Guyanese worldwide achieve amazing feats. This aspect of our nation, this ability to rise to world class achievement, we fail to celebrate.
Instead of seeing the resourcefulness, strength and character inherent in our Guyanese ability to conquer the gravest of odds and obstacles to achieve our dreams, we all too often stoop to wallow in a negative cesspool of strife, acrimony and verbal crassness.
Yet, when we consider this nation, since its birth as an Independent nation, we’ve paraded an impressive array of glittering intellectual, political, entertainment and other stars on the world stage.
From beauty queen Shakira Baksh to singing sensation Lisa Punch, the Guyanese knack for rising, for overcoming tremendous odds, must be second to none in the world.
We face such intense political trauma in this nation, with continued strife and division rocking our Parliament and our street corners with divisive politics. The verbal clatter and nonsensical chatter drowns out such celebratory pluses as our character strength, our ability to overcome setbacks, our integrity, that alignment to our value, to achieve success, to rise in the world.
What’s interesting about the Guyanese character is that we overcome heavy odds. Despite, for example, ranking with Haiti as the poorest country in the Americas, we refuse to roll over and give up. We strive, pushing ourselves, still dreaming, still believing that at the end of the day we would achieve. Nothing must stand in our way.
This ability to rise is an individual strength in our nation. Our systems fail us miserably. Our public spaces fall short. Our ability to join hands, to be the collective one, that’s where we fail. Ironic it is that we tried so hard to walk the communist and socialist path, because it seems to be diametrically opposed to the essence of our character, our love for individual development. We are a very individualized people.
When we consider today, in this 21st century, this crucial question of how do we develop Guyana, the answer is staring us in the face, because we’ve been developing ourselves all these years.
We talk a lot of Guyana’s development, and bemoan the lack of greater economic and social progress.
But the list is long and distinguished, that shows us that we have been developing ourselves through the decades of our nation’s being. We could list the outstanding world achievers of Guyanese origin, but that would take way too much space. In fact, it’s time for a Who’s Who of the Guyanese nation, so accomplished we are, globally.
So what caused these Guyanese who conquered the world to achieve their outstanding feats?
When we look at our two founding political leaders, how they grew up, the state of their childhood socio-economic conditions, and what they achieved in their lives, we should stand agape with amazement, but more importantly, we should take serious instruction.
Were we to study the biography of Dr Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham, who we’ll use as examples to make this point, we ought to see how blessed is our Guyanese nation.
The same story applies to every Guyanese who achieved outstanding lives.
Dr Jagan grew up in colonial Port Mourant, son of parents who knew life in a logie, those old Indian labourer homes where socio-economic conditions were barely livable, or even humane.
Burnham himself became a world class orator and a distinguished master of the English language. He emerged from a family that served as slaves in Barbados, and who lived in financial meagreness in Kitty, Georgetown, to become a defining leader of the Caribbean, Third World and Commonwealth, respected and celebrated worldwide for his excellence of speech.
These leaders who defined the Guyanese nation, shaping us and forming us, emerged from such traumatic socio-economic conditions that it would be impossible for us today to even imagine. They grew up under severe hardships. In fact, Burnham’s main motivation for academic excellence was to win scholarships because his family could not afford to pay for him to receive quality education in the colonial system.
He won scholarships to Queen’s College, and Oxford University in England. But he won because he was too poor. He had to fight. He had to win.
This is why, once he became leader of Guyana, free public education became a key strategy of his social policies.
The biographical life story of these leaders, and the biographical story of every Guyanese who achieved outstanding success, and even those who today own their own home and car and got a university education, got there because they worked hard, believed, dreamed, desired, and depended on their own personal ability.
None of the Guyanese who developed depended on Government, relatives and family overseas, or a welfare state and social handouts. A lifestyle of dependency never leads to development.
Guyana would develop to the extent that we inspire the individual person to self-develop. This nation is blessed with the most serene natural landscape, a total lack of natural disasters, a tropical climate, and fertile land from coast to coast. Out of this land, a multitude of great people have emerged, serving today all over the world.
The Guyanese Who’s Who would make fascinating reading.
Yet, today we all complain and look to organizations, Government, and the Diaspora, through remittances, to bail us out, to develop us.
How do we develop Guyana? Get every Guyanese to read and become fully literate; inculcate a desire and dream in every heart to live for a purpose and dream of a bright tomorrow, committing to make it happen, on an individual basis; inspire the Guyanese to self-develop.
Society is not some vague concept: rather, it’s a group of individuals. Out of a society emerges a Government and social organizations. The society is what produces these institutions. Government is an outgrowth of society, of that group of individuals who either choose to exist daily liming and doing nothing of worth, or waking up determined to self-develop.
When the society reaches that critical mass of enough self-developed individuals within its realm, the Government emerges to reflect that society of self-developed individuals.
Guyanese migrate and achieve amazing feats. It’s time for us to show Guyanese here that self-development is the crucial key to achieving a developed Guyana.