Since the 70s, the Brain Drain and its effect on every aspect of society have been injurious to our strength as a nation. It has been speeding up, not slowing down, but no matter how uncontrollable the drain is, we need to stop playing the blame game, identify why it is happening and build ourselves from there; we need to slow this drain down!
Don’t get me wrong! The drain has its benefits – remittances! Money sent into the country contributes to the GDP. Barrels of foodstuff contribute to the GBLD (good breakfasts, lunches and dinners). But it’s laughable to the point where (as I said before) we come across to the world as beggars. I remember during the interview for the census, one of the questions was centred on whether or not my household receives financial aid from abroad, I answered truthfully: No. At that point the interviewer looked at me and nodded. I smiled back thinking how petty it is that Guyana has reached the point where such a question is included in a Housing and Population census.
When you look at it there were smaller waves of migration before the exodus of the 70s. Our connections with the British Commonwealth landed us in so many foreign lands. Who do you think dug the Panama Canal? Men from the Caribbean; from Guyana. We fought for the allies (the good guys) in World War 2 and we defended our crown back when we were a colony in World War 1. In so many ways we reached out to the world and settled around the globe, but now there’s this focus on ethnic segregation even when we migrate.
The ‘Race Riots’ and political atmosphere in Guyana after independence were indeed the saddest time in the country’s history. People gave up all they had to flee to better pastures, not that they didn’t care about Guyana… they just lost hope.
Now, about 140,000 Guyanese and people of Guyanese descent are living in New York; the fifth largest immigrant population in the city; that is a lot of our people and most of them do still think about home. But the original reason for the massive brain drain still lives with them. In the New York Times report it was stated that Indian-Guyanese centre on Richmond Hill, Queens while African-Guyanese move towards Canarsie and Flatbush in Brooklyn. How sad is it that even our mentality has been shifted to an ethnic divide anywhere we go in the world.
I was born at the time they said “free and fair elections and true democracy returned to Guyana” and so I have no idea what happened ‘back then’. The stories being told today always seem to be in biased, depending on who’s telling them. When you sum up Guyana’s political history, it is always packaged to the fact that there was and is no such thing as a ‘government’ in Guyana; there is always ‘party’. Even today in Parliament the seats are all about party members and never about representation of a constituency of people, and so the people are pushed aside for wars on who is better and what happened at so and so time.
Back then race was the major problem and today it seems like not much has changed. Corruption and nepotism play an even bigger role in why so many educated people migrate. Just this week alone I spoke to three of Guyana’s brilliant minds in the arts – two in drama and one a playwright. Sad to say, two have already migrated with no hopes for Guyana and one is in the process of giving up.
Imagine that. In the 21st century, a country touted as a democracy still has so many barriers in place; still places other ‘questionable’ people before the learned and honest. The actual educated, experienced Guyanese are often times tired or just, ‘Been there, done that, no success, forget about it.’ They just shut up or move on to other things.
I can tell you as a youth, we just laugh. We laugh at the ones who are supposed to be leading us, but are instead acting like little kids. Some young people like me; we dream of a better Guyana. A dream; that is our reality. What I have just said, has been said many times before and in many different ways. I doubt it will change anything. Still, me and those of my ilk will continue to say it, because we must. (Jairo Rodrigues)