Belize will remember that when PM Barrow appointed his ex-wife, Lois Young, to head our defense in some major cases, he declared that she was hired because she was the best in Belize. Again, when he hired his brother, Denys, to defend Belize in some major cases, he declared that his brother, who had returned to Belize from employ abroad, was the best Belize had. One common factor, besides being closely related to him, was that both were in private practice. Of course, another common factor might be that they indeed WERE the best we had.
Many Belizeans thought that the lead defenders of national interests should have been public employees. Belize has a battery of lawyers that are paid from the public purse. It definitely would have been much cheaper, up front, for the defense to be public servants. But, were they competent to do the job?
There is the established practice, since Independence, in cases that involve the government and/versus business people from foreign places, that lawyers in private practice play the lead roles. We are made to understand this is a legitimate practice because lawyers in private practice are better than those who serve the government. The contention is that if you become good at what you do, and you are in public employ, you WILL soon enough quit the 8 to 5 and the guaranteed 15th and ending. Clearly, the argument goes, if you remain in public employ, it is mostly bikaazn you carry a pretty ordinary candle.
There is this anecdote in the Don Camillo series (novels by Giovanni Guareschi), in which Don Camillo, the Catholic priest, and Peppone, the communist mayor, find common ground. It was discovered that a young man in their village, a bicycle hound, had more knowledge about the sport than aficionados in the city. They discovered this because there was a contest in the city, and many villagers used to gather around the sole radio in the village to listen in. Every time the contestants got stumped, their boy had the answer. They thought that this boy would do the village proud if they got him to enter the contest.
Peppone and Don Camillo thought that the lucrative prizes and the chance for regional fame would have got the young hero on the bus to the city. They were both wrong. The young man was totally disinterested. The young man’s drive to know everything that there was to be known about cycling came from a passion for knowledge for the sport he loved, not a passion for fame or material prizes.
It is accepted in the capitalist world that money is the prime motivator, that it is the pursuit of wealth that drives the human being to excel. This happens to be a false premise because passion, not material greed, is the prime motivator.
Without doubt, the more money you put in front of the ordinary person, the harder they will work. But this does not apply to the person of excellence. A person who is passionate about excelling is not necessarily influenced by money. That is why there is no sure winner when the selfish person of excellence and the selfless person of excellence meet on the battlefield.
Cuba wouldn’t have worked, couldn’t have worked, if all motivation comes from the pursuit of personal gain. There were people in that country who strove because they wanted to serve. Excellence is not the domain of the selfish. Of course, the perfect solution is to create an environment where the best of whichever leaning, give their best.
Are there lawyers and doctors and engineers and agriculturists in our public sector who are every bit as talented as those in private employ? If there are, will they put in the necessary hours to defend us? Will they burn the midnight oil into the wee hours of the morning so that Belize becomes a better place? Absolutely!
In the very subjective world of ballplayers and songsters/musicians, very often it is money that validates their status. To be the highest paid means you are the best. But we shouldn’t concern ourselves with that narrow world. There are people who are driven by service. These people get more satisfaction working for the collective than working for themselves. You know them. Just say you need their help and they are there.
Jesus Christ is the best example of such a person. He was asked to choose between mammon and service. It was no contest. The devil couldn’t believe his ears. Mammon wasn’t Jesus’ high, service was. And boy did he live up to his calling! There was a time when Jesus had bread and fish. He did not sell the bread and fish and put the money in a personal bank account. He shared the bread and the fish with the people.
We could go on in this vein but we’ll leave that off for now. If you read June Heusner’s excellent book about her grandfather, The Life, Times and Legacy of Dr. Karl Stanislaus Heusner, you get the sense very quickly that Dr. Karl’s primary motivation was healing, not accruing material goods. He dedicated his research to finding affordable tropical remedies for diseases in tropical countries. Many of his medicines, for this, for that and for tara, were made from local herbs.
My uncle, Roy Belisle (RB), told me this story from the files of Dr. Karl, a story about a woman who exhausted his pharmacy and his kindness. She was a difficult one, had him at his wits’ end. Doctor Karl prepared his best medicines for her. Nothing did her any good. The woman got her medicine and she always came back and always it was: “Dakta, A feel bad”. No matter how good and sincere you are, there’s a person out there who can make you sin your soul. Dr. Karl Heusner had found that person.
Dr. Heusner was tired a she. He said whenever he saw her coming, his day spoil. One day Dr. Heusner looked out his window and saw Miss Ruin His Day coming up the street toward his office. She exasperated him, and this day he just didn’t have the patience to deal with her.
Before she settled in the seat in front of him, before she could begin her cry tale of pain and suffering, Dr. Heusner jumped on the offensive. “I found out what your problem is”, he said he told her, “and I have the cure”. Dr. Heusner exited the room and went to his lab. He got a clear bottle and filled it with water from his little vat. He added a little food colouring, until the water turned a rich pink. He then returned to his patient, with his concoction.
“This is your cure; guaranteed,” Dr. Heusner told her. “I stake my reputation that this is the medicine for you. Read the instructions and follow it to the letter. One teaspoon in the morning after breakfast, and one before you go to bed at night. This is the end of your problems. Don’t bother to come and see me again because this bottle is your cure,” he said.
Some days later, just when the medicine had run out, Dr. Heusner looked out the window of his office and saw his horror story coming up the street. He was feeling plenty guilty for how he treated her. No matter the patient or the situation, that was no way for a doctor to behave. Before she settled in her seat, Dr. Heusner said, “I’ve been thinking a lot about your problem, and I think…”
Miss Ruin His Day interrupted: “Dakta”, she said, “remember that medicine you gave me the last time I was here?”
“Y-y-yes,” Dr. Heusner stammered, “Don’t worry, I…”
“I want another bottle of that medicine”, Miss Ruin His Day said. “The very same”.
“What?” Dr. Heusner said. “That medicine? How it make you feel?”
“Dakta”, Miss Ruin His Day said, “since I tek that medicine I have neva feel betta.”