Wisely, rather than considering the issues raised in my response to him (“Who says organisation says oligarchy”: (Kaieteur News 18/01/11), Mr. Kissoon has sought refuge in a redefinition of oligarchy! He tells us that “When I use the word “oligarchy” to describe a government or a political party, I am not referring to the sociological origins of the term but to its political context. By oligarchy I mean dictatorship.”
Mr. Kissoon’s presentations are usually littered with what Winston Churchill described as “terminological inexactitudes.” Here he seeks to escape the dilemma of his previous presentation (‘Henry Jeffrey, V.S. Naipaul and a Guyanese “shoemaker:” (KN 20/01/11) by claiming to have a different conception of oligarchy; i.e. by unilaterally redefining the concept to mean dictatorship.
His position is logically fallacious: in Latin America and elsewhere, not all oligarchies are dictatorial and how can there therefore be a “political” contextual definition of oligarchy that allows it to be equated with dictatorship? If there is, it is up to Mr. Kissoon to provide evidence of it by way of definition and scholarly references.
Mr. Kissoon’s general conceptual confusion is further demonstrated when we deduce from his statement above that he is referring to oligarchy in its political context and an oligarchic dictatorship must be dictatorship by a group. How then could he claim that: “…. my commentaries on Guyana are focused on the crude, one-man display of naked power hence the term oligarchic!”
Dropping the names of authors of whose works he has little or no understanding is another of Mr. Kissoon’s trademarks. He tells us that “[Jean-Paul] Sartre argued, contrary to Marxism-Leninism, that the individual could go beyond his/her own social and historical limitations.” However, the most rudimentary understanding of the history of ideas would tell us that the belief “that the individual could go beyond his/her own social and historical limitations” existed long before Sartre and was reinforced by the European Enlightenment.
Perhaps Mr. Kissoon is telepathic, for Sartre was precisely who I had in mind when I said in response to Mr. M. Maxwell’s contention that “Hoyte had no choice” that “There is always choice.” The essence of existentialism is that man comes into the world without purpose or goals and gradually by experience defines the meaning of his life. Man is never compelled (www.sartre.org).
But Mr. Kissoon’s misapprehension does not end there. He claims that: “We come into the world to change it;” and quotes Marx to the effect that: “The philosophers have interpreted the world, the point is to change it” in support of his position. However, he has failed to see the difference between the two statements and the contradiction between his formulation and his supporting existentialist philosophy.
According to Sartre’s existentialism, we could not have come into the world to change it for that would have been to give our lives an a priori purpose.
The Marxian formulation is much more compatible with existentialism for it suggests that we may make changing the world our life’s purpose. In the words of Sartre: “existence precedes essence.”
As if afraid to be undone in a contest of illogicalities, Mr. Kissoon claims that: “When you read Jeffrey’s voluminous letter you conjure up the memories of the young V.S. Naipaul dismissing the Caribbean as a place that will never create history.”
This is so because, according to him, I refuse to accept that, by confronting oligarchies, Caribbean people can contribute to their reformation.
But he then tells us: “There are countless examples in history where the iron laws of oligarchically defined organisations were defied!” You may well ask how then can the Caribbean people be making history by defying it?
Mr. Kissoon claims that both Messrs. Moses Nagamootoo and Michael Carrington spoke publicly against their party and were not expelled.
He seems not to realise that expulsion is the ultimate level of discipline, the other extreme of which can be simple an official expression of displeasure.
Indeed, the examples of Nagamootoo and Carrington are largely irrelevant, for as he rightly says, people have been and will continue to test the limitations of the oligarchic form.
It is an aspect of our humanity to perennially attempt to expand our freedoms by pressing against our limitations.
This does not however mean that generally one is not expected to adhere to the rules of an organisation that one has freely joined as long as one remains a member of it. That said, Mr. Kissoon’s contention that: “People like Jeffrey and Ralph Ramkarran…could have changed history by speaking up (publicly) against dictatorship in the PPP,” appears extremely over-optimistic!
Let me repeat the suggestion I made to Mr. Maxwell: “Change is brought about by a dialectical interplay of various internal and external forces and is not usually entirely the result of outsider activism.”
Mr. Kissoon then proceeds to make a very strange statement: “Those familiar with Sartre’s contribution to existentialism would know that … it is the process whereby we give meaning to our existence (incidentally, I stole that wonderful book when I worked as a 16-year-old youth at the Michael Forde Book Store.
I did not steal it from the National Library as a certain PPP presidential candidate would like to think. I still have it and treasure it).” It would be hilarious if Mr. Kissoon were suggesting that by this kind of unlawful behaviour he was in some way being existentialist: going “beyond (his) own social and historical limitations!”
As I have demonstrated, Mr. Kissoon does not truly understand many of the social and political concepts he bandies about, is usually oblivious to their implications, finds it hard to put together logically consistent arguments and is prone to terminological inexactitudes.
This is not to say that his contributions are without value. As many people are engaged by sound-bites, emotion, etc., they do provide for levels of partisan interest articulation and aggregation and on the flip side help with tension maintenance.
They do not however have the intellectual value he appears to want to place upon them, being no more than badly constructed admixtures of evidence-less personal opinions and gossip.
Henry B. Jeffrey
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