Independence. Liberty. Free-dom. For whom and to do what? What good can be said about the increasingly sorrier years of so-called liberty?
Let’s start with political leaders. They have arrogated to themselves the freedom to do whatever pleases them, and then keep questioning citizens in the darkest of darkness. To be brutally truthful, their conduct has been characterized by the freedom to cheat, and then to lie continuously about the litany of cheating.
They tell with the zeal of true believers, now hopelessly trapped by their own delusions and deception, of the roads built and structures erected. But they have left out a substantial part of the story. It is that their friends and families who have the freedom to erect collapsible roadways and floating stellings; they also have the liberty to do shoddy work and get paid; and the freedom (protected right) to participate in cost overruns and get paid more. For all these outstanding efforts, these same friends and families – part of the party patriotic profiteers – they get more taxpayer contracts and the opportunity for further enrichment. Yes, independence has been wonderful for this crowd.
This same crowd crows loudly about freedom of speech and press. Yet when it spends billions of taxpayer dollars, it has taken the liberty to deliver not a single piece of persuasive reporting. Thus, the nation is left – saddled – with this invading horde of mysterious investors, mysterious currency, and businesses shrouded in thick secrecy. Oh, freedom has worked prosperously for some… Additionally, they insist on the sacred freedom to resist reform, be it the GPF, the media, local government polls, among others.
Now what about ordinary citizens? One SN columnist wrote that they have taken their skills and fled in droves. Since this has happened, there is now the freedom (with limited exceptions) for a massive morass of mediocrity to reign supreme locally. And they do. Truly, I say: the lunatics have taken over the asylum. They are in the majority, and they possess that special talent called ‘native cunning.’ It is how they survive.
Further I see people agreeing with me about ineffectual civil society and compromised middle class. I say that genuine change cannot – will not – occur when those talking about change reach with one hand for a government contract, and the other for a cocktail invitation. The question to be asked repeatedly is: were we better in 1986 against 1966? And again, what about in 2006 versus 1986? Did much occur in either the quantitative or qualitative spheres at many levels that lifted most up and not just a few?
Then there are the children. Currently, double-digit thousands of them are locked in CXC examinations. How many thousands of them have freedom from gnawing fear? Freedom from being relegated to the far outside and the gloom of being unemployed cyphers. Multiply most of those double-digit thousands by 5 or 10 years and there is arguably close to between 50,000 to 100,000 young ones on the unemployment line. To them, freedom has imbued their lives with all the desolation and devastation of a terrible blight. Now for a moment of nostalgia.
It is said that the past always looks rosier. I remember how parliamentarians, headmasters and headmistresses, high court judges and commissioners were the personification of uprightness and standards. Can the same be truly said today, 48 years later? Speaking for myself, there is very little regard (if any) for most of these groups nowadays. This absence of regard goes for top people and the top, too. It comes down to this for me: independence of mind, and independence of conscience to point out lack of trust and to highlight scarcity of credibility.
In this time, leaders will seize upon the freedom to trumpet empty platitudes about togetherness, even as they adhere to parochial and ethnic politics. They do so at the expense of the pragmatic, mending and healing, or daring to examine the imponderables of strategic sophistication. In other words, try a different way, lift up, and then move.
In the long interlude of 48 forlorn years, Guyanese willingly exchange ‘free’ status for that of fugitives elsewhere. We run away from this poisoned, long meaningless freedom.