Mashramani is when we celebrate our Republic. A national celebration should mean national pride and unity.
Unfortunately Mashramani 2018 was a public nuisance. The noise began at midnight with fireworks and loud music. Except for a short break sometime after dawn, the relentless monotonous beat and screaming went on to 8pm. Nearly 20 hours. The American military used loud ‘music’ as torture in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay precisely because it can affect brain and body function and break a person’s will power. Hearing loss begins at 85 decibels. I measured 95 decibels near some children. Yes, children! A little further along it was 106 decibels. The few seconds it took to measure that 106 decibels made my ears hurt. Less than four minutes at 106 decibels causes permanent hearing loss. Why didn’t the police stop it? Why didn’t the Minister of Health set a limit of 80 decibels? Why didn’t child protection officials remove the children since the parents were too foolish, irresponsible and unloving to do it themselves?
Why can’t we have a truly unifying national event where we come together, raise the Golden Arrowhead, sing the national anthem, and recite the national pledge to start the celebration? Instead of scantily clad people ‘winin’ up, why can’t we have a dignified and disciplined parade with the Guyana Defence Force, the Guyana Police Force, the bands and the horses? Why can’t the President and all the ministers join that event and mingle humbly with the people they are elected to serve?
Our culture is becoming musically impoverished. Why can’t we replace the screaming and the offensive lyrics with something beautiful? Surely the police band can give one of those lovely concerts like they used to when I was growing up in Subryanville. Surely the churches can bring their choirs together for a free open-air concert of Guyana’s folk songs that children can join in.
Why can’t we celebrate Mashramani with a national literary festival? Our small population has produced a rich heritage of writers – Martin Carter, Wilson Harris, Edgar Mittelholzer, Pauline Melville, Sharon Maas, Roy A K Heath, Jan Carew, E R Braithwaite, Johnny Agard, Grace Nichols, Peter Jailall etc. Why must Guyana’s children be deafened on the streets instead of being cherished and given a chance to enjoy, and gain understanding from, Walter Rodney’s “Kofi Baadu Out of Africa” and “Lakshmi Out of India” and the rest of our wonderful national literature?
As the great Bob said, “None but ourselves can free our minds.” From the President right down to the lowliest Parliamentarian, from the police to the Mayor and City Council, the official attitude appears to be to encourage, or at least tolerate, an event that is noisy, lewd, vulgar, drunken and garbage-ridden.
Yes, we have thrown off the legal structure of colonialism. But our society must learn to show consideration for one another, to love our native land, and to value the best of our culture. That would be a Republic worth celebrating.