Demoralized or compromised. These are the two unmistakable words that most accurately capture the essence and reality of Guyanese existence. They represent the condition of a nation reduced to desperation and fallen into disarray.
To demoralize is defined as “to destroy or weaken the morale of, undermine the confidence of, to corrupt the morals of…” In numerous sections and tiers of society, morale and confidence have been severely stressed, while morals have suffered an unrecognizable pulverization. The tapestry of hope, confidence, and expectation is distended to tortuous lengths; it reveals gaping rents in many sensitive points.
There is no faith in government, and an awareness of the disintegration of institutions and perversions of authority. Robespierre said, “We deduce… a great truth – that the characteristic of a popular government is to be truthful towards the people and severe towards itself.” Daily citizens experience the disappearance of truth; daily the government is anything but austere to itself. No one can do anything; there is no recourse for remediation.
This is the demoralization derived from the overwhelming evidence of intuition, instinct, circumstance, commonsense, and palpable misconduct; all is dismissed by presidential anaesthesiologists as immaterial. The discoveries and attempted unveiling of public secrets involving politicians, processes and projects meet a similar fate. Then there is the demoralization inflicted by the preponderance of numbers, and its unmoving inevitability signalling a perpetuation of the dubious and the knavish.
The fact that some have uttered disconcerting sounds indicating their belief in personal fitness for the highest office in the land is beyond demoralizing, it is stupefying. In a civilized place, such utterances from political corkscrews of limp intelligence and porous character would border on the felonious.
But, this is the comic relief of bandaged Humpty Dumpties reconstructed into sawdust Caesars, who calculate how to ascend to the throne.
The mere contemplation of the ambition should be enough to have them committed. Then again, it must be remembered that Rome had its Nero and Caracalla and Elaglabalus, while America had Bush II. Come to think of it, Guyana could be due for its own Henry VIII. Bolivar recognized the men in Guyana who aspire: “Ambition and intrigue abuses the credibility and experience of men lacking all political, economic, and civic knowledge… they take licence for liberty, treachery for patriotism and vengeance for justice.” They aspire nevertheless.
Additionally, demoralization seeps further into the psyche, when the opposition is considered. The prospects are not only invisible and irrelevant; they lack the drive, interest, and energy for any meaningful challenge. None seeks to put in the hard work, to sweat the details, to be tireless for change, to sacrifice.
For all practical purposes, Guyana is now a one party state, as it has been for several years.
Further, there is the demoralization through the realization that politics extend all the way to children; there are no innocents any more demanding unambiguous oversight and protection. Instead, players save the children for themselves, then turn around and denounce others of like repugnance.
Unsurprisingly, the ranks of demoralized swell; many study the terrain and conclude that personal adjustments are required, that compromise is the passport to survival and ascendancy, if not the maintenance of sanity. Thus, some take a fateful plunge.
This is the compromise of those who sell their integrity, their intellect, their souls for pots of gold; of those who discover elasticity in the spinal column, and lots of space in the conscience. The bills have to be paid; the children should not be made to suffer. Such are the compromises that start small and mushroom into glasshouses complete with known closets and visibly leaking roofs. To be really clear, it is that many men steal their way to prosperity; and that their secrets are obvious to everyone.
The compromisers rightly come to the conclusion that the deck is stacked, the dealers are crooked, double-dealing is the norm, and that the house wins every time. There is but one game in town. There are no rules, or those that exist are merrily trampled in the determination to get into the game, and snare a piece of the action before it is snatched by a greedy competitor, who could be both confederate and brother. The alternatives inculcate neither confidence nor comfort. Stand in the way and get run over; raise restraining hand or critical voice and the result is profiling and ostracism; resist temptation and watch all the pocket-filling morsels get grabbed by the less particular. The undecided quickly learn that Guyana is not a place for the squeamish or the ethical or the moralistic. That has no value at the bank, does nothing for the bottom line, buys no wheels, and entertains no friends. Everybody is in on the action. Well, almost everyone.
There still remains a hardy few who refuse to betray their upbringing, who still cling to the principles instilled at great sacrifice. They are dedicated to living by the now hoary creeds of integrity and honesty, and will not compromise for all the dirty and easy money floating around, or for the opportunity to rise with the scum that floats before their eyes and nostrils. Like their ancestors, they honour God, country, and family, and at similarly great cost. The irony is that such irreproachability leads to suspicion – since it is not understood, it cannot be real. All this dwindling band of the uncompromised wants to do is to put their heads down, go about their business quietly, and be left alone. They recognize the three unspeakably precious things spoken of by Mark Twain: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practise either.
But the demoralization and compromises are not only of the pecuniary and quantitative. It is also of the spirit and soul; of turning backs on the suffering; of seeing no evil; of withdrawal; of silence through fear; of a muted despair; and of submission. This is the real Guyana. This is what it has been reduced to; this is its promise.