It is healthy and spiritually refreshing to step away from the cacophonous Sturm und Drang that is Guyana. Rebalancing and rejuvenation comes; both helped during the Lenten interval to reflect upon the avalanche of material hurtling across the mind, and which attracts interest. The state-owned Guyana Chronicle furnished one such instance that emphasizes how the weak, the fearful, and the unsure operate.
A lengthy lifetime ago, when I was but a mere lad, the Guyana Chronicle had a statement on its masthead: “Where all men think alike, no one thinks at all.” As logos (mission statement, guiding principle, or whatever) go, this was impressive, and especially so for a newspaper, in view of the embedded promise. As in life (and with so much in Guyana) it would have been much more impressive for the Guyana Chronicle of today to live those words through continuing commitment to deliver on what they represent.
Almost twenty years ago, I was a regular (some would say prolific) contributor to the letter columns during the Sharief Khan era. That lasted until some serious people took serious offence; that was the end of my presence (along with others) in contrary thinking, which was found objectionable and unacceptable in a land where the ruling caste proudly and loudly (and ever shamelessly) touted so-called democratic traditions and democratic credentials. Political circumstances overwhelmed Mr Khan. Twenty years later, there is new government, new editor, and new board, but the same old business, the same old story, and the same old result: Those who differ in thinking and so write are dispatched. Those disagreeing should consult with citizens Lewis and Hinds. Their failure was not to think alike; their sin, arguably the very act of thinking. And so, men in powerful positions in this country continue the long sorry history of thoughtlessness, and of great sensitivity to objection of any kind, including those that might pass constructive tests.
Many have been the times that I disagreed with the two gentlemen removed; I am sure that they may do the same even more with me. It is how it should be, and a sign of vitality in this young republic, the ebb and flow in the marketplace of ideas, of the constructively critical, of contrarian fervour, and all rooted in honest evaluation. It is not of gossip or malice or cheap positioning and rabblerousing; but of a concern for the primacy of the welfare of this sad state, and of lifting it to some place other than what it has always known.
As to who is responsible for their ouster; or who should have oversight and final responsibility for such decisions whether the editor-in-chief or the board, this all fades into irrelevance and immateriality. At the end of the day, and when all analyses have been made final, all fingers point to the government, and all roads deliver this matter to its doorstep. This is not good governance; it is not new governance. Instead, it sizzles with the spitefulness and malevolence that was so characteristic of just yesterday. It is very troubling that the same mistakes are being repeated regime after regime; that the powerful can be so insecure, and so unreceptive to uncomfortable truths. There are those; not always, but often enough to give pause.
Early in the David Granger administration I cautioned that the then new government cannot and must not perpetuate the obscenities and low roads that were so much a part of the shabby conduct and shabbier record of its predecessors. Regrettably, those in charge seized the opportunity, in yet another instance, to yield to baser instincts to be rid of columnists Lewis and Hinds from the taxpayers’ newspaper. As governments go and governments come in this hypercritical and hypersensitive land (a distinctively hypocritical one, too), they have all without exception manifested a certain vision for the citizenry: docile, agreeable, obeisant. Part of that vision could very well include the populace cultivating mental pigtails and kowtowing in literary subservience before the mighty. That has its own people, and its own places. The government ought to know that that does not include here.