Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Guest column: Passion, Commitment and Tomfoolery - by Robin Montano

From the Highway Re-Route FB page
The hunger strike of Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh, leader of the Re-route the Highway Movement, is receiving (very) understandable media attention. 

Any reasonable observer looking at the whole 'brouhaha' dispassionately would have to admire Dr. Kublalsingh's commitment to his cause. After all, if a man so believes in his cause, whether it is to re-route a highway or a religious belief, or anything and everything in between, that he is willing to die for it, such passion and such commitment is something that ought to be admired whether you agree with that person or not.

Put another way, if Dr. Kublalsingh were to use that passion and commitment to, say (being ridiculous), invent a better and more nutricious hamburger, society would praise him and beat a path to his door. He would make a fortune!

There are quite a few people though who tend to regard Dr. Kublalsingh more like a Don Quixote type figure who was described in Miguel de Cervantes's epic story "El Caballero de la Triste Figura" ("The Knight of the Doleful Countenance") as "... un entreveradero loco, lleno de lucidos intervales" ("... a muddle-headed fool, with frequent lucid intervals") ... Don Quixote was made famous in the story for his 'tilting' with (attacking) windmills that he thought were evil giants.

It is tempting to argue that Dr. Kublalsingh is doing the same with this hunger strike as Don Quixote did with his windmills. He is insisting that he will starve himself to death if the Prime Minister of this little Republic refuses to meet with him (and no doubt capitulate to his demands). 

That this is emotional blackmail of the highest order cannot be in doubt. In other words, he is saying that it will be the fault of Mrs. Persad-Bissessar, and only Mrs. Persad-Bissessar, if he dies. 

Now let me be clear: whether you fall on the side of the "re-routers" or not: NO Prime Minister can ever be seen to be giving in to this sort of blackmail ... and it is blackmail! 

If it happens in this case, where would it end. No! As much as Mrs. Persad-Bissessar's humanity and her obviously clear desire is not to see a needless death, as Prime Minister she cannot allow herself to be forced to do something like this. It is clearly not in the interests of the State. If she did this (give in) today, what would stop somebody else from doing a similar thing tomorrow? Where should we draw the line?

You will note that I have been careful in this writing to avoid discussing the rights or wrongs of Dr. Kublalsingh's argument. 

I see that as completely separate and apart from what is happening right now ... the potential death of a human being that is completely unnecessary and not in the best interests of the society, much less the good doctor's family nor the doctor himself! 

Further, it is not in the best interests of the wider society that our Prime Minister (and she is our Prime Minister whether you voted for her or not) be forced to meet and treat with someone in circumstances where she is effectively being blackmailed.

Let's look at it dispassionately: if Dr. Kublalsingh does in fact starve himself to death will that change the route of the highway? I doubt it. 

His death might give opponents of the Government yet another stick to beat the Prime Minister and her team with, but I bet you dollars to doughnuts that NO intelligent opposition politician (and to the detractors of the PNM please do not say that this is an oxymoron) would say so clearly that there would be no way out of the statement (other than "I was wrong") that he would give in to a hunger striker. 

It just ain't gonna happen! No statesman (or woman) can afford to give into something like this!

In other words, Dr. Kublalsingh is probably killing himself (for that is exactly what he is doing) for a lost cause. 

As I said at the beginning of this post: I do admire his passion; I admire his commitment, but I don't think that this particular cause is worth killing himself for. 

Even if you think that what he is doing is pure tomfoolery or that he is just plain wrong on this issue, I would urge you to add your voice to mine and say to him please don't kill yourself. There will be other causes where your country will need your passion and your commitment. If you are dead then it will be our loss and you won't be there to help.

The famous English playwright, George Bernard Shaw, said it best when he said "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable man insists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man"

We need men (and women) like Dr. Kublalsingh in this country whether you agree with them or not. They keep the rest of us on our toes. They force us to look again at issues that we might otherwise overlook to our long term detriment. Please join me in asking him not to kill himself.

Read more of Robin's work at THE RAG

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai