Is an unbiased decision possible?

Cassandra's Corner
Stabroek News
June 4, 2000

Have you noticed that this column has become relatively bland over the last coupla weeks. Well let's see if we can change that this week. Let's see how far we can be thought-provoking, without being too provocative to our editor.

Cricket is a good theme to touch. After all, only race and religion (not sex) can excite more emotion than cricket. I want to look at the recent failure of the 'baccra' umpire to put up his finger, thus denying the Pakistanis a victory. Really, I am just using the latest cricket incident to question the ability of judges with specific backgrounds in sport and other disciplines to be fair vis a vis players of another religious, social and cultural history.

My thoughts on the matter go like this: For centuries, Christians and Moslems have been at each other's throats - literally. Irrespective of what the real underlying reasons for the hatred may have been, great animosity developed between the two groups since the days of the Crusades, right up to today. One is an infidel, the other a heathen. These positions and stereotypes have become so entrenched that only the other day a survey in the USA on attitudes/perceptions relative to Moslem Arabs proved to be quite an eye-opener. A large majority of those polled saw Arabs as treacherous individuals who rode camels while their many wives walked meekly behind.

The following question then becomes valid: how does a referee/umpire from a tribe which has been programmed for centuries with intolerance, give an unbiased decision?

Then, if we factor in the guilt that some tribes must feel for the heinous acts they committed against black people, it becomes even more difficult for an uninfluenced, untainted decision to be made. I've seen Dicky Bird (may the Lord rest his soul), in an attempt to show what a great rapport he had with black players (you know, "some of my best friends are...) - whenever I hear that opening statement, my antenna go up - jump on Ambrose's back and ride him into the pavilion. Can you imagine Dicky Bird doing that with Akram?

Well, there you have it - an issue that will not be wished away. It matters not how much one may wish to intellectualize the problem, and deny the partiality of umpires/referees. Baser, well cultivated behaviour patterns tend to prevail over a conscious attempt to be fair. How do you think an Indian umpire, (right after a Kashmiri skirmish), will adjudicate in a match between Pakistan and say an underdog Zimbabwean team?

Fairness in sport is a myth. By the way, Jimmy know he touch de ball; why 'e dint walk? Look, I only raise the questions, I ent necessarily got the answers.

* I overheard a conversation at one of my favourite watering holes that set me thinking. Two semi-inebriated people were discussing the "spoiling" of children nowadays. In essence, what they were calling "spoiling" was just an improvement in the lot of their children's lives. And shouldn't it be so? Every succeeding generation should have it better than the preceding one. It should be more educated, have more free time, should be better off financially and have less stress. In fact, the degree of improvement of their lot in life compared with ours should be one of the most important parameters to define progress.

I then took a look at my own children. They had many things better than I did. Some were driven to school, they all have a lot of playtime, they received enough prime time attention and got the advantage of my knowledge; they travelled more than what I did when I was their age, they were provided with most things they desired, and so on. So I suppose they were 'spoiled.' But, hell, they have all grown up or are growing up into citizens that one can be proud of. In at least one case, his experiences have already equalled, if not superceded mine. A very multi-dimensional child (well, he is in his early thirties) who has acted in plays, finished a marathon, played tenor pan, made and sold photographs that sold for thousands, become a champion Inter-Schools debater, writes short stores, speaks several major languages and has lately spent the night drinking vodka with the Director of Cosmodrome (from which the MIR resupply rocket is fired) while watching the launch. All he needs now is to learn tolerance and to be less arrogant. Perhaps these are the true paradigms with which to assess whether a child has been 'spoiled.' Perhaps readers could enlighten me as to exactly what the standards should be to determine whether a child has been spoiled or not, so that future parents will not make the same mistakes.

More important, however, is the consideration relating to which activities we can introduce so as not to 'spoil' a child. Right at the outset let me tell you that the 'corrective rod', which is so often to be equated with brutality, cannot be considered an option. There are many maxims and catchy phrases on the market - many of them dotish, some even contradictory. One of the most misused is 'spare the rod and spoil the child.' That's the one that gives justification for abuse. Well, I'll agree with Nietzsche who advised that we should mistrust all in whom the urge to punish is strong. Abuse of children is an effective weapon to bring them along the 'straight and narrow.' Perhaps showing and leading them, by example, is a better method. Physical and mental torture of a child can only harden it. But I suppose, as Bertrand Russell recognised, the reformative effect of punishment is a belief that dies hard, probably because it is so satisfying to our basic sadistic impulses.

Anyway, I was asking you to define those actions which can be used so that a child will not be 'spoiled.' My own method was (and is) to give them, as much as I am able, almost everything they want and need - in profusion. The end-products seem OK to me. Try it some time.

Ketch up next week

Follow the goings-on in Guyana
in Guyana Today