Mr. Khan’s letter should galvanize Guyanese Indians to start looking at themselves and decide who they are
I found the letter, `The Nigam concert and false consciousness’ by Romain Khan in your May 12, 2014 issue a splendid opportunity for scholars, commentators and politicians to comment on just who are the East Indians of this country, how have they evolved since their freedom from indentureship and what is the psychic content of these people.
While we have had a long list of African Guyanese people, of whom Walter Rodney stands out, that have looked at the pitfalls of African Guyanese existence, Guyanese Indians have not followed that tradition.
I think the term, “false consciousness”, is superbly relevant to understanding the lacerated psyche of Guyanese Indians, ironically more so the lower classes rather than the Indian middle strata. Space would not allow for this type of class analysis. The philosophical concept of “false consciousness” owes its popularity to Karl Marx who expatiated on it in his Book, “The German Ideology.” I found it the most relevant concept to analyze the practice of racial preference by the PPP Government over the last fifteen years in an academic paper for which I was sued for libel by President Jagdeo
I think one of the missing links (there were about two others) in Mr. Khan’s letter is that he did not apply the term in a holistic way but I am perfectly aware that Mr. Khan had to think about space constraints. But the usage of false consciousness in the study of the East Indians in Guyana since the PPP came to power in 1992 is a concept that if applied would yield tremendous scholarly potency
Mr. Khan’s letter should galvanize Guyanese Indians from wherever they are to start looking at themselves and decide who they are and what they want from Guyana. I refer the readers to my some of my work in this area; (1) “The Great Paradox in Guyanese Politics: Indian Attitudes towards the PPP and PNC.” UG Sabbatical Report 2004; (2) “Self-Reflection: Is there an Indian racism in Guyana.” Paper presented to the Inter-Guiana Conference, UG, 2005; (3) “Indian Attitudes: The Prospects for the 2006 Elections,” Paper presented at UG conference, 2006; (4) “Corruption and Decay in Guyanese Politics,” Cedric Grant and Mark Kirton (eds), Governance: Conflict and Conflict Resolution,” Ian Randall Publishers, Jamaica, 2007; (5) “Class Decay and Class Formation: The Case of Guyana.” Paper presented to the annual conference of the Guyana Historical and Research Society, National Library 2009; (6) Ethnic Power and Ideological Racism: Comparing presidencies in Guyana.” Paper presented to the annual conference of the Guyana Historical and Research Society, National Library, 2009.
Mr. Khan in his letter made reference to the influence of Bollywood movies on Guyanese Indians. While there can be no doubt that such an influence has been extremely deleterious to the Indian psyche for reasons I will briefly explain below, I think the nature of the Hindu religion has had a traumatizing effect on the Indian psyche because of where they lived – in the westernized Caribbean.
Four factors met in a deadly confluence to lacerate the Indian psyche and I don’t think the Indians have recovered fully from it or if they can. This is indeed as tragic as the permanent effects of colonialism on non-white civilizations. Some of these factors have different effects depending on gender; details of which are below.
The first was the longing for India through the attachment to the Hindu religion reinforced by Sunday preaching in the temples and Hindi films. But attachment to India was deceptive since Indians lived in Guyana and wanted to seek higher grounds in Christian countries like the US, UK and Canada. This illusion tormented their psyches. The second factor was Bollywood. Hindi films are naked perpetrators of the “superiority” of white skin.
Indians girls wanted to be as light as Sharmila Tagore. Indian boys wanted to be as white as Shashi Kapoor. When the parents of light complexioned girls in the village prevented dark skin boys from courting them the result was disaster. The girls would soon find a “white” Guyanese boy. But the brown boy’s prospects of finding acceptance by a clear girl were doomed. Career relinquishment, the bottle and a wasted life followed. Sometimes suicide was the way out. I saw two cases of this.
The third factor was the role of the PPP. Indian people have a love/hate relation with the PPP and their psyche cannot bear the burden of the contradiction. Seen as the party to protect them from other ethnic communities, the Indians stick with the PPP for security reasons. But deep down they despise the PPP leaders who they see as no role models and people they find flawed and unacceptable as leaders.
Finally, Guyanese Indian emphasis on wealth accumulation and lack of nationalist pride will forever drive them to wander around the world but they will not stay in Guyana. They are not people given to salaried jobs with the state. They want money because money is the essence of life.
The villagers in India do not think like this. This is a Guyanese infamy among Indians due to particular circumstances of which the nature of indenture and early acceptance of the caste system may be explanatory factors. Space constraints have resulted in too much brevity and simplifications but more on this analysis in the future.