We cannot continue to accept the lies that an increasingly desperate regime seeks to feed us

Dear Editor,

This is the plain truth. The People’s Progressive Party is afraid of elections. Indeed, it is afraid of what any referendum on its rule – quantifiable or abstract – is going to reveal, and the subsequent consequences thereof. On a symbolic level, the inevitable loss it is facing at local government elections would further undermine the mythos of electoral invincibility within which the PPP has shrouded itself, one which has already suffered a tremendous blow with the results of the 2011 general elections.

In praxis, the inevitable local government electoral loss would undermine the machinery that the party has put in place to usurp legitimate local government infrastructure to consolidate and extend its hegemony, particularly during general elections campaigning.

Faced with the possibility of electoral defeat, the structures are slowly being laid down for the creation of a pre-totalitarian state. The classic signs are there: proliferating acts of brutality by the police and the condoning or obfuscation of the same by the government; the increasing impunity with which government and ruling party apparatchiks flaunt the legal system; the attempts to muzzle the free media even as the state media is abused in the interest of the ruling party; the undermining of democratic structures and the subsequent imposition of autocratic ones; and the resistance of democratic mechanisms like local government elections.

What Guyanese need to understand, a lesson that we should have learned from our previous history, is that totalitarian regimes are not abruptly thrown into existence by the flip of a switch. More often than not they are the result of the failure of a body of citizens to recognize and resist a gradual undermining of democratic systems within a particular polity.

Fully invested in the myth that democracy had returned in some static and infallible form in 1992, we fell complacent, even comatose, like Rip Van Winkle, for twenty years, and awoke to our own tyrants, the PPP Central Committee. Now awake, it is time that the collective citizenry of Guyana realize the tremendous power at our disposal, the power of political precarity.

I have come to realize that the defining element of any polity is precarity. In authoritarian, oligarchic regimes, the burden of precarity – a tenuousness of existence, a perpetual existential angst – is imposed upon the average citizen. The more democratic a polity, the more of that burden of precarity is placed upon the political leadership.

For the first time since coming to power, the PPP is facing that precarity and it is afraid. It is afraid of the empowerment and resulting autonomy of Amerindian communities; it is afraid of young people from its own strongholds articulating their disgust and discontent; it is afraid of a media free to investigate its mismanagement of taxpayer funds under its control; it is afraid of any external intervention that seeks to educate the average citizen about the mechanisms of participatory democracy; it is afraid of writers that have grown up under the shadow of its reign challenging its perjured narrative of democracy and freedom and competence.

Recently, the usually reserved and demure Vincent Alexander in uncharacteristically strong language decried “the blatant misrepresentation of facts” (SN, May 14) in the government’s posturing on local government elections and the management of the Georgetown City Council. Factual misrepresentation is of course the staple of corrupt authoritarian regimes. In his seminal 1977 essay on the dictatorship in then Czechoslovakia, Václav Havel made the following observation:

“This is why life in the system is so thoroughly permeated with hypocrisy and lies… Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything. It falsifies the past. It falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future. It falsifies statistics. It pretends not to possess an omnipotent and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to pretend nothing.”

As a people we cannot continue to accept the lies that an increasingly desperate regime seeks to feed us to hide their increasingly palpable fear. Like Alexander, more of us need to reach that breaking point where we refuse to facilitate these blatant attempts to deceive us.

Yours faithfully,

Ruel Johnson

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