Dear Editor,

The seemingly unending blasts from one natural disaster after another stirred some thoughts.  They were late in coming, given competing demands.  Yet I am glad that they came, as they laid bare how we Guyanese waste continuously the precious gifts entrusted to us.

As one Caribbean island neighbour after the other reels from devastation, misery, and pain I realize, and increasingly appreciate, how good we have it here in Guyana.  On the one hand, I am forced to come to grips with the vulnerable and fragile nature of regional paradises; they are modern in wide swathes, and exhibit the physical infrastructure that underpins their bread and butter livelihood, which is tourism.  So there are airports and highways and standards and streets that welcome.  Prosperity and continuity are at stake.  Thus, there is scant room for repeat mistakes in these monoculture places; the moment is now, and must be seized.  The hour of the next force of nature is uncertain, but it could be even more unsparing.  This is even as the pieces from the current destruction are being gathered through loss, anguish, and heartbreak.  Time is tight; visions are taut; and reality unbending and unforgiving.

Contrast all of that with us here in Guyana.  We have everything (minerals, timber, multiple agricultural commodities, and now oil); we know everything (democracy, governance, transparency, and the road to unity); and we have become everything (wise, visionary, and movers and shakers of the first calibre).  Well, that is the self-congratulatory and self-sustaining self-evaluation that exists in our minds and hearts and finds high favour among multitudes.

Editor, something is wrong here, and those category 5s brought me to raw ground zero.  Guyanese move and shake everything everywhere (they think so), but do so from a mental, psychological, emotional, and physical state and frame of reference that has not moved a single inch in three score plus years.  Not one inch!  Of course, there has to be ready acknowledgment of the racial composition of this society, and the chronic, pervasive, and intractable problems that come with such.  Notwithstanding that formidable, and now irreparable, handicap, individuals, communities, and a crippled nation have each in turn refused to move from the tribal tree tops, the comforting caves, and the soothing swamps that incarcerate and diminish in a dead end existence.  Let there be no mistake: Guyanese like who they are, and where they are.

Unlike the storm-battered, the citizens of this country have too many cushions; too many escape routes; and too many luxuries.  One such luxury is time.  There is the time to pontificate and slice and dice to the heart’s content; it does not matter that nothing of significance is achieved.  This wanton dissipation of time has brought bickering and acrimony of the worst sort, and with an edgy enduring quality.  There is no urgency.  The savagery and gravity of individual and national catastrophes with nothing in reserve and no one to turn to are alien to the calculations and apprehensions of swaggering thoughtless citizens here.

Mental idleness and an absence of being forced to a national psychological drop dead crossroad have released Guyanese from being either thoughtful or progressive or committed.  So it is the sport of reaching for each other’s throat in settled premeditation or historic anger; this fills the time, and provides succour.  Because citizens here possess so many economic options, there is clawing and grabbing for anything, while trampling upon the last vestiges of standards, values, and ethical constraints.  Hence, there is the voyage of the perpetually damned on a ship to nowhere; it is one that lacks a compass.  So a sport it has become; it is the gaudy pseudo-sophistication of a shifty and aimless nation that has much to say, but nothing to lose, and less to sacrifice.  This is considered constructive in this country.  So the games continue; they began in the now increasingly hazy antiquity of sixty years ago.  They have never stopped, but have since grown into an art form involving ethnics pretending at the science of politics.

Not so for the peoples subject to the ferocious elements and the vicissitudes of dependency on a single major crop; this dependency is too fraught with tension and menace to risk explorations into the self-destructive, now so characteristic of Guyanese.   For the people in those forces of nature maelstroms, the only game has to do with the life and death challenges associated with survival.  This hovers incessantly at the back of the collective consciousness of our neighbours; it is so even when the storms subside and things are tranquil.  The Dominicans do not have the psychic languor this year (or any other) to gambol in the seas of stereotyping and finger pointing that are the hallmarks of a sick, lazy, local existence in these parts.

Like I said earlier, there is contentment.  It is why we are stuck where we are.  I daresay that we have it too good.  If there were willow trees in this country, they would be weeping continuously.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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