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We should not fear a big idea

Stand up for yourself: Jamaican-born black nationalist Marcus Garvey

“Aim for the stars and land on the moon”

I was involved in a recent initiative with a group of men and we were given a task. Not oddly and true to life, if there is a group of 20, you can have 20 different ideas as to how to scale the mountain or build an arc of safety. The ideas will come big and small, with some insisting we must start small and only then gradually and incrementally make bigger steps, because in their view there needs to be a show of success.

Otherwise put, “fear of failure” or avoid the reputation of having failed. The statement “go out there and fall on your face” means nothing to the cautious.

There will always be the minority view of aiming big with no thought of failure, in spite of visible odds. In our diversity, we each carry behavioural patterns that guide our response to challenges and even conflict. A glaring recent example of this phenomenon is the state of the old airport and the awarding of a contract that seemed to benefit a company profile and a profitable sale, which has now generated lots more controversy.

The issue with the airport did not begin in 2014; the question of its relevance, solvency and scope has been with us for much longer. There have been thoughts and ideas, great and small, as to what should have been, or what options lie as its possibilities. The ideas range from doing nothing to building it bigger and better. The resolve was going to rest with who will decide its outcome and to whose voice should we listen for creditable guidance.

As usual the “Pied Piper” blew his horn and the music gained the necessary rhythm that caught the ear of the finance minister, who alone had the power to select the tune.

Did it matter that there might have been better ideas afloat? Or can we even admit that there were possibly better ideas afloat?

Of course, better is an unknown quantity and who is to say that, in spite of what we perceive of the deal and the recent turn of events, that this present scenario may not turn out to be a gem in disguise?

China Communications Construction International is a large entity and the relationship, if massaged properly, can have spillover benefits. Yet still there will remain the saga of local ownership and whether a local enterprise could have developed the airport and retained much more of the benefit and profits, making our economy stronger.

There will be those who understand that even if a local group did the development under a proviso that absolved the Government of any financial obligation, there still would have been a cost for the money, all of which would have been foreign in any event.

However, the issue of who benefits most, would have been tied to the type and condition of financing. Additionally, it would depend on the concept of the airport and how it was to be used.

Here is where the item of thought — big or small — matters, whether the idea for use was simply a repair operation, keeping what had already existed, or a new idea, giving our airport greater viability, relevance and use for the 21st century.

Like the little group experience that I got involved in that rejected grander thoughts and tilted towards doing something small but ultimately mediocre, it was like the story of the squealing elephant, who after much labour and travail — when the zookeepers were expecting a whopper from this delivery after months of torturous pregnancy — gave birth to a mouse, falling well below expectation.

In a similar vein, our own belittling of ourselves, because we cannot appreciate thoughts considered as “too big” when faced with a challenge, has handed an opportunity to others who used the same available funding groups to benefit their own design. What we gained could hardly resemble a mouse in proportion.

Do we fault them? Heck no. I remember even Marcus Garvey saying: “If you don’t want to stand up for yourself, don’t blame me or anyone for standing on you.”

The proverbs “strain at a net (small flies) but swallow a camel” and “build elaborate guard rails to protect the backyard from the foxes and wolves, but the lions and tigers can run free on the front lawn” are indicative of how we scrutinise ourselves but fall absolute prey to the accent of a stranger.

Can we turn what looks as though we were done over into a benefit? Yes but not through belligerence. It will cost us more now because bureaucracy moves so slowly and, as yet, we haven’t learn to trust skill. When we do, or if we do, we shall succeed.

Until then, we will continue to be taken and the benefits that should be our natural heritage will be seen and seized by others while we squabble and wait, or, worse, pursue small and trivial ends out of narrow self-interest and maintain fear of the big idea.