The news is a prolonged pain

Dear Editor,

Reading the news these days is quickly becoming a prolonged pain in a dark place, one prolonged screaming nerve transplant.  It can be an unending series of tortures, whether the matter being reported is local or foreign.

There must be easily a billion and more people starving, or living in dire poverty, or lacking in basics and hope on a global level.  And yet the news is saturated with the pending birth, the labour moments, and the momentous breath-taking arrival of the royal child.  I do not seem to remember the Prince of Peace coming into this world with anywhere near that degree of fanfare.   I do not think that any normal thoughtful citizen, anyone with some cells left really cares, and especially with so many stresses and priorities to deal with in this life.  As if all of that was not enough, there was that arresting headline that froze further movement: the name is Louis.  Yes, I know that honouring those who came before is part of the ritualized pageantry.  Still, the old Duke of Marlborough of history book fame has to be turning over in his sarcophagus at Westminster.  Louis?  Surely, this cannot be why he gave blood and guts (and horse for kingdom) at Blenheim and Ramillies.  It is always sad to watch empires implode.

Now here is a real dangerous one in the news: I think the #Me too movement has gone too far, become a monster.  Where Achilles and Scipio Africanus would have trembled in mere contemplation, I am bold enough (and insensible enough) to jump in; I am keeping a back door open, however, should matters become life threatening and a rapid exit necessary.  I agree fully that many men have been pigs and used position and power to exploit women.  They deserve exposure and all the humiliations that go with those falls.  But I have a problem: decades old encounters of a repeated nature that occurred between only the two parties, and with only the same two parties as witnesses of the other’s misdeeds and excesses (or consents and cover-ups) leave a whole lot to be desired both as to the applicable bar of the law; and who was assaulted then and who is being assaulted now.  One’s own written diary notes and confessions to friends (both of tremendous vintage) do not rise in my judgment to a level of unimpeachable evidence through which to damn some to hell.  To be clear: some real serious harm has been inflicted, and I have observed in other locales some of the predators on the move.  Yet questions and uncertainties linger.  The worst that can happen in this overheated environment is for the innocent to be punished.

From my view, this thing has taken wing and gone over the edge.  There is the sense of Salem.  Separately, those in close proximity in any environment (not necessarily work associated) have to walk on eggshells, keep a safe distance, and arrive chaperoned to dare to say, “Hi, there!”  It had better not be “hi, dear” as that in today’s environment could be ‒ would be ‒ labelled sexist, demeaning, and personal space invasion.  Yeah, it is now one hostile environment out there and this has to be for men, too.  What happened to that good old-fashioned anachronism involved with the once fabled, but now blacklisted, chase?

On the local front, I am overjoyed to share that domestic news coverage indicates that Guyana has now attained the rarefied ranks of a full-fledged democratic society.  It is an incontestable reflection of government by the people for the people.  Forget about teeming India, there is no other country on earth with as many powerful governments throwing around their weight simultaneously and in peaceful coexistence.  Of course, both peaceful and coexistence are subject to some surprising definitions.  There is a PNC government, an AFC government, and a PPP government (that too; don’t be fooled); and then there is government by media, government by leaks, and government by paid troublemakers.  I must thank President Granger for not descending (or is it elevating?) to government by twitter.  This is not to be confused with the inaccuracy that there is no government by twits.

In the up-the-down-escalator that is Guyana, local government assumes the muscularity and machismo of national government, and the players actually believe that they are running the country; they may be partially right.  Somebody did say that power is the greatest of aphrodisiacs.  And sometimes I confess to a longing for LFS Burnham.  But undeniably, and by a wide margin, the most powerful, most far-reaching, and most eye-opening example of democratic government in action has to be mighty City Hall.  In fact, it is the government that counts.  Who cares about Foreign Affairs (sorry, Mr Greenidge); or Home Affairs (same to Mr Ramjattan); simply look at the damage that City Hall can inflict (and has) upon this town: garbage, markets, buildings that amaze (how did those come to pass?), gentrification and beautification (it is beauty, stupid; call it Guyanese cubism); and to close out this incomplete list drainage, parking, and coming to a favoured neighbourhood (yours), taxes.

With news and standards of this kind, there is a mad rush for the forced hypnosis of IPL cricket (move over Globetrotters, here is a circus with a white ball, in gaudy uniforms, and at night to boot; some good ole jumbie should end that charade), the endless expert nonsense surrounding the NFL draft, and the general decline of Western Civilization.  This is longer than the Roman one.  Still, one must beware the returning Russian Bear (no, not the rum!) and the rising Chinese Dragon.  A panda, it is not.  They are enough to keep on one’s toes and give the occasional fit.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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