The local lunatic fringe

Thankfully, it is a not too heavily represented group; there is an inner core consisting of public superstars, and there is robust support from a ragbag phalanx operating behind the deep cover of barricades, some official, some scummy.  It is a heady, titillating presence: revealed political ambitions; entrenched power hunger; assorted allegiances; and visceral hostilities.

The leading members of this group are united by common threads – some aspire to be king, others revel in the role of kingmaker, and some find it increasingly harder to relinquish giving up kingship.

For starters, and to clear the air, it would be better to identify who they are not.  They are not the closet racists within the major parties, or the diehard, militant blocs which justify their existence by perpetually reliving old feuds.  They are neither left wing nor right wing in stance; only somewhat flighty and flightless whether aground or afloat, and are sometimes indistinguishable from fellow clubmen at whom they rail and slash.

At last glance, the PNC brass somehow escapes inclusion in this rollicking brotherhood; and the same could be said for the AFC as currently constituted.  On the other hand, the PPP is very luminously – albeit sparsely – represented on several rungs; bulk and elevation are unmistakable.

It is just as unmistakable that members of this elite fraternity are a prominent part of the Guyanese political horizon.  The scornful might describe them as odd creatures: rambunctious, impressionable, irresponsible and, on occasion, extremely powerful.  Those inclined to be kinder, see political aberrations first generating passing fascination, then consternation.

Call them whatever is pleasing or politically correct; however, all these lovelies are serious characters who harbour strong ideas about governance; specifically, their part – prominently, of course – in such governance, be it as determined arrivistes or through slippery whispers involving controversial extension.

However looked at, these are sometimes dangerous men with dangerous aspirations.  They fit neatly into that observation of T E Lawrence: “All men dream but not equally… But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”  They are not only dreamers, but running men too; whether running towards the prize; running from repeated charges of legal demons; or running towards fulfilling family aspirations.

These dreamers, whether operating individually or in (re)packaged form, fancy themselves as pursuing a higher calling, and as agents of change.

There is some truth to the latter, for their ruckuses evoke alarm, and chase away fledgling centrists, fence-sitters, and moderates.

Together with their cheerleading brigades, they live off a hard-earned reputation for agitation, rumpus, men-about-town, and generalized noise nuisance.  Serious citizens do not take them seriously, and many wonder whether their elevators function on the top floor.  They are mostly seen as humour and part of “good gyaff” within the Guyanese entertainment complex.

From the leading men to the extras, all fight quixotic wars, old wars, old foes, and imaginary foes through adult tantrums.

In many respects they reflect some of the practised attributes of the already elected: There is too much air in the tires, too little connectivity in the engine head, and from where they hear clashing voices warning that the rest of the world is wrong, and only they can save it through their brand of rightness, as embodied in flaring polemics or outright nastiness.

The discerning is urged to look around to lofty plateaus, if this sounds familiar… When a keen gaze is directed at official circles, one has to question whether the paranoia so characteristic of the lunatic fringe has not taken up residence where the air is thin.

Notice that great care has been taken to avoid the use of such pejoratives as screwballs, nut jobs, or head cases. It is not necessary, as the individual records provide corroboration one way or another.  This is the charming bunch which either raises a chuckle, or the hair on the back of the neck.

But there are still others who clamour to be recognized; they refuse to be denied.  There is this other layer of extravagance – a second tier of third stringers lurking in the weeds.

They are boisterous, possess a radioactive vehemence, and cover a lot of territory: media, trade unions, and skewed political partisanship, to name the more bustling areas.  The media vigilantes, practised in ambush and assassination arts, launch arrows dripping with bellicosity against anything and everything not gaining their approval. Some are taxpayer funded, some are in the mainstream, and some shelter under technology cloaks.

Like Joseph McCarthy, they have never found an enemy that was not in need of beheading; or a stab in the back, of course.  It is scribbler hooliganism unleashed and at its best; old Manchester United riff-raff would have been proud.  These native superstars should heed the admonition of Nietzsche: “He who does battle with monsters needs to watch out, lest he become a monster himself.”

As if all of this is not enough, soon there will be the taxi drivers and a mélange of characters –usually from afar – who turn up around election season to wave momentarily the flag (usually with their own face on it), only to expire rapidly like warm beer.

Though one stayed and ended up with a healthy jackpot.  As is obvious, Guyana has had its share of bush tea parties long before the American one came of age.

Not to be forgotten is the high strung and headstrong progeny steeped in political pedigree and lore.  Some peculiar satisfaction is gained from displays of an unbalanced history underscored by enduring flakiness, and falling down and coming apart when matters get unsettled.

Those unlucky to be nearby resort to uttering cooing sounds to soothe a failed maternal project; one still harbouring Perkin Warbeck ambitions.  As Americans would say: some do not play with a full deck.

Last, for those chauvinists unwilling to recognize themselves in this pantheon of patriots, there is no need to worry.  Neighbours, strangers, and foreigners do, even as they retreat with distaste and a sense of foreboding.


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