Today, there will be no mention of politics and how it burdens a nation. Not today. Instead, let this Sabbath be greeted with reflections on the way things once were, on a different time, and on the rhythms of life when Guyana stepped at a different pace. It was when the national character was robust and resolute.
It was a hard life that some remember easily. But there was laughter. It was gentle, easy laughter that crisscrossed homes and streets and favourite spots. Money was scarce, and had to be pooled to quaff a cold brew. They were frosty cold back then, sparkling, and refreshing, too. As the girls passed by, the hardcore among the brethren proclaimed the local brew a healthy source of vitamins. With the right partner, there was no song that could not be sung, no bridge too far; for it was a time of dreams beckoning to be realized, and hopes to be fulfilled. Yes, it was a moment when all dared to aspire with honour, even amidst the prevailing tribulations.
Those were the days when Guyanese young and old were consumed with visions of the impossible, while they existed within the suffocating. Though pockets were almost always close to empty, the heart and spirit overflowed with the effervescence of noble ambitions, of making a place and way in the world by fair means. Every fibre was applied to overcome the shackles that trapped in misery. And a great many did overcome; toiling citizens who, on their own, carved out something from nothing, who saw and found light when all was bleak. Now that time is gone; and so too are those who refused to bow down before gods false and uncaring.
Contrastingly, there is so much money around today; so many experts, so many who rush to comfort –except it is not the same. Today there is so much glitter, only it fails to touch the many on the edges; they know only want. Sharp elbows and outstretched feet replace handshakes –the feet are to trip and help on the way down; syrupy words lack the cement of an unbreakable bond. Remember: there will be no talk today of taint, or political criticisms of any kind. Only it must be said that there is so much hunger in the land. It is the hunger to do better, live better, and be better. It is the hunger for a cleaner existence: whether of street, mentality, or outlook. It is the particular comfort of not dreading the coming of day. Lord, when there was nothing, when the tables were bare, and the children longing, there was no fear. For tomorrow would always be better. Such was the faith that burned with a fierce fire from deep inside. No one could snuff it out. No one came close, until now. This is the Guyana of today, once vibrant with struggle and sacrifice. It cannot be. Yet it is.
Darkness once eclipsed this land for a long time, now that barren time is itself overwhelmed today by a deeper darkness of the heart and of the soul that crimsons the sweat of the brow, and torments the spirit and every waking moment of a grey existence. Yes, the hour is darkest before dawn. But never has the hour been so long; or there so many false dawns. Guyana once warmed to the rising sun on the most depressing of days; it now flinches before an inferno of emptiness; and an economic pyramid that is so infinitely wide at the base. It is wide from want, and the want of release. Like Tantalus in Hades, Guyanese keep reaching for the relief of fruit that is always just out of reach. Once, the people dreamed big dreams of far horizons. They feared nothing whether domestic or the pitiless crucibles of foreign shores. Such was the force of dreams back then. Today, there is calculation only: of the shortest distance between objectives (usually curved); of the quickest way forward (over a neighbour, or friend, even family). Today the firmness of another time has sharpened into a jagged edge. Pressure was familial and communal; and touched with dignity and caring. Opportunism was a kind word, and ambition the handmaiden of goodness. Today, time and circumstances have made both words vulgar. It is a sign of the times, of what went before, of what has been lost.
In a time when the world braces for harsh times, Guyanese got there earlier and first. Having lived there longer, they are now strangers to who they once were. The pace is faster, the urgency emphatic, and the methods borderline at best. Nothing encompasses the latter more than the story of U.S. holiday visa documentation: no more forgeries, no more lies. It is a damning indictment of individual and society, the total collapse of credibility, and a public humiliation.
This is what Guyana has become; how Guyanese are seen. It is just another assault on the senses; similar to those that that spill over the fence, the drains, and the dignity of once manicured and pristine neighborhoods. Yesterday was a montage of lights and smells; sounds and colours; and a rebellious joy in the face of adversity. But that was yesterday, and it is gone forever; the yesterdays of challenging treks along the sometimes forlorn corridors of the university of life; of the sublime discoveries along the way, and of the crushing disappointments. But always the bent knee straightened with terrible effort, and sometimes through pain and the fear of the unknown. For rising up to grapple with destiny was the only option. Once again, destiny calls. The faithful can take courage in Luke 3:5 “Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be brought low.” Remember, this is not about political ills. It is of a state of mind, from where the determination to face storms, to confront wrongs has fled. Perhaps it can be rekindled in a time of great national distress.