We straddle South America and the Caribbean, this Guyanese nation, blessed beyond measure, able to make a dynamic contribution to the global village, positioned to play important roles in shaping regional affairs. Problem is, we don’t see that. Instead we see and feel our handicaps, our disabilities, our downfalls and imperfections.
This national characteristic of our Guyanese nation, to look at ourselves only with an eye to what ails us, makes us psychologically deformed as a people: we refuse to face the good things about us, instead holding high a flag of noisy clamour about our deformities. It’s like we love to pity ourselves.
As much as we want to point out the pothole on the road and fix the brokenness in our soul, we must realize that we cannot accomplish anything unless we know who we are as a people – the good, the bad and the ugly. Ask the average Guyanese what’s bad or ugly about us as a nation, and he or she would reel off a long list of woes. Ask what’s good about us and it’s a different story.
The move of Scotland towards political Independence from Britain resonates with us, because we, too, emerged from the British colonial system. The British Colonial system made us, formed us, created us. Much of our institutions and state organs are, like Canada and Australia and New Zealand and Scotland, decidedly British in nature. We talk, think and find our being as a British-made people.
Fifty years ago, when our founders lobbied and campaigned for political independence, long before we named ourselves Guyana and wrote our National Pledge and National Anthem and designed our Golden Arrowhead, we must have faced the future with such excitement beating in our national breast.
Here we would retain the economic reward for our labour, with proceeds from sugar on those yellow hot canefields, rice from the green acres along Berbice and Essequibo, gold and timber and fish all coming to our treasury, instead of the British. We would chart our own course, map our own way, celebrate our own Guyaneseness, a new people on the world stage.
Now, 50 years later, all we do is complain and bemoan our state and quarrel and fight and bicker and generate strife and dissent. One need not look farther than our National Assembly to see how crass we’ve become. Our national media lack any sense of designing, shaping and moulding the Guyanese character and personality. Instead we insist on politicising every facet of our life.
What suffers is our way of being, as a Guyanese nation.
The greatest choice an individual could make in life is choosing his or her way of being. When one wakes up in the morning, one chooses one’s state of being. One fellow may wake up thinking ‘okay, I am choosing today to be positive and encouraging and inspiring’, whilst his friend may wake up thinking ‘okay, I am choosing today to fight fire with fire, to grab as much as I can, to dominate others’. This ability to choose, usually unconscious, more presupposition than conscious choice, shapes our days, and in fact our lives, since a person’s life is built day by day.
Although choosing one’s state of being, or way of being, depends a lot on external environment, on nurturing, like what one reads in newspapers or books, or hears on the radio or watches on TV, or hears from friends and family in one’s social circle, one’s way of being also depends on the individual taking personal responsibility to choose how to approach life and people and the world in general.
This exact same thing applies to a nation, that society of like-cultured people dwelling together in a country. How are we choosing to be as a Guyanese nation?
Granted the massive handicap we face with the brain drain crisis and widespread illiteracy, those who can, must instill in the Guyanese citizen a love for Guyana, a heart-swelling admiration for our blessedness.
Along the Essequibo, in Berbice, in the Rupununni and aback of villages along our coastlines, with rolling acres of rice and sugar cane fields, with the tropical sun and warm breeze and a complete lack of hunger or any sort of natural disaster, with our fertile land and abundant water supply and now our national overflow of affordable housing, with so much that we could go on and on about, why doesn’t the Guyanese walk with lifted head to face the world, contributing our raw talent and natural resourcefulness to developing the 21st century global village?
Instead the citizen wakes up feeling demoralised, most wanting out, to jump on the next plane going anywhere else but here.
It all comes down to what we see and hear and feel about Guyana.
Nowhere in this fallen world of fallible humanity could we find utopia or perfection. Everywhere problems beset human beings. Now with brutality reigning supreme in the Middle East, with the US emerging from economic stagnation, with Europe repairing economic collapse in Greece and Iceland and Spain, with corruption stifling democracy in many places, with the rich buying their way through power and justice over the poor worldwide, where on the earth could we find some semblance of an oasis, a social fortress?
We’ve got that in Guyana, right here at home. Of course it’s not perfect, but we’re making progress. Now Guyanese are heading off to Aruba and Panama and the US and Canada for annual vacation. It may be a small minority able to afford such niceties, but it is happening.
Thousands of Guyanese now own a 10-year multiple visa to the US, and travel easily.
These are new times, and it is imperative we see how blessed we are, face how beautiful a nation we are, and tackle our human problems with a sense of our blessedness.
Our late founders, Forbes Burnham and Dr Cheddi Jagan, did their best to instill in us this idea that we are a world-class people. Let’s be that, making the conscious choice, daily, to see and feel, not our handicaps, but our unique blessings among the nations of the earth.