-Teachers, sugar-cakes – and “lessons”
In sequential truth, I should begin with the misnomer “Amerindian”. After all our social history records that those Mongolians were the first to make this part of the planet “home”. (Incidentally, is it not absolutely intriguing how mankind has roamed his planet before deciding when, where, why to settle down? And initiate countries, societies, cultures? They are on the move to this day!)
So our first (Guianese) peoples – numerous tribes, now broadly nine – were deemed “American Indians”. (“Eastern Indians” discovered on this South America.) Their descendants are celebrating the consequences of their coming and occupation and existence this same September month. I’ll return to this annual observance a few paragraphs later.
By now my regulars would have picked me up: I’m on again about my preference for peaceful co-existence as against any imposed “social cohesion” amongst our (diverse) groups. Okay, I’m guilty as charged. For it was just a few weeks ago I expressed my doubts about the approaches to “Social Cohesion” by any government agency, by any commission or even by legislation. I still argue that the best manner for us to cohere socially – if it’s necessary – is that it emanates from our people themselves. From homes, schools, churches – (look how many “original” Hindus are now Christians – and pastors!) – and, perhaps, from natural intermingling at work places.
Too often, Frankly Speaking, efforts at national “social cohesion” become artificial, cosmetic, fake! After the public event, sentiments of group, triumphalism and race resume normalcy privately at home. So it is far better to be realistic and drop pretence: we do not need to be “one people” – just diversity co-existing peacefully – hopefully productively too. So back to my lead caption.
Freedom, arrival Gabriel…
So beginning with President Burnham, the state initiated religious national holidays to recognise specific groups. (That was supposed to promote more understanding, even acceptance. Has it really worked?) then came Emancipation Day and month, Indian Arrival Day and a whole month for “Amerindian” Heritage reminders. Of course, our Historian President, the current His Excellency, is ensuring that we commemorate the advent and contributions of Chinese, Portuguese and other Europeans. His Excellency holds that all groups, all presidents must be lauded.
So what’s my point? Well it’s just that I, who continuously cling to my Guyanese identity and struggle to promote our traditions and heritage via the media at my disposal, view some aspects of these national ethnic-friendly observances as, ironically, occasions, vehicles for contention, sometimes even divisiveness.
Not always. Only sometimes. But, of course, “sometimes” is too often, too unnecessary and adversarial. Amerindians want their rights and more land. Africans make claim to business opportunities and assistance – and ancestral lands. Indian activists identify official marginalization. Chinese stay silent and make progress whilst the real minority, Portuguese migrate.
Portuguese Guyanese now know about Phagwah and Diwali. Some Indos now accept that it was the 1838 African emancipation that caused their fore parents to “arrive” here. These are the few advantages of the observances. I accept that they help to maintain peaceful co-existence but too many use them to preach superiority over others. So after the celebrations it is for the state and His Excellency to spearhead opportunity for all. People’s personal and emotional and financial comfort all is the best cushion for cohesion and peace.
[“Angel Gabriel”? well in the late 1800’s, about fifty years after emancipation, the white merchants strategically backed Portuguese immigrants to enter the colony commerce. Soon feelings ran high between Madeiran Portuguese and Africans.
James Sayers Orr was an educated African who somehow disliked Roman Catholics. He mobilized Africans to his meetings by blowing on a horn. His followers christened him Angel Gabriel after the biblical character with his trumpet.
When false reports suggested that the courts had imprisoned “Gabriel”, Africans attacked Portuguese throughout the colony – the first African/Madeira riot.]
Teachers, sugar cakes – and strikes
For twelve years I was a village and Georgetown classroom teacher. I later went on to produce local supplementary readers for our schools. We can debate this next time, but I hereby contend that: There is no more noble profession than teaching. What truly motivates a young person to become a policeman? A teacher? Discuss…
I could be simple and simplistic. No great profound analysis. The just-concluded teachers strike revealed interesting positive things. Among them: even though I was no fan of present-day GTU elections, the leadership stood strong and non-political; they engaged professional finance-experts to advise; the union was about to access strike-relief support; His Excellency now knows that non-PPP critics exist!
Professionally, the strike directed scrutiny on an overcrowded curriculum: can all subjects be properly taught during the daily five hours? Must teachers insist on their supplementary private lessons? After increased salaries and conditions? Must Teacher Gloree still sell sugar-cakes and hot-dogs to pupils to supplement her salary? Discuss…even as teacher Gloree attends U.G.?
● 1) The magistrate warned the Police Prosecutor that if he is not ready with his prosecutorial “statements” by September 24 coming, she’ll dismiss fraud charges against two Guyana Gold Board ladies – Rosanne and Deborah. If that happens, no one would be guilty of any theft! (And justice for all?)
● 2) Hundreds of thousands of refugee children are either malnourished – or will die – from Sudan to Syria to Congo, etc – because warring factions will not allow food aid in through war zones. Starvation is one modern savage weapon of war. And these wars are fought in religious names!
● 3) How matured and gracious – through her tears – was Naomi Osaka, the Haitian Japanese after her US Tennis Open victory. Salute the 20 year old!
’Til next week!