Who is the greatest among you?

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It is difficult to miss our prime minister’s overwhelming preoccupation with wealth and wealth accumulation. There are multiple instances, since taking the reins of power, in which he espouses the benefits of money and having it multiplied many times over, through investments.
No one could accuse our prime minister of glamorising poverty. As a matter of fact, it would be incorrect to say that having been deprived of them, he is in fear of not having the finer things in life which only money; lots of it can buy.
Last week, in celebration of the milestone of reaching the age of 50, he attended the church of his childhood and relived the experience of the grinding poverty, which was his reality as a child.
According to the prime minister, he came close to dying three times. Being the child of a single parent, he often went to bed hungry. He declared his greatest struggle growing up was the issue of poverty.
“We lived right here in this community in abject poverty. We lived as the poorest among the poor — a home without electricity, water, furnishings or toilet facilities. On numerous occasions we had nothing to eat. I, at age nine, and my sister at age eight, we had to become creative to survive; we had to work hard. My sister became a child maid to get a meal to survive. I became the handyman for the community to earn a few cents daily in order to survive.”
Heartrending Indeed. But what do we make of this picture? Gaston Browne’s story is multiplied many times over across this country. People of a certain age would have grown up in an era where poverty, grinding poverty, was the order of the day. Going to bed at night without a meal was not, particularly, looked upon as out of the norm. Very few children of single parents would have had enough to eat, as their parents could hardly eke out a living.
The prime minister is justly proud, so he said, “that despite their circumstance, he and his sister never engaged in any immoral or illicit activities. “We lived a contented life”.
We are glad to note that the prime minister rose above his circumstances, like many others before and many after him would have done, refusing to succumb to temptation to engage in nefarious activities.
There is no disputing that being poor is not a desirable state of being. Thucydides, the Greek historian said: “An avowal of poverty is no disgrace to any man; to make no effort to escape it is indeed disgraceful.”
So Gaston Browne should be admired for eschewing the life he once knew, and for lifting himself up by his own bootstraps, so that today he could declare that he is worth $30 million.
We understand, indeed we do, from where he came. We believe though the words of a man who was revered for his humility and who came from the bowels of poverty: Robert Nesta Marley. He said: The greatness of a man is not how much wealth he acquires, but his ability to affect those around him positively.
The measure of the prime minister long after he would have left the seat would be how much good he has done for the many. The answer cannot lie in the opposite end of the spectrum. Continually being preoccupied with material wealth will weary one’s listeners. So will boasting and continuous harping. Taunting one’s opponents and flaunting one’s new-found wealth smacks of classlessness.
Rags to riches stories are a dime a dozen. These tales say nothing about the quality of one’s character, or the generosity of the spirit or one’s mettle or fortitude in the face of adversity.
One of the traits for which the former prime minister was admired, even by his detractors, was his humility. He was often referred to as the ”chief servant”. This speaks volumes of how he saw his role as prime minister.
The Good Book is replete with what it considers to be the actions of people who are leaders. St Mark says, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” We would have to stretch our imagination more than a bit to recognise this dictum to be the current post holders’ mantra. All his pronouncements, to date, suggest otherwise.

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