To self-develop, a person must exercise that crucial essential life-skill of critical thinking.

Self-development calls for inner reflection and personal meditation on one’s goals and plans. Every so often we must look at the results we’re generating and question ourselves.

In this habit of probing our own personal life, our inner recesses, we exercise this essential life-skill, without which we could not progress. In seeking to self-develop, we must ask ourselves questions about our character, our habits, our social behaviour, our ethics: we must audit our life’s journey, checking to make sure we’re on track and heading in the right direction.

Ways of looking and feelingBeing human, we make mistakes. Critical thinking allows us to correct ourselves and make necessary changes.

Despite the fact that we know folks who never question themselves, who blissfully breeze through their days living unexamined lives, who get so caught up in busyness and activity that they can’t find the time or energy to introspect, we cannot afford to live our lives without critical thinking skills.

Those few folks who become determined to self-develop must exercise this essential life-skill, and learn critical thinking skills, making intellectual effort a habit, examining the inner working of the mind, the soul and the feelings.

As much as this applies to individuals, it also applies to societies, nations and countries.

In our Guyanese society, we are yet to develop this skill as a national asset. Our culture and our education system foster a social environment whereby we discourage critical thinking.

We see how our Government frowns upon such practices in this land. Government leaders lambast critics of the way governance is done in this country, instead of encouraging debate, critical inputs and objective analysis of our society.

Such an attitude shows up especially in the State-owned media, where we see a complete dearth of critical thinking, self-analysis of how our Government operates, or probing of the performance of Ministers, public servants and anyone associated with the State, such as contractors.

Since we gained political Independence in the 1960’s, the State took a deliberate policy to muzzle and stifle dissent, even nationalizing and owning the national media, and subjecting State-employed Journalists to a Government-imposed State information agency.

Today, we see the same system in place, with the Office of the Executive President maintaining the portfolio of Information Minister, while political hacks perform the job of journalism at State information centres, including the State newspaper, radio and TV station, and the news agency.

In this scenario, citizens suffer a serious setback, for the very voice of the body politic, the voice of voters, the vital thread of the democratic fabric, becomes virtually non-existent.

We say we operate a democratic society, but this lack of a powerful and independent voice for the citizens results in a lopsided society, where democracy means free and fair elections, with no real accountability at Parliament, or through a free and independent national State media.

The few voices who dare to speak out in the independent professional press, such as Anand Goolsarran, Christopher Ram, Clive Thomas and Henry Jeffrey suffer incredible maligning of their character and personal verbal attacks from the power elites.

Unless we wake up and realize how vital, crucial, important and necessary critical thinking is to the development and advancement and progress of our nation, we would not become a people who can see where we are, and where we need to be, and how to get there. Instead, we would drift in faint hope that we would end up developed and advanced and progressive.

No one in the ruling party comes out publicly and admits the mistakes of Government over the past two decades. It’s as if we have had perfect Government for 21 years.
In the previous administrations as well, we see no mea culpa, no admission of failures and mistakes. The People’s National Congress ruled for 28 years without free and fair elections, with severe financial malpractices and corruption becoming entrenched. But even now, 21 years later, this Party has not admitted its shortcomings and failures to the Guyanese people.

The current Government inherited, 21 years ago, much of the problems this society still suffers, without being able to solve the problems. Yet Government never admits its failures, but only points its inefficient fingers at the Opposition. So we prefer to scapegoat each other, rather than employ the essential life skill of critical thinking to guide us to the future.

A nation builds its critical thinking ability out of its intellectual environment, and its artistic community. Our writers, students at the University of Guyana, thinkers in the established business community, and heads of service organizations and NGOs should develop a national buffer of critical thinkers. These not only point out our failures and shortcomings, but suggest solutions.

Instead, our society discourages such things. The University lies pliant and almost dormant in its contribution to national affairs. Our writers either remain silent, or become discouraged and frustrated, as we saw with Martin Carter, and now with Ruel Johnson.

The letter writers, columnists and public commentators who exercise the freedom they have to speak out become targets for verbal abuse.

This paranoia against independent thinking and open analysis and debate sees this Government, in its severe inferiority complex, not only maintain strangulating control of the State media. It also employs devious methods to control new private media operations. Whether it’s in awarding of TV and radio broadcast licences, or farming out licences for Internet services, Government makes sure those who are loyal and friendly to it receive the licences.

This creates a lopsided national social atmosphere, where views of dissent, critical thinking, objective debate and independence of thought become discouraged and non-existent.

Such a society, like an individual who refuses to employ the essential life-skill of critical thinking, becomes of stunted character, warped and undeveloped, despite outward appearances.

While we may go out in the world dressed in nice clothes, what matters is the depth of character we harbour and cultivate.

What matters for the Guyanese nation is our ability to develop our national character. In that, are we making progress? Are we developing our ability to be a thinking society, a progressive people, a noble nation?