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A state of ordered disorder

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

I am convinced that one of the key differences between so-called “developed” and “developing” countries is the level of studied precision applied to decision-making and the degree of orderliness in doing so.

In the process of considering this, we may wish for the moment to put aside factors of GDP, technological development and socio-political sophistication, because they can confuse the situation.

If we use wealth creation as a variable, for example, the potential for obfuscation becomes abundant because it would not make sense that a country such as ours should have generated so much revenue over the years and yet remained so embedded in the slop-pail of mediocrity.

Access to new technologies can also skew the situation, since we all know that having the means to achieve precision does not guarantee its achievement.

Steelbands have always been able to synchronise melodies, rhythms and harmonies in the absence of scripted scores. It has helped that more and more of their music is now written, but what we heard at the Savannah on Sunday defied the belief that greater orderliness is the exclusive domain of the written score.

The advanced nature of the democratic process is also no sure-fire way of guaranteeing a great degree of informed, logical decision-making. Read the international news to get what I mean.

But nowhere are we recognising, in both our private and official affairs in T&T, an adherence to the guidelines for successful human conduct that aim at accuracy, precision and orderliness in what we do.

Now, there is well-known robotic application of this principle in public service circles. Sterile pedantry that leads to inaction and an inability to convert ideas nto action.

Okay, so far this has been a parable. Let’s get into some recent examples of dangerous sloppiness. Let’s talk about President Anthony Carmona’s recent “typo”, which cannot at the same time have been a “cut and paste” since, if you “cut and paste”, there is no real typing to be done.

As usual, some lesser mortal, in this case a “typist” is being blamed. Poor man/woman. This was no trivial issue. It had to do with an appointment to one of the most important institutions of our democracy—the Elections and Boundaries Commission. The prime minister’s response to what reached his desk was understandable outrage, though it might have helped if a check and a double-check had been made to get to the bottom of what turned out to be grossly misleading official correspondence bearing the seal of the presidency.

Much, much more is demanded of us journalists and we are often pilloried for not practising from the journalism of verification to the art of spell and grammar checking. We take even more regular (justifiable) flak for our own “typos” and “inaccuracies” since this is a business founded on credibility and people are entitled to expect better. We, in turn, expect better from public officials.

In this age of much more aggressive, inquisitive and independent journalism than we have ever witnessed—tell me another time when so many journalistic revelations have led to official action—it is a fact that we simply cannot allow the state of national sloppiness to characterise our own work.

Now, let’s deal with the Police Service Commission, about which we will read and hear much more in the coming days and weeks. What the hell was that?Thanks to journalism (again), we are now much more

aware of what transpires in the hallowed and cloistered halls of officialdom, but heaven knows what has been happening there over the many years.

There we were, thinking that super-professionals of the highest integrity, knowledge and experience were minding the store on our behalf, making well-informed decisions based on clinical examination of people, places and things we, regular humans, take for granted.

Service commissions were introduced as a constitutionally-protected check on political excesses and influence and to serve as a guardian over the public interest. Instead? Confusion and bacchanal.

However much we might be distracted by the current season of ordered disorder and mindless excess, it is important to keep at least one foot rooted to the ground. Ash Wednesday comes faster than we think.


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