An ultra-critical society needs to spend more time on solutions

Dear Editor,

Over a long span of time, I have observed an increasingly settled local phenomenon.  It is that Guyana could now be easily considered an ultra-critical society.  It teems with critics who revel in taking issue with everything and everyone; some are palpably lacking in purpose, and merely reflective of the continuing devotion to either the divisive or the partisan.  Where dispute or deficiency does not exist, it will be concocted and exaggerated for cheap useless points.  It is limiting; it is also very revealing, as to so many other of the darker things that pervade the wretched collective soul of a disturbed place.

There is this obsession with being contrarian.  In many instances it is the only way known.  One has to wonder if, at the core, it is not an obsession with a pseudo self-accredited heroism.  Having long raced along a certain sometimes tricky road, there now could be no turning back, no detouring towards an alternate route, no exiting despite the signs pointing to looming dead ends ahead.

Criticism is healthy and necessary, even sharply obligatory when circumstances so warrant.  But to be critical for the sake of being critical, to string out the thoughtless and pointless, at the expense of all else, dismisses the critic as a self-loving deliberating Pandora dedicated to delivering evil.  It sells; it is self-reinforcing.

Without a doubt, there is so much that is unsatisfactory and unacceptable in this land; to compound matters this is visited by the irreversible and the irredeemable, too, in the most problematic of areas.  There is no give; not before, not now.  This only makes any authentic attempt at salvaging what might be salvageable indescribably more difficult.  There is so much rocky terrain to cover, and this is just to arrive at some meaningful starting point.  The work is plenty; the helpers such as they may exist are, let it be said, either stonewalling, or neutralising or, of course, critiquing.

It is not so much an identification of the specifics and actualities of what is being done wrong, and how much of it.  Rather there is this smug insistence on why others must take the lead in getting it right.  There is waiting for failures to be perpetuated; and they are too many times for the most inexcusable reasons.  Here there is little learning or growing, only this continuum of what has served poorly.  Unsurprisingly, gleeful critics seize the opportunities presented to put in appearances, while operating under different incarnations.

There are the veteran political panjandrums, who make a living pretending that the hard sorry Guyana story started two years ago; that they were not major contributors and criminally responsible.  There are the paper pundits and slippery scribblers, who with ferocious keystroke and through armchair generalship attack any movement in any direction; they fight old wars and skirmish endlessly in the search for either elusive or imagined adversaries in new battlefields.  This is their now familiar raison d’etre and modus operandi.  And in the midst of this glittering pantheon of the virtuous critical, there are the rum-shop rhetoricians waxing spiritedly of the Guyanese cosmos in stark Manichean terms.  Their backs are braced against the wall, feet dug in firmly, and mental fists clenched.  They will not be moved by logic or history or truth.  Taken together, this is a flourishing trade, this commerce in the critical; it can be an enriching one, too.

There is a place for them; on occasion, some good comes from their presences and pontifications.  Nonetheless, I see the life of a critic, as that of a life half-lived.  It is too consumed by unwavering concentration on: that is wrong; this one is wicked.  The question narrows to this: then what?

It is the easiest thing in the world to pinpoint and highlight weaknesses and failures.  It is an altogether more cerebral, more daunting challenge to endeavour to do something about such, to dare to seek to make a difference through a tangible contribution, no matter how miniscule.  The optimum solution envisaged often may not occur.  Yet there is the psychic peace, the cooling physical sweat, and some emotional security from the belief that the first constructive steps have been taken, regardless of how tentative those may be.

As his priority, the critic revels in the deconstruction of post mortems; on the other hand, the altruistic commits to laying the first stone and the next brick so as to narrow existing gaps.  The first is a talker and dissector; the last a doer and a builder.  In view of the state of this society, I wish there were more of those who give of themselves, and less of those lurking to condemn.

In the eternity of its remorseless days, this nation has known full well all that was and is wrong with its way of life, its contributory principals, and its inarguably poignant returns. There comes a time when something must be done, must be tried to make things right.  When the groupings and regroupings inevitably resort to form and fashion, then it behooves conscientious individuals to strike out and strive be quiet catalysts that count.

The critic makes a living telling people what they desire to hear; the parasitic reaches out to capitalise and enfeeble.  The idealist (particularly the pragmatic ones) exists to embody the change that he or she wishes (a la Gandhi) to see in the world.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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