Parliament, the national media and the State carry on a constant clattering noise of raucous rowdiness, quite divorced from the concerns of the citizens of this land.
People across the land express disgust with the single-minded obsessions they see spewing from the higher offices of the land, and studiously ignore the goings-on, turning off the stress and insane verbal crassness they endure from Parliament, the national media and their Government.
Last year the Budget debate focused on the State media, and all of the energies and mental faculties of Parliament, Government and the media zeroed in on cutting the Budget at GINA and NCN, the State media outfit. Everything else paled into insignificance, for several months, with even partisan street protests part of the picture.
This year citizens see all good sense thrown through the hallowed halls of their National Assembly as Parliament, the media and Government zero in on what is now notoriously known as the “Sharma apology”. Citizens watch this craziness, what one newspaper calls the “Manickchand fiasco”, with utter confusion and consternation. A street protest around this latest myopic obsession, like last year, failed to ignite citizens from their passive apathy.
And the national media insists on reporting this lack of substance, this false debate of the National Budget, with childlike glee.
Not only do we witness the lack of substance flowing from our political leaders, but the reporters who supply the media with its content lack the training, professionalism and competence to bring to the nation a sense of real care for how we conduct the national financial affairs of this nation.
The stiff self-important members of officialdom ignore how we the citizens feel, seeing not what matters to us, but whatever drama issues forth from high offices.
Who sets the agenda for this nation? Who shapes the national conversation? Who draws the psychic map of our heartbeat as a nation?
Citizens go about their daily affairs feeling alienated, divorced from how their society functions, unable to fathom what molds the destiny of their nation.
So unplanned and impulsive are we as a people, so prone to emotional outbursts and over-reaction, that one heckling comment in Parliament flipped into a national affair of the utmost importance. We forget everything else and zero in on a non-story, making it a historical event of monumental import.
What would history record of the 2014 National Budget? Not the lengthy Budget presentation in Parliament of Finance Minister Ashni Singh, nor the in-depth analysis published in this newspaper by Ram and McRae. What history would remember, what citizens get fed to them every day on TV and front pages and online is this crass drama of the “Sharma apology”.
What really happened in Parliament is this: an MP named Manickchand heckled another MP with a comment about “Sharma”. So an MP named Sharma complained to the Speaker.
The Speaker got angry and banned Manickchand unless she apologized, which she refused to do. Next day, amid street protests and loud opinions on TV and a hasty street protest in front of Parliament, the Speaker reversed his Manickchand ban. Said Sharma soon tenders his resignation to the Speaker, and was replaced as MP.
That’s what happened. But we don’t deal with ourselves based on what happens, but on how what happens occurs to us. So we suddenly see enemies, shadows, conspiracies, hate, intolerance, miscommunication, where we should be seeing friends of co-development, light of progress, cooperation, reaching out to each other, tolerance, understanding. We overreact with emotional turbulence and this verbal storm, lacking sense, direction or focus, sweeps us along to nowhere.
In a few months, we forget the whole fiasco, and proceed to stumble along, now tired, anxious, stressed, to our default future.
And the citizen plans his or her migratory getaway, looking out for the postman to bring those sponsorship papers in the mail.
This, incredibly, sums up the state of affairs of this nation.
We could excuse our pitiable state of affairs on the world record brain drain we suffer from, with 89 per cent of skilled Guyanese overseas instead of being here to build this nation.
Speaker Raphael Trotman told Parliament that he would want to think that the National Assembly houses the cream of the crop of Guyana’s brain power, its leaders. But then he quickly qualified that statement with a comment that the citizen might not think so at all.
It’s an absolutely true statement. Whilst we should have the best of our nation leading us, we don’t. A lot of these people are political loyalists and partisan stooges and party hacks who receive their seat in Parliament as reward for political and other work they do.
And definitely the Guyanese citizen disdains these leaders, who year after year fail to portray such necessities for nation building as vision, strategy, mission or developmental cooperation.
One of our problems as a people is that we refuse to listen to each other. We bulldoze ahead in whatever direction our irrational emotional self propels us, and disregard advice and efforts to set us on a rational, sane road. We insist on self-destructing, it seems, finding a grotesque self-pleasure in our strife and verbal activities, thinking maybe that by this we are at least busy making progress. Never mind the progress we hope for fades into oblivion, and we revert to slim evidence to convince our critics that progress is being made.
How else could we explain the energy, passion and zeal with which these verbal warriors attack each other? They must find some kind of self-pleasure in this grotesque display, this constant act of scapegoating each other as demons unworthy of decent conversation.
This is our National Assembly, the gathering of our leaders, elected to high office. Is this the best we could do? Even they seem perplexed and frustrated, as we see with the Speaker’s efforts to bring a semblance of decency and good sense to the affairs of the House.
Citizens want to be motivated, inspired, encouraged. We want to see efforts of our leadership in creating, building and sharing vision, strategy and cooperation.
Is that too much to ask those who perpetuate this sickening group-think that stifles our sense of self-worth?