It’s amazing–and baffling at times–with what we Guyanese do with words, which, in long-time accepted English, have natural, traditional meanings.
But oh! Since language is dynamic, sometimes imprecise and flexible, we take it upon ourselves to contextualise words in our own culture and socio-political situations—or preference.
Propagandists, “Presidential” Writers, Ghost Columnists and David de Groot all have their (legitimate) functions. But look at what the Opposition Speakers and Writers are doing with the term “martyr”! Hammie Green must be darned proud!
On martyrs and martyrdom
I have long had cause to explore this concept of martyr and martyrdom. Especially when, years ago, I was asked to contribute to tributes to the 1948 Enmore Martyrs. A few paragraphs below, my personal conclusions are sure to upset, even infuriate, quite a few folks, frankly speaking.
Now the normal, the usual, the traditional definition and meaning of “martyr” goes along these lines: A martyr is one who suffers persecution then death for fighting all or most of his/her life for a deep cause held dear; for refusing to renounce a belief (which is usually religious or political.)
Various cultures, though sticking to the principled definition given above, would deem their heroes, their courageous, even suicidal witnesses and activists, martyrs. The Greeks probably “invented” the word. The early Christians expected believers to bear witness and to testify as to their Christian beliefs, even if it meant death. In that sense Jesus Christ was, of course, their primary Martyr.
Our (Guyanese) martyrs
After Guyana’s political and constitutional independence in 1966, the State’s leaders influenced both politicians and historians and writers and cultural activists to Guyanise our school’s literature to make the country’s history and heroes more known and relevant. Heroes certainly emerged: Kofi, Accabreh, Critchlow, D’Aguiar, Luckhoo, sportsmen, labour leaders and even one’s favourite politicians.
Then, oh boy, the turbulent sixties and the stolen elections threw up the new local “martyrs”. Political perspectives in societies such as Guyana’s certainly “created” partisan martyrs to satisfy political supporters, instead of objective history.
I appreciate that people have their right to justify beliefs and choices, to validate their descriptions, definitions and “qualification” of their own “martyrs”. However, the result could be a bigoted cheapening, devaluation and desecration of the status of true martyrs and martyrdom.
So if you have the Enmore, Michael Forde and Ballot Box martyrs, you must have the Son Chapman and Linden Electricity–hike martyrs. Would the Son Chapman passengers have remained on that on the boat if they knew bombs were on board? I suppose all politicians and their followers are entitled to their “personal martyrs”. Genuine, national and historical martyrs are something else, however. So you decide if on-the-spot, short-term, issue-specific protesters qualify. Election results and electricity hikes attract protesters, yes. But if and when they attract the ultimate end, is that martyrdom? I say embrace selfless heroes and courageous dissenters but do not cheapen martyrdom.
Frankly Speaking, my small circle of close friends will reveal that I don’t actually accept the 1948 Enmore five as martyrs. My reason? Next time. My own martyrs here, so far, are Quamina, Damon and those fellows who gave their votes in the Corentyne Ballot Boxes. Discuss…
(Then for endless sometimes manufactured martyrs, check out the young men in certain schools in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Arab world wherein those fellows (willingly) below themselves up to become martyrs in a waiting Paradise. With virgins!)
Philistines and profit first
The original Philistines were the warlike Palestinians who harassed Israelites. Then later, persons considered as uncultured, given to material common place pursuits only, came to be described as “philistines”. They, mind you, would regard themselves as pragmatic, realistic and business – like. Not coarse, gross or unmindful of aesthetics.
So what am I going on about? It’s one aspect of the daily deterioration of the Capital Georgetown into a huge Garbage Dump. Many city streets are now degraded and narrowed by unsightly obstructions. But big business holds swag in this desecration. One part of Quamina Street (west) accommodates fish freezers when the small man would have been prosecuted for obstruction. I’ve watched Middle Street (west of Camp) become a potato-and-onion commercial hub as big trucks encumber and even intrude outside the lovely Promenade Gardens.
Money talks, while the poor are prosecuted. Oh for and effective City government.
Try to quantify the millions lost through theft, squandermania and incompetence at the national level. For starters: the Amaila Falls “road”, the delay with the Chinese ferries, the Essequibo stellings, the quirks at Haags Bosch, the police boat, the water cannon, the colossal waste of money at High and Princes Sts (GT). Plus millions stole from government and para-statal entities.
How many mouths could have been fed? Shelters built
Entitled to mind-changing – Did the Brigadier Politician ever come out against one man leading the three groups? Did the Speaker not opt out of politics? And did not the WPA think-tank declare against “electoral” politics? How minds change!
As the Inter-Guiana Cultural Festival looms in 20 days time, could the Berbician traffic cops stop hassling Surinamese drivers for “a raise”? Festival officials have been harassed!
Is it true? Palm oil is used in some generators in the hinterland?
Happy Birth Anniversary Major B.
Til next week!
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