Nostalgia, Heritage: The good old days?
What Integrity? Howie’s new houseIt’s escapist me again today. Avoiding our front-page daily, gory goings-on, I’ll wax somewhat “sentimental” again, briefly exploring issues hopefully still related to our collective Guyanese Soul. It’s risky to dwell too much on the past. It’s futile to try to bring back the memories of things as they were. But who could deny any aging generation their desire and wish to relive and reminisce all that they experienced in their days of yore. So it’s the nostalgia of old Guyana I mention now. You see as I contemplate if I’ll make the biblical seventy, I recall my youth and innocent interests. From my youth I was one for saving up photographs, newspaper-clippings, artifacts-memories of a grand-mother-grandson humble family history, replete with, during the teenaged years, old exercise-books serving as “diaries” or “journals”. As a student-teacher I did local history. Seemingly then, I appreciated the importance, need and joy with regard to preserving fragments of history - the personal reminiscences and nostalgia of childhood, of growing-up, the neighbourhood, the school, the older folks “oldies” and the recording of life - from the children’s story of Guyana to my own journey through life’s numerous pathways. Past sixty I am today and I muse continually on just how this present, computer/internet dotcom generation regards the reality or worth of their own past, the milestones of personal and societal development and, indeed, Guyana’s history. In truth, I’ve “biased” myself, perhaps based in informed reactions and observations, to conclude that, except for academic courses at school, today’s young Guyanese care little for history - or heritage. Today’s distractions, science and technology, conflict and death and their own preferences render them indifferent to the richness of the past. Am I wrong? Or can today’s under-thirties relate to the fact that all their modernity is founded on what obtained in that blurred past? Nostalgia, history and heritage I will argue that one’s appreciation of the past is predicated upon the values, even the morals inculcated from family, community and school. The worth attached to the old-time joy of hop-scotch, or the value of a penny of the past, or what a good tennis roll was, can only be truly appreciated by a young person taught, or who realizes, what it is (and was) to value every aspect of life itself. Are today’s youth equipped to so do? I ask again. Oh nostalgia! That sentimental yearning; that keen appreciation of some piece of a past, especially by those who lived it and are still around to reclaim it- always wishing it could be as it was then! From time to time, I tried to relay my feelings on the issue to our own maestro of memories- the late Godfrey Chin. Now Godfrey’s contribution to the preservation of our social history is phenomenal. Single-handedly, he has compiled, preserved and displayed historic photographs which recall, most vividly, the images of both our intimate and national past. But wait! It was his compilation of reminiscences of his mostly urban (Georgetown) life of the forties to seventies - titled nostalgia(s) - which captured the joy of local life lived. Especially the working class challenges, mishaps, triumphs, habits, celebrations; his accurate descriptions our old-time cook-shops, rum-shops, doctor-shops, laundries, games, characters, churches, etal. However, this is the contention that I would frequently raise with Godfrey: that his nostalgias were/are indeed gems of recollections; the emotional, sentimental expressions of living in colonial and post-colonial B.G., which living though tough, had romance and urban adventure in it, and to us, over fifty/sixty, was worth every minute. But, I would argue, the sentiment could never be wholly grasped or captured by today’s youth. The spirituality, the “soul”, the innermost responses to those memories have no meaningful connect to today’s generation. And that was or is not Godfrey Chin’s fault. It is that even when our youth finds some interest in our social past, their sentiments cannot accommodate re-living our experience. They really are not our audience, I would tell Godfrey; we are our own converted – witness to a past with our interpretation. What think you? *************** Heritage symbols of our past From time to time the National Trust of Guyana would mount exhibitions of “historic” photographs of Guyana. This trust is the official body tasked with preserving all national symbols of our heritage. The National Trust of Guyana recently mounted an exhibition titled historic photographs of Guyana. There were four sections of urban and rural sites landscapes, occupations and people of the 18th and 19th century. Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, speaking of “heritage preservation”, remarked that some pictures evoked fond memories of his childhood and inspired much reflection about our past and our progress. To me, Sunday Stabroek was the pioneer in publishing photos of, our nation’s past. “Down memory lane” is now “copied” by other local print media. That’s useful if our youth must learn from the past to inform their present and plan for the future. The same National Trust tells us that all our historical Monuments and Sites “express the collective goals, joys or sorrows of a nation”. And that the Trust is charged with ensuring the identification, protection, conservation and presentation of all monuments and sites for the present and future generations of Guyanese. The Trust does endeavour to promote awareness of our rich “historical aesthetic, ethnological and/or anthropological” past. Again, our parents and teachers must make time to influence our Guyanese young to see, understand and appreciate the values of these national physical symbols. Apart from telling inspirational stories of our past, they can and should represent our identity as a people preserving a nation in the international community on our planet. So, from personal or communal nostalgia to the more formal preservation of our national heritage, the writings, reminiscences, photographs, statues and other monuments and sites all contribute to the silent but exciting expression of who we are. Patriotic integrity? Or political integrity? Trust me friends, I’m going to attempt one of those full- length pieces on this subject. So I now merely provoke your interest with the next two paragraphs. Frankly speaking, I hold the view that too many are too quick to characterise certain politicians as persons of conscience and integrity when they finally “defect” from their political group to another especially if the new home is the opposition or when a politician just leaves his old party motivated by some stated principle – appreciated by an opposing interest. Could you really name me five local politicians of unimpeachable integrity? Where are they? Certainly one can accept that politicians and decision–makers have the right to change their parties and positions after reflection. But why do many wait to do so before or during some (election) campaign? Defections and crossovers are often used by contesting interests to hold up the “integrity” and “conscience” of the new patriots. No wonder an analytical letter – writer wondered recently how Moses Nagamootoo would have acted if his old, political – emotional home had acquiesced to his wish for some high electoral position. More on all this later, as I urge the wise(r) not to rush to crown politicians with any monarchial “integrity”. Howie’s new house Postponed to next week: all that Howard went through to stop squatting and get a house - lot. And what he endured after getting same just before building. And his working – class experience of building a new house and home for his family. Ponder… Diamond and dimon – Stabroek News has introduced us to the skullduggery and greed amongst British and American Bankers now. Insider trading and manipulation enrich a few whilst thousands of refugees suffer hunger. Back home thievery thrives – even among those appointed to protect, to regulate… Name three government ministers who are unapproachable, never wanting to share any information with those who elected them? The three Guianas festival is just 41 days away. Til next week. (Comments? email@example.com)
It’s escapist me again today. Avoiding our front-page daily, gory goings-on, I’ll wax somewhat “sentimental” again, briefly exploring issues hopefully still related to our collective Guyanese Soul.
It’s risky to dwell too much on the past. It’s futile to try to bring back the memories of things as they were. But who could deny any aging generation their desire and wish to relive …..To continue reading, login or subscribe now.