An old school friend returned for a few days and reached out; it was after many a long decade. A lot of conversational ground was covered during a brief reminiscence.
Among the areas touched upon was literacy, where it was in our day and where it is today. There was agreement and amazement still that we read anything and everything; and somehow drove ourselves to gather fig leaves of learning and connect dots of discernment. Sometimes hazy understanding came, even with that which was beyond understanding for our time and age. It was mainly through self-teaching to grasp at the edges of self-development. When he left Guyana, this country wore a proud badge: very high literacy rates. According to him, St Lucia was low and way below Guyana then; rather sadly, that situation is reversed today where droves of functional illiterates mosey about unabashedly in this society.
And yet, there are wails and protests that standards are too high; there is ferocious insistence on settling for pathetic noncompetitive minimums that guarantee perpetual straddling of the bottom by the army of also-rans crowding the turnstiles of mediocrity. The unsurprising result is the lack of depth, fleeting interest, and reflexive passions exhibited on the grave matters of the day. Mindlessness is accepted and even applauded in national conversations, such that they are. There is determination to keep things this way through more of the charity that induces complacency and foolish self-satisfaction. Some examples should assist.
I believe that, with few exceptions, most high school graduates and early years university students would have severe problems with local media editorials, either the content or substance or language, as well as the extrapolations of the presentations. Those who are only capable of offering passionate recycled sounds on Burnham and Jagan, know merely that oil is here, that a certain soaring dreaminess is allowed; but not what is required and involved. They have a superficial familiarity with what weighs down this country, but are clueless about their own roles and responsibilities. That is why so many will be left behind as bottom feeders and function as easily manipulated pawns. I continue.
To this sports loving nation, I share Wisden’s Cricket Monthly with its scintillating gems of writing. Now there is a concern: how many in Guyana can embrace, or even connect with the splendid fare? The style and standards are pure and rippling; sophisticated and sometimes profound too. I fear this magazine just might be in the realm of Shakespeare’s old English to many here; they would be lost -too demanding. So it is back to the spoon-feeding of: Man hits ball; ball moves; runs scored. I suppose that might be good for the rainforests; it is a lethal jungle beyond where much living and advancing must occur.
As my school chum and I shared, not knowing and not struggling to discern were not options. It was: get with the programme through self-starting; or get left behind through the self-defeating. More harshly, it was get lost. Few fell back. Today there is coddling and propping up by feeding the handicapped beast with every manner of shameless excuse. This can be exhilarating for the unmotivated and those who like the rear.
But there is another plague upon the local scene. It is that evil eye, that evil glass eye in the house. In retrospect, a more wicked presence and spell could not have been cast upon this hapless place. I rue the day when I numbered among those disagreeing with LFS Burnham when he nixed television many moons ago. That man was smarter than all of us put together; even with his several and significant warts. TV is killing this society and contributing mightily to the dumbing down of this now pathetic province. The forlorn hope in many quarters is that rising oil will float all beached boats; it is an armada. Take a moment and listen to the spoken language or absorb the written syntax: empty as a sitcom and fluffy as a soap. I shudder to think what could have happened to a lazy fellow like me if television was there to compete with Chaucer and Homer, and later Socrates and Cicero. The mere thought is enough to bring fear and trembling.
Editor, check with parents, colleagues, neighbours, and friends about the tortures of grappling with the sorcery of that ubiquitous screen in multiple rooms. Hurtful to say the least. Separately, I have followed some of the contributions on the issues with the Guyana Prize for Literature. Clearly, English is not a second language for any of those involved, even though others might find the menu taxing. I like what I read from all comers. They can think. It is how it should be.
My fellow student now grown man is back in Castries. He loves it there, done good. Meanwhile, I look around here and strive like Newton to discover rare emeralds and revel in their promise. They are far in coming, but worth the wait and stay, too. Like Newton, I appreciate that a world awaits for the unlocking of its truths; much searching is demanded.