When we think of the enormous sacrifices and hardships our foreparents made to carve this blessed land into the Guyanese nation, we ought to hang our heads in shame at the way we insist on being as a people of the 21st century global village.
Think of what the slaves, coolie labourers and Portugese, Chinese and Amerindian peoples suffered in the hot broiling sun to construct our sugar cane fields, rice fields and towns and villages. Think of how the British came here and fought with the Dutch, French and Spanish to make us an English-speaking people.
Think of the fight of Dr Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham and Dr Walter Rodney and Sir Arthur Chung, of David de Caires and Peter d’Aguiar and Janet Jagan and Desrey Fox dreaming of a great Guyana, sacrificing their lives in service to, and for, us.
Today, don’t we mock the enormous service these pioneering stalwarts made for us, with the way we are being? Do we remember how they bent their backs and suffered in silence to create the villages and towns and city that we now call home?
These souls laid a solid foundation for us. Of course, given human nature, we cannot expect Guyana to be utopia, a society of absolute perfection. We expect problems. It’s the nature of things. Societies develop through the growth resulting from pain and hardships, just like a small mango seed fights and struggles through the dark damp earth to become a plant and then battles through to grow to a huge tree that bears thousands and thousands and thousands of ripe juicy mangos, delighting our tastes and providing healthy food. Just so is life, as a person, and as a nation.
When we think of how Burnham and Dr Jagan envisioned a Guyanese nation, of them dreaming a Guyana Dream; when we think of Janet Jagan leaving America to come dwell among us and lead us with such outstanding service: must not our hearts melt with humility and gratitude?
So blessed is our land, fertile, lacking natural disasters, sunny, breezy, full of fish and water and trees and laughter and freedom and natural beauty.
Yet, writing these words seems like a strange and unnatural way to talk about our homeland, for the default social setting paints a scene filled with raucous loudness, plosive rudeness and reckless disregard for the noble road we’ve travelled as a people, from the days when slaves built our plantations that became our villages and towns, to today, when we sit on so much that we could be thankful for, but instead fight and quarrel and bicker and insist on piling fuel on the fire of our differences.
Who in this country sets out to build fences? Who works with focused gravity on building compromise, collaboration, cooperation, compassion for the other’s viewpoint, and good conscience in how we respond to the challenges of growing and developing ourselves?
The Government of President Donald Ramotar, itself caught in heavy insecurity and trapped under the enormous weight of the national brain drain crisis that cripples this society, recognizes that without compromise and cooperation, nothing could move forward.
This writer has first-hand experience with Government’s tentative efforts at reaching out, at building compromise, cooperation, collaboration, compassion and good conscience.
Building such a way of being across this society calls for a profound understanding of where we’re at today as a nation. After 50 years of being a complaining, scapegoating, divided nation, we cannot expect a wholesale turnaround. These things take time. But we must recognize that Government has stepped forward, is making a first move, and so there’s a timid transformation, from the higher hierarchy of the society, towards healing the divides.
These tentative steps we must not only see and enthusiastically encourage, but also acknowledge, and spread the word: in building the national conversation around these ideas, we set the stage for these tentative steps to become bold, confident moves that engineer a transformed social space for the Guyanese nation.
Our national media, Members of Parliament and leaders of national organizations, folks like Faith Harding and Eric Phillips and Clinton Urling, would play crucial roles in turning us fully on to the correct path were they to take up this mantle of a workable national atmosphere.
The opposition Alliance For Change (AFC) party started out with this laudable initiative and dream and vision and goal, to be a bridge-builder, to erase the divides, to create a new space for us to engage each other in building our nation. Sadly, the AFC has lost its vision, and today is as much a part of the divisive fray and national cuss outs as anyone else.
But we are seeing signs that Government is moving to dismantle the rigid walls that divided us, and even General Secretary of the ruling party, Clement Rohee says that his People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) is open to partner and collaborate across the board.
These are welcoming signs.
But we don’t celebrate these small steps enough. We insist on falling back on our default way of being, with the national media refusing to find signs of hope, optimism and goodwill, and instead daily fuelling the divides, the cuss outs, the misunderstandings and the lack of authentic, genuine steps to bring us at the same table.
Life’s never an easy ride. And politics, stooped in love of power and selfish ambition and tribal alignments, would always generate vibrant debates and even crippling controversies, especially in such a noisy, rowdy democracy as ours, with all its flaws and inefficiencies.
But unless we encourage these signs from the Ramotar administration towards an inclusive national environment, not on our terms, but on terms that recognize the need for sacrifices and give-and-take, we would not move forward.
Our first step is to see our Government as workable, and to reach out in faith that this genuine feeling would be reciprocated.
That’s how our foreparents settled this land, and how Burnham and Jagan won us independence: they simply stepped out in faith believing in the future of a Guyanese nation, knitted into one people, with one destiny, as one nation.
That’s our call today.