Our nation searches for the kind of leadership that lifts us, that causes us to delve deep into our character and believe in building our society, community by community, village by village.
We want leaders emerging in our society who would inspire individual enterprises, citizen initiatives, personal dreams.
People face their days with such stifling strife and nasty acrimony among their leaders. They see harsh words traded back and forth as politicians fight for power over the public purse.
Yet, the public cannot really escape blame for the state of the society. The public square is in the hands of the people. We shape the society on the street.
In villages and communities all over this land, the onus is on us, the common people, to build individual lives that accomplish something of worth.
Whether in an Amerindian community in the hinterland, or a rural village in Berbice or Essequibo, or the chaotic city of Georgetown, each of us could build a personal life that stands out as a shining light.
Countless Guyanese born into abject poverty, growing up in want and hardship, have built outstanding lives, contributing amazing worth to their fellow humans.
Especially in the Diaspora, we see amazing feats by Guyanese who overcame terrible odds and awful obstacles to accomplish great things. Many Guyanese, including here at home, have achieved outstanding careers, astounding wealth, and noteworthy sporting and talent achievements.
We can look around and see countless examples of inspiring stories, of what we could become if we believe in our innate abilities, and work hard.
Yet, at home we see too many lives falling by the way side. Of course many succeed in business, careers and with their talents. But too many suffer the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”.
This, despite the fact that we live in a society that rewards the one who perseveres. There is a kind of meritocracy system that underlines this society, yet so many fall by the wayside.
As we see things fall apart in places like Linden, Albouystown and New Amsterdam, we despair. It’s heart-rending to see the social problems afflicting Linden and New Amsterdam, both recognized towns.
In Georgetown the pockets of social decay spanning a wide swath running from the Ruimveldt area to Werk-en-Rust, is a shameful disgrace on the national psyche.
Too many people tend to look to big government or national organizations to solve their problems. We need to start looking at our individual ability to turn things around for ourselves.
Those who have accomplished great things did so facing the same or similar odds as we all face in a society like this.
Why is our GDP so low, ranking with Haiti and Nicaragua at the bottom of the development ladder in the Western hemisphere? That significant statistic seems incongruous and unbelievable, because the innate ability of the average Guyanese is so much more promising than that.
We boast of a national education system that reaches every corner of this country; we boast of a solid health care system; we stand today on the legacy of a British background, in such institutions as our justice system, our public mores and personal ethics and our ability to communicate across the global landscape; we’ve had leaders with global dreams, in both Forbes Burnham and Cheddi Jagan.
Yet, we constantly ask what went wrong with us as a nation.
Although the big questions need to be explored and answers posited, to allow us to analyze past mistakes to build a wiser future, we must see our individual life as the key resource to turn things around. Each of us must realize how vital and important we are to the building of this nation.
In Parliament this week we saw our leaders go off to midnight meetings, huddling to haggle, holding secret backroom talks to bargain for a workable budget. Citizens, feeling harassed and tired, watched the verbal fights with hopeless hearts.
One party even came out with an apology that a “joint communique was not issued” after one such backroom excursion. The very language of that apology, so passive and reactionary, served only the purpose of the party’s interest.
What must the people do?
We believe in ourselves, strive to develop our individual ability, and work hard to build a solid life.
For one, we must realize that we live in the knowledge age. And so, we must make use of public libraries. There is one in Georgetown, and one in New Amsterdam. Any individual could spend a couple hours a day in a library, and in a few short months would see a dramatic transformation in his or her “outrageous fortune”.
Reading solid literature is a free and easy way to self-develop. The habit could be developed step by step, slowly, building from simple to complex books.
Apart from reading, a person in this tropical land could easily practise a healthy lifestyle, eating organic food planted in the backyard. Diet and nutrition, exercise and rest and recreation are all freely available to every Guyanese. Our land is that blessed.
As a nation, one of our most profound crises is in individual ethics and morals. Our value system has suffered severe harm. So it is necessary for each of us to build our moral and ethical value system, either through a spiritual lifestyle or a personal commitment to living the best life possible, caring for others as much as we care for ourselves.
And, of course, we face the economic imperative. So a personal financial plan becomes vital.
With a lifestyle of personal literacy through good reading; with a healthy lifestyle of diet, exercise and value-added recreation; and with personal standards for sound living, the foundation is then solidly laid for a financial pursuit.
Whether through a small business idea or some entrepreneurial pursuit, each person in this country could develop a personal financial plan and work towards achieving goals.
In the absence of community centres, caring, capable leaders and organizations committed to training in our villages and communities, it is left to the individual to self-develop, to work, one person at a time, to turn this country around.
Each of us must become a self-leader, committed to self-development.