That Guyanese zest for life

Despite that cynical gloom that shrouds this nation in languid apathy, one detects a wonderful sense of aliveness, of energy and a zest for life among Guyanese.

In the villages of Berbice, in the urban markets, and on the streets of our city and towns – all across this country, people ignore the political state of play and live their lives with gusto.

In communities such as Diamond and Grove on the East Bank of Demerara, one senses deep optimism among people. In fact, this area may be the frontier of a new Guyana, more in tune with a 21st century society.

Places like Eccles, Providence and villages along the West Bank and East Coast Demerara mirror this optimism.

The new building at Camp and Regent streets in Georgetown, with the big-screen wrap-around TV and glass walls, mirrors the new architecture of modern, high-tech cities.

From the looks of things, the country advances despite the political swampland it struggles to conquer.

The private sector, the sunny disposition of the average person, that raw energy of a Guyanese nation free to pursue economic gain: these may finally be starting to sprout a new energy.

After decades of a hardened ground, where we saw private initiative stifled and suffocated, our nation seems on the brink of unleashing its entrepreneurial energy.

Everybody is on a hustle. Everywhere across the land the dream of material gain is taking a solid foothold, and young and old are starting to stir themselves to new things.

This zestful energy among the people, despite the political state of play and the crime situation, is almost an anomaly and definitely a paradox. People seem not to care at all that their Government wastes billions of dollars every year, that the Auditor General’s report continues to chronicle massive financial irregularities, some bordering on blatant fraud.

People ignore what happens with their VAT dollars. They just live and make-do and laugh and play and enjoy their lives.

In fact, Berbicians went about their days oblivious to the recent Agricola protests. People ignore the official side of things, with many not even reading the newspapers or listening to radio anymore.

The people watch TV, but with a healthy scepticism and much humour. They plug into social media with their smartphones, and share on Facebook. That’s the new sense of community.

In fact, a new community on social media now spawns, involving the Diaspora and local folks in villages across the country.

In this way, this society transforms itself, but from ground up. The people, free to carry on their “hustle”, with aid through remittances, seem to be building independent lives, unshackled by a State machinery that toys with their welfare.

The political apathy gives way to a kind of local energy, where life is not about the country or the community, but the individual, and family.

One might interpret this nonchalance as lack of caring, or mark it off as deep-seated apathy, as a protest against the fractured political leadership of the country. But replacing it is that individual zest for life, a kind of personal hope in the future, rather than a national hope.

In fact, people on the street feel a sense of helplessness in relation to their government, and especially Parliament. But that sturdy Guyanese spirit shrugs off the feeling, and folks just enjoy their days.

The Auditor General’s Annual Report of massive ongoing State abuse of the national treasury fails to ignite a spark of concern among the citizenry.

People laugh at Government’s crazy embrace of pirated text books for the public education system, identifying it as Government incompetence and lack of leadership ethics, but not really taking these things seriously.

The political Opposition and some civic groups protest loudly the atrocious wrongs going on in this land. But the people just throw their hands in the air, laugh the State abuses away, and go about their lives.

Of course, many find day to day living bearable and easy because of cash remittances from overseas relatives, and quite a lot of folks just wait it out for their papers to process so they could migrate.

But our nation is so relaxed. We refuse to allow the poverty and the dilapidated state of our society in so many areas to get us down.

Even in depressed communities like West Ruimveldt, Albouystown, Linden and New Amsterdam, Guyanese live life loudly – laughing, carefree, full of social energy.

The touts at the airport and public spaces like the minibus parks seem to enjoy what they do, as humanely degrading as it may look to others.

Strong, muscled men pushing carts full of produce through the markets enjoy their jobs, sharing jokes, laughing with others, constantly on a hustle and bustle. Yet it seems to be such hard, menial and laborious work.

This quality of the human being to settle into a routine and find contentment and satisfaction comes across very strongly all over this land. We see people in the hardest of lives enjoying their days.

It’s what makes this nation go on. This energy, this innate ability to shrug off the hardships and the brutal injustices and social ills, this ability of the individual to face life and its challenges, marks us as a resilient people. We are a people with a spirit to conquer.

Maybe because we had to rise from slavery and indentureship, of servant labour, we learned how to make the best of a bad situation.

Maybe we have built into our Guyanese genes this fortitude to rise above whatever we face, and conquer, to become victorious, to be a winner in life.

In this spirit, we feel the future is close, that the so far elusive dream of a prosperous Guyanese homeland is inevitable, a nation alive with a people strong and vibrant and full of laughter and energy, ready to play a dynamic role in the 21st century global village.

We face serious challenges, especially with such alarming literacy levels in the public education system. But even this we solve with our private-school system. For we face the future confident that we   are winners, and in that belief we enjoy life to the utmost.


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