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OPINION: There are no great men, only great challenges by ordinary men’s circumstances

By GHK Lall

Some conscientious Guyanese shared in this; I added here and there and now share with all, who care to listen and learn. I did.

First, Guyana is in the top 5 in the world per capita for forestry ecosystems.

Second, Guyana is in the top 3 in the world per capita in terms of fresh water resources.

Third, Guyana is poised (and has the potential) to be number one in the world relative to oil wealth measured on a per capita basis in a few years hence.

Fourth, and rather sadly, Guyana, just a few short years ago, was the number one bauxite producer in the world. Today it is barely in any bauxite conversation or projection.

Whether nature or God Almighty or whatever source or power believed in, Guyana has been incomparably blessed through the most generous, exquisitely glittering cornucopia of gifts.

Yet pause: stop and look at this country. Peer at the dark, dire, lost straits in which it is; where it muddles and gropes for what it knows not; where it responds with studied indifference, a sense of entitlement, and an absence of gratitude for the unmatched bounties showered. It responds with the narrow, the greedy, the hostile and aggressive, and with an endless array of losing and loser’s propositions. Atmosphere and environment wither.

Leaders and utterly thoughtless people have nurtured the most poisonous of atmospheres and then cemented irremovably their backs against the deepest, farthest corner with an air of smug satisfaction. Things have deteriorated to such an extent that we (yes, us) can’t even agree to meet, to walk through the same door with national intent, to face each other wisely, and to have a conversation. Any kind of conversation. As an example, the tabling of 2 or 3 things that we can do together that will lift up this society, give it any single momentous gift for the future, and leave an unprecedented and indelible mark on history. We can’t even bring ourselves to contemplate that, much less agree to sit down and share such a moment.

We are so dishonest that we cannot trust either self or the next man to share in an honest exchange, through an honorable reaching. Life and leadership are best practiced through a side door, followed by the under-the-table, and then only in cunning whispers. I cringe, in shame, in horror, in anguish. Is this the real us? And if it is, then what hope is there for us?

This is the antagonistic place where this country is locked in the solitariness of itself. A stony terrain abhorred by beasts, including the lowest of creatures. Is this the measure, the best, that we, as Guyanese can aspire to and ever amount to? Is this who we really are? All that we will ever be? What destiny could be in store for such a country?

Even as I say all of this, I cast no blame. I am too distant, too sickened for that pointless exercise. But I share the words of another rare Guyanese, an older brother of trade union heritage, who was kind enough to extend this gem. The oil is there. But like the Promised Land, some will know it, long for it, even see it. But they will not be of it, not touch it. Moses of scripture comes to mind.

Yet another thoughtful Guyanese enlightened me this way: the biblical Moses could—and did—have a deep sense of accomplishment, of a profound, sweeping legacy left behind, through submission to divinely guided deliverance. We are gods in our own eyes; and before such hubris, there is bound to be a hard fall.

And now I arrive, once again, at that truism by which I live: unless the Lord himself looks over the city, then the earthly sentinels watch in vain. Without the least iota of doubt, the political guardians of this disturbed city, this grievously injured land, act and lead in vain. Motives and methods are palpably monstrous, lacking in the human, deficient of anything remotely unselfish or constructive.

This country and all of its peoples have been wondrously blessed; summers and longer seasons of nature’s sumptuousness. To whom much is given, much is expected. From here, from us, and not from anywhere or anyone else. Thus, there is this vast Sabbath from above of no more effort, no more involvement, no more interest. And that just might be the irremediability of a barren, nuclear winter of our own making. I cry for my country. I cry for us.

I close with a quote and a vision. Admiral William Halsey said, “There are no great men, only great challenges that ordinary men are forced by circumstances to meet.” Those ordinary are me and you. I have had my long American Dream. I believe that there is such a blessing in the form of a Guyanese Dream, too. I already live it. The great challenge (for me) is that all others should share it, feel it, and live it.

Mr. GHK Lall is a Guyanese author, columnist and former financial analyst on Wall Street.