It has been quite some time now since I made an observation with respect to our national songs. Every time I hear ‘My Native Land’ – one I consider among the best – being played on the radio, I chuckle; here is a beautiful patriotic song that hardly resonates in the hearts of many. I have observed that whenever it is played, it is like an ‘also ran’; we hear it and don’t hear it. Had it not been a policy to play it on the morning programme probably it would have been long gone. Which Guyanese who has been living abroad for the last 10 years and more can look me in the eye with a straight face and tell me about patriotism and love for country? The foreign cultures have taken us in fully; we started out with one thing and one thing led to another and another, so now we don’t bother. We have become a foreign somebody and are proud to be so; there is no Guyanese who doesn’t crave a foreign passport – they boast about it. I’m not saying that the reasons for migration in many instances weren’t justified, even more so today, with the falling standards, lack of professionalism, inefficiency, backwardness and wasting of time. The unnecessary royal runarounds are too irritating and stressful, and some are life-threatening to boot. One cannot expect, therefore, that someone accustomed to the service of a highly efficient system for fifteen, twenty years will slump back into one which is way below par and be contented; that would be ridiculous. So I concede that in a big way we have created the conditions which have helped to make our own people become ‘denationalised’ and even lose touch with the land of their origin and Guyanese pride.
It all started a long time ago conditions that pushed people beyond the brink and as I have observed before, it matters not which government takes office, there is no substantive change; every change of government only concretised the resolve of those who left and those contemplating doing so.
When they hear, “Oh I care not that others rave over fair lands afar” it may be touching and nostalgic for those old enough to remember when these wonderful patriotic songs were mandatory at school, and their emotions may swell, but this is ephemeral. For them a brief holiday back home – maybe for a national celebration, is good leisure and indulgence, with the salt fish and dhal, split peas cook-up with fried fish, metemgee and fish curry; but ain’t that the reason why they come, to have fun except, of course, when it’s a funeral and even then it’s kind of bitter sweet. But it’s all soon over and it’s time for ‘home’, where they are ensconced in a different culture on which their daily existence depends. “…none so fair as can compare with my own native land” is explained away against a background of personal experiences. But that’s where it’s at; the operative word in that line is “compare” and that’s what their minds have been doing and processing. Here at home we are hooked, the entire foreign package is in vogue; everyone is dying to be anything except themselves. One radio station doesn’t even employ locals anymore, they only speak in foreign tongues.
Editor, here are two charming lines: “where I in childhood used to play and where the old folks rest; must be to me where’er I be the dearest and the best”. These lines put differently, but in a similar way remind me of one of our excellent song writers and singers, the late Eddie Hooper ‘Lord Inventor’ when he sang, “Tell me why should I leave Guyana and go outside and perish in the winter?” I’m sure, however, he had come to accept that Guyana had taken its toll on many of her great sons/daughters, so much so that they were not only prepared to “punish in the winter” but even die there. But the last lines of ‘My Native Land’ have always grabbed my attention: “for when at length I come to die; I want no gilded tomb, just let me rest within thy breast where thy sweet flowers bloom.”
Editor, there is no need to explain this really; just take a walk at the funerals for those brought back as well as locals and one gets the message. ‘My Native Land’, though lost to many of her sons and daughters remains a gem for all times among our patriotic songs, if only we could live it.