I can’t wait

Many of the persons with a creative bent I know have this inclination to notice things in their societies that seem to escape most people, and not only notice but become irritated at the negative ones and take delight over the positives. Of course, given that the negative reactions have to do with things to be fixed, more notice is taken of those. Some of these irritations arrive from conditions that are, in the current phrase, “in your face,” but many are seen in less obvious circumstances where the behaviour is accepted although it reflects poorly on us.

It can be a minor thing. For me, one is the growing trend on American television, which is the majority of what we watch in Guyana, to feature talking creatures in commercials looking to sell us something.

There is clearly a fascination with this approach in North America where viewers are confronted daily by lizards who are insurance experts, dogs giving us child-rearing advice, and even ducks and parrots squawking computer directions at us, as if we’re a bunch of morons.

The suspension of belief in animated film is okay – we understand the game there – but it goes beyond silly and past irritating to have parrots, dogs and lizards speaking to me on my television set or computer. If I’m trying to sort out which level of insurance is best for me, it’s patronizing to have expert advice being presented by a talking lizard or a frantic duck. I can’t wait to see the end of that.

Some of the aggravations are on the major scale. As someone involved in the arts, a signification matter for me is the widespread piracy of the intellectual property of creative people – audio recordings; DVDs; books; plays; etc – that has reached status quo acceptance in Guyana and elsewhere.  The reality in that situation is that when you duplicate my CD, or my book, or my play, and copy it, and sell it for profit, you are actually selling goods that you have stolen from me. It’s not often seen that way, but that is precisely what it is.

The persons selling pirated material – we have many here – are actually selling somebody’s product without paying that person for it.  It’s not seen as a product because it is a piece of audio, or piece of writing, but it is the artist’s product – the whole world accepts that – so if you copy it without paying him/her you are denying the person who made the original his/her rightful income for work; work, by the way, that can often require years of time and large financial investments to produce.

For about 10 years now, with the upsurge in copying equipment, my income as a recording person has virtually disappeared, while pirates selling my songs are clearly earning big money.

Eventually, as things evolve, there will be some sort of return to this derailment of the system of payment for the artist; the present system of paying creators for their work is clearly broken in many countries and has to be fixed. I can’t wait to see that day.

It’s a daily truism that people are driving drunk in this country and getting away with it.

For the sober drivers, there is the constant fear of seeing obviously intoxicated individuals operating on the roads with very little or no consequence coming to them, and, taken to the extreme, there is the almost daily horror of the loss of life, or of mutilation, inflicted on innocent persons – sometimes very young children on parapets – from this mindless behaviour.

In the 1960s in Canada, where I then lived, the government conceded that their “don’t drink and drive” persuasion programmes – television and magazine ads, posters, bumper stickers, documentaries, education seminars – were not working, so they brought in stiff new laws that cracked down hard on offenders. The first time you’re caught “driving-under-the-influence”, or DUI, it’s a fine of CA$800 and you lose your licence for a year.  Yes; for your first offence, one year. For the second offence, your licence to drive is gone for two years, and you are required to take a “back-on-track” course before it’s reinstated.

The judge can also require you to install an electronic device on your car that you blow into which prevents the car starting if you’re impaired. If you caused an accident while impaired, your vehicle insurance goes up dramatically (in some cases, it can reach CA$8,000 per year), and you’re responsible for all repair costs from the accident. The harsh measures were initially met with outrage, but the government stood firm, and the approach worked.

The incidence of drunk driving plummeted in Canada, and it remains low today.  We need a tough system like that in Guyana, punishing all offenders – even the ones with political connections – every time motorists driving drunk are caught.  I can’t wait to see it put in place.

I also can’t wait to see our government take strong action against the presence of plastic bags, plastic bottles and styrofoam desecrating our landscape.  The Guyana in which I grew up was a place of paper bags, or cloth bags, to hold the items we purchased, so there was consequently very little litter on the landscape and only grass clogging the trenches.

With the invention of non-degradable materials, that scenario has been completely altered, and we must react accordingly. When we discard plastics we are interfering with the drainage of our below-sea-level coastline; just look in the trenches or the nearest koker.

Also, because those materials don’t break down, we are leaving an environmental horror for our children to deal with.  As the Trinis would put it, it’s a straight case; since many people, and even many businesses are apparently blind to this danger, it is, as with any social transgression, for our government to deal with it effectively.

Guyana must find ways, including punitive measures, to drastically reduce this flood of plastic bags and bottles and styrofoam containers that is literally choking us.  It seems to be taking a long time to arrive; I can’t wait to see that happen.

Finally, there is the mania of Guyanese drivers, in line at a red light, blowing horns the instant the light turns green.  It may be a small thing, but it reflects poorly on us as a people supposedly with good manners; I can’t wait to see us stop that.


The hand of the mother

I’ve said it before; how much an influence my mother Zepherina, born at Hague as I was, had on me.

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Travelling in the good old days

On the way back from a recent trip to Canada, it occurred to me that although there are still airline problems in the Caribbean, it is nothing compared to the headaches that used to exist.

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A bow to Trinidad

Anyone who writes will attest that one direction leads to another.  In my So it go notebook, for instance, there is this one direction that deals with the origin of the word “soca” and the reminder is there for me because the explanation we frequently hear is that when Lord Shorty combined calypso and American “soul” music in this new rhythm with higher tempos and more emphasis on drum track in the recording, he named it soca from that “soul” American influence and from the calypso origin. 

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Lights dawning

Going back to the ‘30’s and the ‘40’s, an enduring message for young people growing up in Guyana was that the white culture was supreme. 

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We did not want to know

In an earlier comment about song-writing I made the point that while talent has to be there, the more critical quality is observation because that is almost always the ingredient that sets a song apart; the writer has turned a light on something in the society, or in an individual, that would have otherwise escaped the rest of us in the populace. 

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