A teacher who for decades occupied the classroom will always have fond memories of select students. To me, Gary Best is one of those students. I am truly sorry that Gary has found himself in the unhappy position with life that he is now in.
In my 26 years of teaching at UG, I can safely say that for the year Gary was my student, he was the star of the class. The students liked him immensely, and his sense of humour was large. For the semester that Best spent doing philosophy with me, he would be on show in each session. Once he was in the session, there were incredible moments of hilarity.
He enjoyed philosophy greatly and excelled in his grade. His favourite philosophy was Plato. Reading Plato and teaching Plato are two unrelated subjects. Too many nuances of Plato’s philosophy are missed when you read him. I think Plato, Marx, Hobbes and Freud are four great thinkers in the history of civilization whose scholarship is so complex that you can easily miss the outstanding nuances in their thinking.
Best was very good at discussing Plato, because I think he latched on to a dimension of Plato’s thought that you can easily miss by just one reading of “The Republic.” Plato was a genius. That genius lies in the fact that though he was writing in early times in the evolution of western civilization, he saw certain values that even today, thousands of years after, humans have a difficult time embracing. Two of these are respect for gender differentiation and respect for humans despite class differences.
I seldom saw Gary Best after he left UG. There were times we drove past each other and on each occasion, there would be a broad smile on his face when he greeted me. I believe Best is the type of person that would not let his politics shape his attitude to someone from the opposing spectrum.
In that context, he belongs to a species that is rare in this country. When one party is in power, their mandarins are afraid to have more than a moment’s chat with a critic. I have been the victim of that sick stupidity all my life. In the governments of Forbes Burnham and Desmond Hoyte, the PNC underlings that you knew closely when at university, would be afraid to hobnob with you, because you are a PNC critic.
From President Cheddi Jagan right up to Donald Ramotar, PPP bigwigs would quickly nod when you pass in their direction, but would not stop to say hello, because of the political culture that restrains them. They are just fearful that news would go back that they were seen chatting with an anti-government critic. They were fearful that the insecure leaders at the top of their government would victimize them.
There wasn’t one president, from Burnham right up to Granger, who would be at ease if their highly-placed state officials are seen preserving a friendship with an anti-government critic. Forbes Burnham was a mysterious example in this regard.
The parents of Rupert Roopnaraine were very close to Burnham. Each time an intelligence report named Roopnaraine in a treasonable act, Burnham would call Roopnaraine’s mother and joke about locking up her son. Burnham also knew that Andaiye was very close to his Foreign Minister Rashleigh Jackson and his wife, and she would be spared.
Since I mentioned Gary Best in this context, I should name another person who excellently portrayed an open mind. Geoff Da Silva, head of GO-Invest under Jagdeo, never shunned me. For obvious reasons, he would not discuss politics, but he was open-minded to having conversations with me.
I know President Jagdeo was the worst offender in the history of Guyana’s presidency in these situations. A party official could lose his/her job if they were seen having a friendship with a critic or dissident, however thin and remote that relationship was under the Jagdeo presidency.
Many AFC persons I was close to are currently afraid to be seen with me. One of them specifically said if I’m writing about an incident that occurred on Sheriff Street, do not mention his name, just write that an AFC official was present. This is the kind of morbid political culture that dominated Guyana since the past seventy years.
I wish Gary Best the best of health. He is an APNU official, and that is of no concern to me. I wish he wasn’t in the predicament he is in. I would willingly be a character reference for him in a court of law. I mourn the loss of Jude Bentley, but I will not deny that I find Gary Best a nice human.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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