 Inc. doing? You know, the one owned by Guyana's entrepreneurial creme de la creme. Hasta la vista, baby. See you next week when I return to this very theme.