Knowledge never comes from staying far away and believing we know what is going on

Dear Editor,

I reply to Mr Abu Bakr’s letter captioned, ‘The world spends more time commenting on events distant than immediate,’ (SN, Aug 5). Mr Bakr’s thoughts were in response to a mild accusation of mine that he is not always familiar with what takes place in Guyana and against this reality he should be extra cautious about how he examines the nuances of political, cultural and social life here.

Much to my chagrin in his response, he commits the very mistakes I cautioned him about. I can only conclude that he sees such a course as not being problematic. Therefore I will not continue on this pathway. Here are just a few examples of his identical repetition of the faulty methodology I originally cautioned against.

First, Vishnu Bisram. I am not going to pursue a discussion with Mr Bakr on Bisram for the simple reason that the material in the letter sections in SN and KN on Mr Bisram is so voluminous that a Google search would reveal more than he could handle. I would best advise Mr Bakr to go to the Stabroek News archives for Dec 10, 2010 and read a very long editorial note on Mr Bisram. Mr Bakr refers to Mr. Bisram as the NACTA activist. We in Guyana do not know what NACTA is and Mr Bisram cannot tell us. I assume Mr Bakr knows.

Mr Bakr says Mr Bisram should be respected, “for what he has done.” Again let me say, and I can speak on behalf of many of my colleagues, we don’t know what Mr Bisram should be respected for because most Guyanese don’t believe he has done things for which he should be respected. I don’t doubt Mr Bakr knows but we who live in Guyana don’t.

I have lived just as long as Mr Bakr in this world, and I can say from all my experience in politics, journalism, and academia, I have never come across a person being addressed as “respected.” I know in private confines of certain institutions like the courts and parliaments, there are words like “honourable member,” “my learned friend,” etc. But I have never seen the word used in the context Mr Bakr used it to describe Mr Bisram. But of course that doesn’t mean Mr Bakr is wrong.

Finally, is Mr Bakr saying that Mr Bisram is a credible pollster because often he gets it right? Again when and where is that? I guess Mr Bakr knows that. Could it be he predicts it correctly rather than polls it correctly? But here is where Mr Bakr contradicts himself. If he knows so much about Mr Bisram how come he hasn’t latched on to the “respected” sources that have exposed Mr Bisram?

Secondly, Mr Bakr says my objection to Mr Ferouz is based on the flimsy and the nebulous. I thought since I lived in Guyana I would probably be more familiar with what takes place here than Mr Bakr, but if he says my points are nebulous and flimsy then that is his right. I am not going to argue with Mr Bakr on Mr Ferouz because what is quite clear to me that Mr Bakr feels he is bound to come to the rescue of his Muslim brother. I don’t have that instinct of religious solidarity, don’t care to have it and have no respect for it as a method of understanding the mistakes and positives of other human beings.

I would conclude my elaboration on this point by saying for someone who doesn’t live in Guyana and misses out on the unfolding vagaries of life here, Mr Bakr knows a lot about what the CIOG does. Well I also know that and religious solidarity does not get in the way of my investigations.

Finally, I reject absolutely the claim that the world spends more time commenting on events distant in space and time. Such a statement has no context and therefore cannot be polemicized on, and I would not dignify it with an attempt. I would say the world spends a lot of time trying to obtain knowledge based on attempts to have intimate contacts with phenomena. In fact that is how knowledge comes about.

In this world, we will never replace the attempt to have such close contacts. That is why we send journalists to distant places to have intimate contacts. When that happens, we then know what we are talking about. Knowledge never comes from staying far away and believing we know what is going on.

Yours faithfully,

Frederick Kissoon                

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