Our nation drags through its days, under the searing sun on the edge of the vast broiling Atlantic Ocean with the green waves of virgin forests shaping our dear land, facing this void: we lack a national vision.
This lack leaves us fragmented, strife-ridden and prone to frustrated acrimony of the worst sort, as we see, again, with the National Budget before our fractured Parliament.
In this 21st century global village, nation-states converge, as we see in the European Union, into what the great American scholar Samuel P. Huntington calls “civilizations”, with a re-definition of the term to mean people-group.
Nations come together these days, instead of becoming rent asunder, torn into divisive, brawling enclaves. And staying together takes effort, a unifying vision and a common dream. This is what we must cultivate.
Although the Guyanese nation forms a unique people-group – and hence civilization – with the Anglo-Caribbean nations, which we define in the economic union of CARICOM, we also express our identity to the global village as a unique people, as Guyanese. We are clothed in this common flag.
We’re a unique people on the world stage.
We distinguish our uniqueness with our own mythology, the Guyanese Story.
We develop the Guyanese Story through a Guyana Dream, that national vision that galvanizes the heart and soul of every citizen in the inspired motivation to build, to develop, to define that socio-cultural space the world engages as Guyanese.
Forbes Burnham gave us the magical idea of us being the Breadbasket of the Caribbean, a supreme blessing. Dr Cheddi Jagan gave us the vision of a New Global Human Order, a magnificent contribution to the world. Bharrat Jagdeo offered us the modern image of being nature’s nurturer to the planet.
Whatever grouse we may harbour about the role of these Presidents in shaping our society, we can objectively see that as a nation we’re always blessed, even when our leaders display grotesque fallibility, with a defining vision.
They’ve all governed a Guyana riddled with corruption, a deformed justice system, socio-economic backwardness and ugly democratic deficits.
Our short history as a people shows that we consistently fail to translate those seeds of vision that we harbour into concrete beliefs, monumental achievements, cultivated national gardens, or defining reality.
Our visions remain misty, elusive dreams, even that latest push to plug our forests and natural waterways as valuable assets.
We lack a strategic structure to develop the Guyanese Story into an inspiring motivation that not only engages the heart and soul of every Guyanese, but that projects us up the ladder of international prestige and respect.
We had that during Burnham’s leadership. We’ve fallen so far from that grace.
Despite the anomalies of the ‘60’s, we got off to a good start as a nation, and even kept communism at bay. But we faltered badly, and today risk the danger of falling so far behind the world that we would always be a second-tier society in the global village.
A nation, the ancient wisdom says, perishes for a lack of vision, and a lack of knowledge.
That’s what we the Guyanese nation perish of, lack of a national vision, and lack of developing a knowledge society. In fact, we’re fast being left behind because we fail in developing a knowledge society. Nations around the world that are becoming knowledge societies leap further and further ahead of us, and our talents and brains are going to those places, leaving us stuck in perpetual limbo.
These are well-known facts, but we must never become tired of rehashing our short-comings, because we must hack away with dogged determination at the stubborn weeds that choke our growth.
Norway announced that it would cut its pledge by US$20M to us for that vision of the environment, and we just brush it off, never fostering a conversation of why we failed, again.
We fail because we lack a stage on which to share and embrace a national vision. We lack a way of shaping and telling the Guyanese Story.
So what’s the solution?
We must solve this question of our lack of vision, and lack of being a knowledge society.
We cannot brush these aside as mere abstractions of less significance than our bread and butter issues. To focus on developing a national vision, on the foundation of a national knowledge society, is to work to solve crushing problems facing rice farmers, sugar workers and the bauxite belt.
Here is where a simple solution emerges: we must aspire to shape and tell the Guyanese Story in an inspiring way.
We must train and develop writers, story-tellers, visionaries, novelists, playwrights, poets, to define us as a people, as a nation, as the Guyanese society.
It’s that simple. This would go a long to alleviate our intense misunderstandings, solve our emotive hang-ups, and relieve our acrimony, strife and national paranoia and stress.
Government recognizes the value of education, and to its credit budgets the largest chunk of State funds to educate our people. Despite its stunning and debilitating and persistent failures over the past two decades to build a knowledge society and eradicate illiteracy, we must applaud the efforts.
But the responsibility for developing a national vision, in the absence of a defining leader like Burnham or Jagan in this generation, falls on the shoulders of Minster of Youth and Culture Frank Anthony, and Education Minister Priya Manickchand.
In the hands of these two State officials rests the future of this nation.
We must work with them to develop this national vision that would shape the destiny of our nation. Both demonstrate a willingness to be open-minded, both show competence as leaders, and both bring to their leadership a very modern sense of engagement across divides.
Guyanese must start where we’re at today. We must be willing to put aside prejudices and hurts and perceptions to reach across our society to work with whoever is workable.
It is the only way forward.
First, we start with developing a national vision, one that embraces every Guyanese in the goal of creating a knowledge society.
That should be the starting point to shaping our dear land for a glorious future.