In the wake of the continued physical violence perpetrated against women in the Guyanese society I had cause to reflect on a call made on the 24th January 2010 for men in Guyana to define and/or redefine themselves and to have an awakening of important values. That call is lost on me as I still read about the most despicable and atrocious acts being inflicted on women by men, and this was not a pattern of behaviour three and four decades ago.
I can safely say that a number of those men who in the past served as role models to a younger generation whether they were Godfathers, Head Teachers, or Departmental Heads were not puritans or holier than thou, but advocated and displayed attributes of credibility and integrity which made them mentors.
I have said previously in a letter in the ‘Stabroek News’ of May 15th 2007 ‘that the culture has reduced the bulk of the society to the Lowest Common Multiple’ and there is very convincing evidence that such decadence is being perpetrated by those who espouse such tripe that ‘a little cussing is good to keep the blood pressure normal’ and the compromise ‘that life today is about sex and money’. Is it this misplaced logic which is being exemplified by older men and women to our youths a great number of whom are underachievers and illiterate and cannot think logically or rationally? Are they being led astray by some of the new boys on the block who have come into ‘mad money’?
Editor, I come across an article in a recent ‘Time’ magazine with respect to a retiring USA Supreme Court Justice – John Paul Stevens – which stated that he had a reputation for integrity, brilliance and impeccable manners. Such were the virtues of those like Messrs Fenty, Loncke, Alleyne, and Cheeks who were pedagogues under whom I had my earlier schooling. Later on in my early employment I was under the tutelage of Messrs Rafiq Khan, Ulric Gouveia and Ms.Celeste Dolphin. All of the above person could be described as individuals who exuded dignity of no mean order and they would never have compromised their attributes of etiquette, social graces and decorum to dare suggest that times have changed and so must man.
I am quite sure that Mr. Rafiq Khan had he the clout in today’s Guyana to lobby for a person like Mavado to appear at a show at the National Park where the plebs would have been influenced to probably pay their last dollar to attend, that he would have instead used that clout to bring the Inner City (Youth) Orchestra of Caracas (Venezuela) on a tour of Guyana to sensitize our youths about serious music and whet their appetite for the performing arts. How many of our youths are encouraged by their teachers to text each other outside of school hours enquiring about Jeopardy’s daily general knowledge questions instead of sexting unedifying trash and in this regard seeking ‘top up’ money even putting themselves in a compromising situation. Why are there those who continue to cast a blind eye to the inundation of our youths with toxic Jamaican noise?
Editor, the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra is an elite student ensemble for 13-18-year-old musicians and the Atlanta Symphony has for years organized programmes designed to whet the children’s appetite for the arts. Forty-one years ago Mr. Rob Gibson now Executive Director of the Savannah Music Festival recalled his class being bussed to Symphony Hall and being in the balcony about to turn his programme into a paper aeroplane. The conductor walked out lifted his baton and the orchestra played music he recognized from the Lone Ranger – Rossini’s Overture to the Opera William Tell. He was electrified and didn’t know that a live orchestra could make him feel that way. Even those of our parents in the long yards decades ago, who appreciated Cantata, tagged us along to churches during Holy Week to listen and savour the rendering by full choirs in churches of Steiner’s Crucifixion and Handel’s Messiah during the Yuletide season. The daily print media would not afterwards fail to reflect such an event with photograph, in the society columns and reflecting the sartorial elegance of the creme de la creme within the society among those who were in attendance.
Editor, with all the millions of dollars expended annually on sports sponsorship countrywide there has not been a thought given to the construction of any aesthetic edifices outside of the capital city dedicated to the performing arts. Even the Theatre Guild was allowed to fall into disrepair after the decline of appreciation of serious theatre despite the appeal by yours truly to a Bank on the eve of a shareholders meeting to initially fund its rebuilding – this was eventually done with other contributors when its future use was determined by the heralding of the last Carifesta. Across the country there are no organizations which place the fostering of an appreciation for the arts in their core mission statement. There is no primary goal to promote well rounded persons and help create a better, more tolerant, more creative society. Is there any amazement at the anger seen in this younger generation where they go about shooting everyone they disagree with?
How can one suggest a redefining of our men (or women) without in the first place advocating credibility, honesty and integrity which would be a catalyst to aid in their upliftment of character and replace the abject rapaciousness in the society? It is no less important that a number of women in our society be refined to become dignified and to insist that the men folk who want to associate with them are devoid of any stigma.
Yes, Editor, it was indeed an admonition in this regard from no less a person than Mr. Andrew Young, former US Ambassador to the UN, when he said in paying a tribute, televised on C-SPAN 2, to the late Ms. Dorothy Heights, former President of the Council of Negro Women (USA)- ‘we are who we are because of the women in our life and I am happy to know that my President goes to bed with a Michelle’.
The upshot of it all is that in Guyana we are bereft of what it takes to describe one as a celebrity and/or a dignitary. There has been a subtle move over recent decades to stifle any attempt to awaken former vestiges of excellence, integrity, quality, sophistication, and refinement together with the nurturing of brilliant minds. We are certainly fortunate that we had a Head of State who appreciated the finer things in life to have spearheaded the construction of the National Cultural Centre (NCC) which in terms of aesthetics in the Caricom region is second only to NAPA (National Academy for the Performing Arts) in Trinidad and which filled a large gulf left by the destruction of the Assembly Rooms in the 1945 fire. The Assembly Rooms catered mainly to a large colonial diplomatic and local elite who in those days could have assimilated serious music and theatre. There was still popular vaudeville entertainment for the ordinary folk presented by Sam Chase, Ted Roy, Madam O’lindy, Sam Dopie and Jack Melleau in the cinemas, sometimes referred to as theatres, which are no more. This popular entertainment is now presented at the National Cultural Centre in the form of comedies which content evokes instantaneous laughter, but devoid of minimum subtlety which taxes the brains. We have ceased to have presented at the NCC such Guyanese international exclaimed pianists’ like Messrs Ray Luck and Hugh Sam or the likes of Conductor Sir Rudolph Dunbar or the Philharmonic or Princessville Orchestras. Should those of us who are three score and ten not bask in the aura of those bygone days as compared to the present decadent environment in which we live where mediocrity is not abhorred and to us is on aberration of an environment of which a few of us are severely critical?
Editor, is it any wonder that in dear land of Guyana the home of Demerara Sugar that we do not have a museum dedicated to the history of sugar cane production and its by-products despite the billions derived from its manufacturer. Surely such a building if ever thought of would not be taking the country back to the past, but, remembering and recognizing the blood, sweat and tears sacrificed for centuries by our fore parents in the slave trade and dignify their contribution to our country.
Lastly, Editor, a call for redefining of our citizens has to be embellished by attributes of dignity, integrity, brilliance, impeccable manners, credibility and the recognition of the basic rule of law. To advocate otherwise is to leave a citizenry to their own devices to achieve their aims regardless of the route to such achievement and thereby, engendering a loose and lawless society.