Cleopatra’s nose in Guyana
The great 17th century French intellectual, Blaise Pascal, made a tiny, humorous reflection on life that has become extremely popular since then. Pascal had deep thoughts about his little remark, but it came across lightly. He wrote that if Cleopatra’s nose was shorter, the course of world history would have changed from what it turned out to be.
What he meant was that the long nose of the Egyptian Queen enhanced her beauty that made Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony fall in love with her, thus the Roman Empire went into a different direction.
The Harvard scientist, Stephen Jay Gould, is given credit for a theory that existed long before his time, but no one ever took credit for it. Many times over the long centuries, scholars have remarked that an unnoticed, uneventful incident can change the course of history, and there is an outcome that was never thought of. Gould once wondered if it was raining and not sunning when life emerged on earth what would have been the outcome.
Three Fridays ago I was part of a press conference at the City Hall, after which I walked out with someone who knew Forbes Burnham intimately. He told me of all the plans Burnham had. Burnham died suddenly and the course of Guyanese history went into a completely new pathway. It can be said it was the same with Desmond Hoyte’s situation. Mr. Hoyte was inflexible that the PPP had violated all the sacred texts of Guyanese history and should be confronted in a zero sum way.
Had he lived longer there would have been no extinguishing of the flames of “mo fyaah/slo fyaah.” Could Guyana have achieved power-sharing under Hoyte as opposition leader if he didn’t have a heart attack?
In 2012, Moses Nagamootoo stepped into the arms of the Alliance for Change and we are still waiting to see how far the historical push that he stated will go. In a recent editorial in the Stabroek News, the paper made the point that it seems all too easy for the PPP to keep scapegoating the PNC.
The race card can be so nicely played against the PNC. But the paper went on to add that the AFC is a ball the PPP is not finding easy to kick.
What Moses Nagamootoo did is to create a house of horror for the PPP that took up all the energies of the PPP last year. If there is a description one is looking to use for 2012, it would be the Year of Moses Nagamootoo. Most Guyanese feel that the loss of Indian votes that made the PPP a minority government is the beginning of the end. And it all had to do with an incident that never took place.
Suppose Bharrat Jagdeo had called Nagamootoo for a very complex chat, late one evening over drinks, and begged him to stay and in a fit of dedication Nagamootoo had agreed. Would 2012 be different from the tumultuous year it turned out to be?
These are the things that Gould referred to and one wonders if more of the consequences of Cleopatra’s nose will not turn up in 2013. First, the PPP has an aging directorate and one or two of them may not be enjoying optimistic moments. Could history turn out differently if these inflexible apparatchiks move on?
Secondly, Lady Luck may be waiting, because the inevitable fight for power inside Freedom House is coming sooner than later. The PPP hasn’t got a revered figure like a Cheddi Jagan, Janet Jagan, Ptolemy Reid, to which party faithful will look up and listen to.
If there is a snap poll, Lady Luck will have even more of a presence in Guyana. With a snap poll, Donald Ramotar will want to run again. He will come up against cogent arguments that there are others in Freedom House that can swing the votes stronger than him in favour of a return to majority rule.
Ramotar has to face the music every day that he did not win the 2011 elections. What about another dimension of the Cleopatra’s nose theory. In China, Deng Xiaoping was disgraced and sent to a labour camp. He returned to become the leader of China and one whose legacy is right next to Mao’s.
In Jamaica, Bruce Golding left the JLP, ran against it in a national election then became the JLP’s leader and took it into an election victory. Could Ramkarran be asked to lead a snap poll to reclaim a PPP victory? I have a funny feeling that it is too late. The Nagamootoo factor has doomed the PPP.