The game must be structured to facilitate and reward collaboration
May 16, 2002
Letters on despair
I write to congratulate you for your editorial of Tuesday May 14th "Structured Dialogue and Conflict Resolution" and your review and application of Mr Seecoomar's book "Contributions Towards the Resolution of Conflict in Guyana".
The application of the theory of games to domestic and international conflict and the growth of conflict resolution as a separate and distinct field of application and research could be of great benefit to Guyana if we were to make sincere efforts to apply these insights and tools to our problems. It is true that many of the lessons in these disciplines are often applied by wise or moral people and appear to be mere common sense.
The people who applied game theory at the Rand corporation and eventually in the Pentagon and State departments in Washington learned very early the superior wisdom of charging the rules of political conflict from zero sum i.e. 'I win you lose everything' to games which taught the benefits of coming to resolutions which gave all participants an interest in peaceful collaboration if at all possible. It is often claimed that this kind of thinking persuaded the allies at the Second World War to spare the German industrial heartland and to support the resuscitation of the fallen eastern European countries and Japan.
The cultural and historic differences between the French and Germans for example have not gone away nor has the history of war and brutality over centuries been forgotten but they have decided to collaborate to succeed in the game rather than remain estranged seeing greater benefits in collaboration than estrangement.
Applied to domestic and civil disintegration, it means thinking of politics as a game in which there are benefits to be gained in keeping players interested in collaborating through self-interest. The temptation to try destroying your opponent is what leads to civil wars, genocide, and of course backwardness and poverty. It is very rarely the case that you can destroy or disarm all people who do not believe or look like you. For any leader to believe that Guyana can be successful as a zero sum game is insanity. The game must be structured to facilitate and reward collaboration.
The hard question is of course how do we change Guyana to make the game different and more collaborative. A visionary and charismatic leader of a government can of course lead the way by force of personality and wisdom.
Clearly there is no such person leading the state at this time. There are very few Mandelas in the world who are wise and strong enough to give space to his enemies and keep them supportive of the whole programme.
Civil society in Guyana is a grave disappointment. They become interested in dialogue when it threatens their businesses or security and abandon their interest as soon as things look peaceful. The lack of social conscience reflected in the public positions of many of our non-political institutions and the lack of any public positions at all in some cases is sad. The presence of strong non-political voices in Trinidad and Jamaica is such a stark contrast to the situation in Guyana.
Recently, there has been a greater dependence on the voices of the international interests and diplomatic community. That is an irrelevance. The hour demands Guyanese solutions and indigenous forms of collaboration. Wise political leadership in Guyana must include the recognition that collaboration is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength and that the thirst for the whole in our context is ultimately the dream of small wisdom. It is true that this is territory which we have not explored since 1953 but for us this is the only way up.
Deryck M Bernard