One of the things that we seldom do in Guyana is to recognize courage. The recently deceased American poet, Maya Angelou, states that “One isn’t born with courage. One develops it. And you develop it by doing small, courageous things…You develop courage by doing courageous things, small things, but things that cost you some exertion – mental and, I suppose, spiritual exertion.”
Courage is an act that is derived from a burning desire for change. In this sense I am speaking about political courage. Throughout Guyana’s history we can identify some very courageous people, but in my estimation not enough. There is a tendency, too often in our recent history for people in position of privilege to be intimate with the status quo, and so, when we identify courageous people we must celebrate them.
One of those people I want to highlight is Mr Frederick Kissoon, columnist, academic and political activist. There are others, but Mr Kissoon stands out. Kissoon’s activism over the years is admirable. He stands for what he believes in. He writes with a courage that is formidable, often highlighting injustices with ill regard for his own safety. If there is a patriot that I have seen, it is Mr Frederick Kissoon. Kissoon by his own admission began his activism as a young man under the Burnham’s dictatorship, and he has put his life on the line on numerous occasions. He continues his activism under the current PPP’s elected dictatorship, and he has been relentless in the fight for justice, accountability, good governance and parity. Kissoon not only uses his pen on a daily basis to highlight corruption, mismanagement and bureaucratic misappropriation of privileges, he can be found on the front lines of protest action, highlighting institutional mismanagement. He does this very often to the chagrin of political bureaucrats, in a charged political environment, where vendetta is not beyond the conception of the offended. Kissoon’s dissident voice is heard above the whimper of inaction.
Jules Boykoff in his essay, Dialectics of Resistance and Restriction, states that “dissidence is contentious, adversarial, non-conformist political thought and activity that challenges the status quo and transgresses norms of public interaction and deliberation. It is the collective mechanism for initiating social change.” Most troubling in our society is the lack of dissident citizenship and political courage. Yet, by numerous examples, dissident citizenship and political courage is the main ingredient to ensure a proper functioning democracy. Kissoon has been threatened, sued, and had faeces thrown upon him; and vindictively and maliciously terminated from his employment, yet he perseveres. If this is not courage, I am yet to see it. His dissident citizenship and political courage in the Guyanese society must not only be recognized, but championed. I do not always agree with everything Mr Kissoon writes, and there is no doubt that his inimitable style of writing rubs some the wrong way. It is true that Mr Kissoon’s writings are not always accurate, his reporting and analyses sometimes flawed, but I will argue, that his intention for a just and fair society is paramount. Kissoon is an example of what is desperately needed in our society. It is the ability to speak for justice and parity for all citizens in a multiethnic society. The ideal that informs his actions is to change the political environment by disagreeing with government and officials’ dominant and hegemonic doctrines. His intention is to widen the path for freedom and enhance the vibrancy of civil society. It is left for others to follow his example.