Identity: Seriously challenging our national motto

Journalistic licence – and style

– usages – and “mis-usages”

Both old First World countries and newer emerging Third World States – especially the latter – proudly proclaim national mottoes. These terse slogans are usually meant to be inspirational – even as they aspire, seek, to attain hopefully – achievable goals.

But monarchs – Emperors, Queens – and Presidents, national leaders by whatever titles, are all often too shy to admit that the objectives and sentiments of Nationals Slogans – like so many provisions of National Constitutions, are idealistic, unattainable and left to adorn monuments and letter-heads.

Even as I appreciate the significance of our own symbols of identity and nationhood, from motto, anthem, flag, presidential standards, to flowers, birds, other animals, I usually wish for two things relevant to those expressions: (one) that real ways could be found to really foster the admirable sentiments of anthem, motto and pledge and (two) that even as adults seek to be instrumental role-models, that we be honest and realistic about issues such as ideals and “cohesion”. Hence my following personal provocative observations which I’ve quietly nurtured for the past forty years, or so.


Our motto – history, reality

(I understand that the father of former PPP Minister Robeson Benn – Mr Brindley Benn (now deceased), himself a Cheddi Jagan-PPP stalwart, caused us to have our current post-Independence national Motto – One People, One Nation, One Destiny.)

Now, whenever I experience a non-acrimonious debate about identity, heritage and/or patriotism, I appreciate even more my forty-year personal position on our individual status and preferences regarding national ideals and aspirations and identity.

Frankly Speaking, many of our countrymen celebrate our much-touted diversity by emphasising differences. I suppose they have a right – and a point.

What “One People”? Look, we all should be informed by now about the arrival of the various groups whose descendants now populate our space on the planet. Mind you even the so-called “indigenous” First People, the Amerindians, arrived from elsewhere. They carved out a culture from our South American forests, lands and waters. The other groups came or were brought. For reasons now well-known.

The groups brought their distinctive behaviours from whence they came. The human race displayed their ethnic customs, habits, language; they were distinct, diverse peoples throughout slavery, indentureship, colonial rule, Independence and up to the present time, May 2017.

For example, 179 years after the first Indian contracted immigrants set foot upon Demerara and Berbice, their descendants still cling tenaciously to the history, religions and practices inherited from “Mother India”. I’m told that they “could not begin anew” in the Caribbean–Guiana vacuum they found. (Where the earlier “native hosts” made them feel alien – and, some claim, still do.)

The other majority – African-descended-can claim everything the world has to offer. After all humankind – whether by creation or evolution – all originated in their space – Africa. Frankly Speaking, I am of the view that South American and Caribbean Africans have been extremely adaptable, survivalist, creative and accommodating. Here in Guyana, the Afroes, when they are not violently physical – have allowed themselves to be dominated in various ways. Africa was /is distant as they hold Guyana dear, even as Naipaul insists nothing worthy was actually created in these parts. I say accept and respect cultural differences and life-style preferences, even within a group. We are different. That’s good. We are only “one” in mottoes and on paper.

What “One Nation”? Do you know what elements constitute a real cohesive nation? Sure, we are a community of people assembled under a man-made constitution but are we Guyanese today united in class, one political struggle, social views and purpose? No! And many of us know why. We could be more than one nationality than one nation!

What “One Destiny”? Except that all of us – all groups – yearn to be healthy, safe, free to access opportunities and be prosperous, can any leader(s) or government determine my eventual fate? My Destiny? My own predetermined course of events might coincide with others, but in a free state, my destiny should be all mine – my faith excepted.

Let our national motto be a clarion call; a charge buried in idealistic vision. And let healthy debate continue as we grapple with other varied myths.


When journalists write

I’ve always regarded myself as being on the fringes, the periphery of journalism literally. Even before I was allowed to act as this country’s Chief Information Officer (1979-1985) however, as a teacher I ventured into the world of the local newspapers. Then as CIO, I became more immersed with the work of qualified, experienced reporters, journalists, communicators and public relations people. What a discovery!

So I’ve also experienced the deterioration of skills and professionalism in our various media. Even through from the perspective of a “knowledgeable outsider”.

No topnotch “grammarian” myself I never- the- less wince when I hear and read certain usage these days. I’ll avoid the long lists of bloopers, faulty proof-reading, mispronunciation and grammatical lapses. Instead I make bold to suggest that all media houses employ language consultants to assist senior editors to maintain standards of excellence in reportage, columns, letters, etc. (I know I myself could be subject to corrections-if journalistic licence is ruled out.)

Meanwhile, I’ll be “seriously-light-hearted” as I ask editors to check the meanings of the word “curfew”; the word “sustained”; the word “probe”; any difference between inquiry and enquire and query?

Journalistic jargon-or-laziness-requires them to write “efforts proved futile”.  Write “were unsuccessful” sometimes. Okay?


You must ponder…

▪1) So you are a proud patriotic Portuguese-Guyanese! Great! Others can become Guyanese citizens too. How? Discuss…

▪2) Our attorney-general is amongst the highest paid cabinet ministers. Head of the local bar and legal affairs ministry, he is also legal adviser to the government and Chairman of the Granger-led People’s National Congress (PNC). The dickens with any apology.

▪3) Great start Kaieteur News! In enumerating projects on which billions were squandered.

Now compile a comprehensive list and request perpetrators to explain to our poor people.

▪4) I state again: former military officers are well-qualified (beyond military subjects and disciplines.) Now name 25 positions now filled by citizens.

▪5) Who would you say are more “empowered” to execute the cocaine drug trade? Senior businessmen? Or senior politicians? Or both? Discuss…

▪6) Darn it! When will the old abandoned co-op bank building in Stabroek be converted into a lovely vendor’s mall? When!?

Til next week!



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