It was the end of an ordinary day, when a most ordinary woman made a decision. This woman, the kind that is easily ignored, took a stand that galvanized a revolution, and gathered the downtrodden. Her actions were prompted by a recognizable human condition: she was too tired. She was too tired of the official squeezes, the institutionalized insults, the social degradations. She was too tired of lots of other things, but these will do for now. Her tiredness became the spark that surged into a resistance of the spirit, the flame that crackled into a collective call for change in a saga that still resonates.
It will be 55 years on December 1 since Rosa Parks refused to move, to shrivel before the wrath of the oppressor. On that fateful day, she took the first step toward a hard-earned dignity and freedom redeemed under tremendous duress. It is a freedom which led to the opening of many doors, through which Guyanese have rushed in a ceaseless trek for justice, for equity, and for the most basic tenets of existence: decency and dignity.
She never saw herself as a heroine, much less an icon. But she became one; the right woman at the right time, at a point and place that desperately needed such a figure. Is there such a one in this place called Guyana?
In 2010 Guyanese travel on that bus with her. Like her, they are tired and troubled. They are hungry too, and worn to the bone from the drudgery of unrelenting circumstances, and a remorseless environment. As never before, it is time to take a stand against the oppressive; to refuse to move; to demand respect; to agitate for change.
The suffering and scorned must ask themselves how much longer will they retreat to the back of the Guyanese bus? How many times more? How long will they toil at the bottom of the pit? How much longer?
Remember that mantra from another time: “There is a time for righteous anger; a time to stand up and a time to step out. That time is now.” There are no shortcuts, and no easy way; for the encircling arms of those who suffocate will be waiting with uniformed and official harassment, crude intimidation, and new water cannons. In Guyana, officialdom grasps at the convenient ally of time through its promises to weaken resolve, break the back of resistance, and force capitulation.
Still, the time has come for Guyanese to decide which way it will be: same ole, same ole; or the first resolute steps towards an overdue political catharsis. Given our ingrained political traditions, movement appears to be more wishful thinking rather than breakthrough promise.
Upon close reflection, one has to wonder what it will take to shake the suffering, tired Guyanese masses out of their self-inflicted lethargy; to make them go forth and seize the change dangling in the wind. For how long will Guyanese simmer in stoic resignation at being left behind, at the bottom and on the outside? When will Guyanese grow tired of the psychological aggression that erodes individual dignity? Is it not time that the spine be stiffened, and that there be the realization that historically power is never given or shared, but taken? And that the well behaved don’t make history?
When is enough enough?
Here it is that retrenched workers scrape (‘catch… hand here and there’) to get by, and there is only indifference. Recent graduates are exhorted to understand that, “It cannot be that you’ll be satisfied with being on the fringe looking on… Nor can you be afraid to speak out… in whatever you do participate meaningfully.” But are these not the very things – the resigned satisfaction, the entrenched fear, and participation lacking in meaning or cogency – that have infiltrated the sinews of the dispossessed segments of society, whether mature or young, hopeful or frustrated? And yet… and yet, there is no tiredness with that which has degraded, even dehumanized. Enough is enough currently does not exist in the Guyanese psyche; it survives only in the fleecy trails of a tattered protest thinking and expression. When actual torture, believed spying, unpersuasive cover-ups, slipshod accounting, inquisition of opinion, and a steady stream of political obscenities results in an uncaring blankness, or only a grimace, then the back of the bus becomes not only the norm, but even acceptable and a way of life.
Guyana in 2010 is not Montgomery circa 1955 and its aftermath. Sure, there is the massive underclass of the poverty stricken, the demeaned, and the neglected. But there is also a contrarian tide as represented in the hordes of socially corpulent; those who have grown fat and unstirred from feasting on the fatted calf of illegitimacy and the insidious.
Theirs is the money revolution – a dirty, greasy one; and it lances any fervour, and betrays coalescence. In Guyana, there is no strength through struggle and unity through anguish. There are no Kings, no Parks, no beginnings in December.
A government rests confident that, when it brandishes clenched fists against unbowed society, and reduces people to non-persons, there will be no material reaction; there will only be sharp pronouncements from the usual quarters. And then nothing more of consequence until the next moment of passing outrage.
Our history has so psychologically maimed that there only remains the mechanical reflex of retreating and cowering in the comforts of anonymity and the non-confrontational. Nothing moves to the anger of resistance – not political thumbs in the eye, not knees to the groin. The irreversible stage of ‘enough is enough’ has not yet been reached. A sense of tiredness – choking and galling – eludes. Perhaps, it always will…