Loud touts at the international airport at Timehri, and at bus parks in Georgetown, present a graphic picture of the social decay afflicting our Guyanese nation.
At the airport, touting is a particularly disgusting practice. Where else in the Caribbean or the world do we see international travellers subjected to such haranguing harassment?
Airport managers fuel the touting problem because they refuse to allow travellers to push their baggage carts to the parking lot.
We could solve the airport touting problem with a simple solution: allow passengers to transport their luggage in those airport carts to vehicles in the parking lot, and have airport janitorial staff retrieve the carts.
We need an urgent solution to the airport touting crisis because the first thing a visitor to our land sees is this devastating social decay that has spawned the tout sub-culture.
Many of these touts suffer from semi-literacy, gross poverty, alcohol or narcotic addiction, and also mental health problems.
As a society we not only need to care for such people, but we also must insulate the nation from the effects of our social degradation.
The social decay this nation suffers from today shows up in the touting sub-culture, which is the worst of the ghetto mentality, and in conscienceless petty robbers on the streets of the capital city.
There’s the unsightly parade of mentally challenged individuals living in the Market zones of the city.
The sight of the community of touts and street robbers, along with those alarming pockets of inner-city ghettos like the shantytown of West Ruimveldt, leaves our nation depressed, frustrated and with a helpless feeling of incompetence.
Since political Independence, all those decades ago, our nation has been falling into the abyss of this devastating social quagmire, where today generation after generation of touts and street robbers harass their fellow citizens. We now accept this as part of our culture, just the way things are, with no need to eradicate such ills.
At the city bus parks, already nasty with garbage and strewn litter, these touts, loud and cussing and filled with aggressive adrenalin, bully potential passengers.
Faced with such sights every day, and with the fear of walking our city streets in safety, citizens suffer from this depressing environment.
How inept are we that we cannot manage this socially degraded sub-culture?
Then again, whose responsibility is it to clean up this mess? We might blame the government, and definitely poor governance lies at the heart of this nation’s continuing demise.
But, in the face of this lack of having government officials of vision and conscience, what are we to do as citizens? Could we do anything about the social state of our society?
Each person in this land could take personal responsibility to act with wisdom and sense to make a difference in his or her community.
Those individuals who fall into the ghetto communities, or who choose to become touts at the airport and bus parks, need the kind of leadership that would give them hope and new direction.
Human nature being what it is, most people feel helpless and lost unless someone with that gift for leadership stands up to make a difference. At one time this was the role of our teachers and church leaders.
Our society seems to lack these leaders today.
With a brain drain close to 90 percent of the skilled pool of Guyanese, this nation suffers from poor leadership. We see it in Government every day. But it ripples across the entire society.
Where are the role models?
We could all find lots of positive, uplifting stories to tell about our people. But while we are telling positive stories, touts pull and tug at our fellow citizens and international travellers, fostering a culture of public bullying.
As much as we tell the nice stories, we must also face the devastation in pockets of our society, and seek to clean up those areas. Just like finding dirt in one’s house and taking a broom and mop to clean it up, one has to correct the social deformities that handicap our nation.
There are plenty of good stories to tell – of Faith Harding and her Quick Impact Project; of Annette Arjoon-Martins and her Mangrove Restoration Project; and countless others – citizen initiatives working to make a defining difference.
For every one of those dear souls among us, however, thousands fall through the cracks, touting, going stark raving mad, drowning their despair in alcohol and narcotics, beating their kids or spouse.
Too many Guyanese suffer today. We cannot ignore that fact.
Every Guyanese could embark on a journey of self-development, as indeed many have and continue to do.
But for the fallen individual to get to that point of epiphany, of that consciousness and realization that self-responsibility and self-empowerment are real possibilities, a leader, a mentor, a coach, a caring person must light the first spark. It could be a word of encouragement, a hand of help, or a solid sacrifice for another person.
Whatever form it takes, we as a nation must foster and cultivate ourselves to see our fellow citizens for their potential. We must see a tout, a homeless person, a poor ghetto soul in West Ruimveldt, a beggarly vendor hawking mango in the blistering midday sun in the middle of Water Street, a half naked teen robber on an old bicycle looking for food by robbing citizens on the street, as a human being lost and in need of guidance.
Government fails to see citizens in this light. So we must care for each other. We must reach across social divides to cultivate our individual possibilities and potential.
If one by one, we would reach out to such souls as a loud, disgusting airport or bus park tout, with the goal of contributing to his consciousness, and his awakening to his innate possibilities, we would build this nation ground up, thus empowering our citizens, one by one.
We re-design the social landscape one person at a time, empowering a mind, a soul, an individual, with words of power, individual to individual, like, in fact, the relationship between writer and reader.