Harriet Sarah Tropp Memo on Uglification of Jonestown

To: Jim
Subject: The uglification of Jonestown
From: Sarah

I hope this doesn’t sound like an “I told you so” document but here goes.

Before we started the fiasco of beautifying Jonestown for upcoming guests, advice was given on several different occasions, advice that was the product of several meetings and consultations with people who have lived here for several years, as well as Guyanese, to the effect that any attempt to fix the road or haul pines in for the paths would only result in a worsening of the situation if done during the rainy season.

Notwithstanding this advice, we decided to go ahead (and I certainly participated in that decision) and try it anyway because – Dad wants it done – and “there must be a way.” Well, there wasn’t a way. If you look at the road now, it is worse looking than when we started. If you look at the area by the garden shed, you will see we have managed to put manganese pines on a path that didn’t look bad in the first place, at the expense of destroying what was once one of the prettiest parts of the project. We just may be able to haul enough dirt in there to patch it up, but probably not before [Don] Freed comes, and certainly it will not be done properly because of the weather. We have created more ugliness in the attempt to beautify, simply because we went against all the experience and sound advice regarding such projects being attempted in the rainy season. (It was pointed out, as well, that the manganese would result in a mess from being tracked all over the place in the wet weather. Again we ignored that advice.)

I think the above just serves to highlight a problem we have in decision making. That is, if you say you want something done, we ignore any advice we’ve been given and we go against our own judgment, and go ahead. I know you think that this should not be, but despite what you may think about it, this is what happens. We may raise objections, but naturally, because we all follow the proceedure [procedure] of collective decision-making, once a decision is made, even if the wrong one, we try to make it work. But the truth of the matter is that no matter how much you, me, or anyone wants something to happen, there are times when it cannot be done because of objective conditions.

The cardinal objective condition in the tropics is the weather. You can’t fight it. I’m sorry if any of this sounds intemperate, but I am extremely upset at the ugly mess I see we’ve made of this project, especially with guests coming. And it was all unnecessary, if we’d just followed advice.

All of this coming on top of the legal mess (which we created for ourselves by opening our fat mouths on the radio) really has me upset. I mean, we can kick ourselves about it now, but I know that the next time a similar situation comes up – where its [it’s] a choice between a phone call and passing sensitive legaal [legal] stuff over the radio – you, we, will opt for putting it over the radio. And think we can make it O.K. by coding it. Bullshit. I think the essence of the problem, or at least one aspect of it, is that no one is willing to oppose your opinion in certain matters. And I frankly think that some times you are wrong, and no one is willing to say so. I realize this is quite a volatile statement, but I think it is one factor in the dynamics of how this organization functions that gets us in trouble.

Well, enough.