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Commentary: To err is human indeed
Published on March 29, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Phillip Edward Alexander

Minister of the People Dr Glenn Ramadhar Singh said to the nation in his apology for losing his cool with a Caribbean Airlines employee on a flight to Trinidad that to err is human, to forgive divine, and it is that I want to touch on.

What could he mean?

What did he mean?

Phillip Edward Alexander is a social and political activist, a feature writer and columnist, the founder of the Jericho Project and the chairman of the Citizen's Union of Trinidad and Tobago
First let’s go back to the genesis of the quote, to its author, renowned poet Alexander Pope, whose actual statement was - To err is HUMANE, to forgive divine, and while the modern day bastardisation of humane to human has no real difference, it is ironic that even the quote the speaks it into being is itself a victim of an error. Life can be funny that way.

Pope himself did not create the phrase “to err is human.” That’s the traditional English translation of the ancient Latin proverb “Errare humanum est.” However, by adding “to forgive, divine” he did create the longer saying that is still commonly used and adapted for both serious and humorous purposes.

The usual meaning ascribed to Pope’s version is that every human can make a mistake, so we should forgive those that do, just as God is said to show his divine mercy in forgiving sinners.

So back to the honourable minister who, by his own admission, made a mistake and he asked for forgiveness. Now how human is that? And how laudable in a public figure? Among my other well known and legendary skills I am a communications specialist, and people in his position tend to seek out people like me to make such problems go away. And I could have. Trust me, the story carried in the paper was such a non-story when I was finished with it not only would he have been forgiven, he might have been knighted.

But not young Dr Ramadhar Singh. Insisting on living by the standards he set for others to follow, the goodly doctor owned up to his mistake and apologised. For his humanity. Because he was tired. And perhaps did not have the patience to deal with one more stupid problem for the day and perhaps the weighted attitude contained in the instructions to him was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Who knows?

But he manned up.

He stepped into the light and said yes, I lost my cool, I behaved in a less than exemplary fashion and I take ownership of it. I am sorry. He rubbished the sensational claims added to the original injury and even the victim agrees that the part with the badge and the breast brushing is rubbish, yet the rubbish is what is being given hay in the media.

Are they too making a deliberate mistake? Was the Express headline sensational nonsense designed to sell papers? Probably. But can you blame them? The news cycle is soft. The country is being so properly run, four years of positive economic growth, crime and criminal enterprise collapsing, police men have become the nation’s heroes, public sector delivering to private enterprise standards and quality, yada, yada, yada. Can you imagine what it must be like to be a news editor in times when little if anything is going wrong?

And then there’s Captain SOPO David Abdullah, marching around his failed political career for years, and marching still. Going nowhere fast, this weekend he called a congress of the MSJ to vet his undemocratic selection yet again to the post of leader for life, and 17 people showed up. One would think that, because of his lengthy experience at preaching to the choir, he would be a pastor by now. No mistakes in your past needing forgiveness, David?

Perhaps not, you who are so holy, like your partner in crime Kirk Waithe, who the head of a large national industry had to publicly admonish for his own past failures, mistakes and transgressions, how much his own history is littered with things that needed forgiveness for him to not only have a voice, but even a career.

Now for this simple transgression of losing his cool, Kirk Waithe says Glenn must go? Double standard much, Kirk? What would you have asked for if he had bounced a check? Hanging by the neck until dead?

They say when you set out on a journey of revenge first dig two graves and I think it is this wisdom that has kept young Dr Ramadhar Singh in his crease. He has asked for forgiveness, and he is forgiving those who are using his human-ness to make kuchoor in his life.

To err is human, to forgive divine.

Perhaps we could all learn a lesson or two here….
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