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We must be patient, we must be tolerant...

Anthony Gomes

Wednesday, September 19, 2012    

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In today's fast-moving globalised world, a quick appreciation of the deteriorating Middle East situation has to be weighed, considered, and assessed, and after a clear understanding is reached, the decision must be made to follow through. It takes a strong character to announce the decision and a stronger one to follow through in the face of opposition, when the subject of the decision is deemed to be deeply unpopular. That is when greatness becomes a reality.

The famous adage,: "He who hesitates is lost" is the more common response when desperation is involved, however, particularly in military and dire business situations. Alas - procrastination, vacillation and hesitation permeate the decision makers the world over, including the most economically advanced countries including Jamaica. A widely used "deflection" is applied by many when being questioned on sensitive matters, that is, when the question is put, the respondent says: "That's a very good question". Such a gratuitous complement is hardly necessary, but it allows the respondent to hesitate and think of an answer, which is the real reason for its use.

In the realm of the most sensitive national and international situations, such as the killing of Osama bin Laden, decisions have to be taken in the strictest secrecy to protect the lives of those involved. Those who disregard this caution can in some cases be guilty of high treason, as alleged with Julian Assange of Wikileaks, because the top-secret intelligence released into the public domain has endangered the lives of those whose job it is to covertly gather such material on behalf of the state. At this level of decision making, vacillation can result in the loss of valuable lives.

At the commercial and industrial level, the consequences of being unpunctual are more serious and can lead to being uncompetitive in a market-driven environment. The Japanese, who also experience typhoons and traffic congestion, are very conscious of this, particularly where it affects production scheduling and completing orders on time. Consider their technique of "just-in-time inventory" which necessitates the arrival of materials exactly when required by the process. Late arrival or non-arrival in these circumstances can have disastrous consequences throughout the entire chain of sequential events, not to mention financial penalties.

Japan annually celebrates Time Observance Day started in the year 671 by Emperor Tenchi and observed on the 10th day of June for the last 1031 years or so. Since then, punctuality and the observance of time has become ingrained in the Japanese culture, to the point where each child is taught in school and at home the value and correct use of time. A recent example of unpunctuality is the case of both the Airbus and Boeing aircraft companies which sustained severe penalties for delivery delays of their new aircraft, the Airbus 380 Super Jumbo and Boeing's "Dreamliner".

Ian McDonald, eminent Guyanese author and newspaper columnist, recalls his father's three propositions on punctuality as follows: "Of all treasure, time is the most precious"; "Procrastination is the thief of time", and "Punctuality is the courtesy of kings". "My father abhorred unpunctuality. It wasted time, it denoted inefficiency, it was disrespectful and discourteous in the extreme, and it was a mark of the lackadaisical and the slap-dash." He continued: "The social psychologist, Robert Levine, who had devoted decades to studying people's ideas about time, suggests that cultures can be divided into those which live on event time, where events are allowed to dictate people's schedules, and those who live on clock time, where people's schedules dictate events. Countries that live on clock time are more successful economically than those which do not."

As the story goes, other great decisions of the last century which reconfigured today's world, transpired, for example, when the great American General Douglas McArthur, having crossed the 38th parallel in South Korea and driven the North Korean and Chinese forces across the Yalu River into Manchuria, requested Washington's permission, with this initiative, to push on forward into China and without hesitating, procrastinating or vacillation he was unceremoniously discharged from his command. The Korean War came to an end shortly thereafter.

Similarly, the Allied invasion of Europe in WWII, which allowed the Russian Red Army to enter Berlin first, heralded the end of the war, with the surrender of German Forces to another great British general, now Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, aka "Monty". With his battle-weary 21st Army Group after a victorious North African campaign, which defeated German Field Marshall Irwin Rommel, aka "The Desert Fox", but still full of fighting spirit, he proposed to the Allied Supreme Commander, American General Dwight Eisenhower, and the British Government's Prime Minister that permission be granted to confront the Red Army and push forward into Russia to neutralise the observed ambition of Joseph Stalin, to expand the Communist empire while his army was still war-ready. This, despite Montgomery's doctrine: "Rule 1 page 1 of the book of war, is: 'Do not march on Moscow'...rule 2 is: 'Do not go fighting with your land armies in China'. Again, Whitehall acted without delay and relieved Montgomery of his command.

Today we see hesitation, procrastination and vacillation looming large with the disastrous situation in Syria, and the other eight countries in the Arab Spring. If McArthur and Montgomery had been allowed to proceed, Al Qaeda probably would not exist and the Security Council would no longer be impotent.

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