Selling ourselves short
Stabroek News
November 24, 2001

We all, quite rightly, expect high standards in public life. We want our politicians to be intelligent and statesmanlike. We want our businessmen to be efficient and honest. We want our teachers to be enlightened and dedicated. Coupled with this is the fact that the colonial experience had conditioned us to have a low opinion of ourselves and each other as inferior to the European Coloniser, a self-contempt as Martin Carter used to say. This has proved to be an enduring condition which still affects some of our attitudes, even though we may not always be aware of this.

The combination of these two syndromes tends to produce excessively harsh criticisms of our public figures and institutions.

In a recent editorial we had referred to a speech by Dr Ian Mc Donald at a recent graduation ceremony at the University of Guyana in which he congratulated the students for persevering despite the difficulties. In fact, several people have made the point that in spite of the well known educational and other problems at the university several students have acquitted themselves well when they have gone on to other institutions abroad.

There is no room for complacency, standards are unacceptably low in most areas. Yet it is all too easy to make a virtue of criticism, to become a knocker or a naysayer, a prophet of doom. Often, too, this attitude is based on a lack of knowledge of the real position abroad. As anyone will know, for example, who has tried to get a serviceman to repair a stove, or a refrigerator or a car in England it can be a rough experience. There is no utopia anywhere. Many of the day to day problems that oppress us here exist elsewhere, and people have to learn to cope with them.

We have a very long way to go in establishing a developed and prosperous modern society, there can be no mistake about that and we must never forget it. To build this country properly we will need higher standards in every area of public life, political, commercial and social. But it does not follow from that that all our politicians are foolish, lazy and corrupt, that all our businessmen are tricksters and our teachers and nurses heartless and self-seeking. If that were so, the country would long since have imploded. What we need most of all is that maturity and sense of balance that will enable us to see things in perspective, to have realistic expectations and to recognise that at the end of the day though our society is unsophisticated and inexperienced by the standards of the developed countries, we have the same hopes and dreams, the same pain and the same weaknesses as the people in those countries.