There is an increasing meaner edge to life these days; a palpable grimness. Guyanese seem determined not to be left behind in the race toward nastiness and smearing ugliness. I had to traverse the many troubling first, before coming across a glimmer of the encouraging.
A president has lost all sense of proportion, of called for statesmanlike decorum, and of either the humane or simple routine decency. The situation is so consistently deplorable that I cannot even bring myself to utter his name. It is how far things have deteriorated. Regrettably, this is what plays to the panting crowd; I brace for more of the same since it is difficult to ignore or dismiss. Suffice it to say that this leader is not from the Philippines; or a non-English speaker. For ages this country had it bad here from the same leadership perch. Now I notice thin traces of improvement; perhaps there is the force feeding of reluctant learning from the incumbent.
Deep-seated, widespread meanness makes it easy to condemn and damn locally; there is much company, there is individual and commercial profit. What was too easy before has been made infinitely easier with the advent of that two-edged sword: social media. Everyone is a publisher, editor, and contributor, and mostly irresponsibly so. The gloves come off, and the meanness comes out in the whip of words and slashing scimitars of rage and rancor; race stokes. There can be little restraint since there is neither the filter of thoughtful censorship nor inclinations to self-control. Just let hair down and spill spleen; and if that does not provoke enough applause, then down with pants. Show them who is boss. I term this the revolution of recluses retreating behind electronic shields. Just stick it to the next person or group found disagreeable in the domestic cluster. In Wall Street wording, anyone with a keyboard is a Master of the Universe; or to put more crudely a BSD. The first two letters stand for big and swinging; the d is best left out of the ear and eye of civilized society.
Talk of local meanness and think of the roadways in Guyana. It appears that locals (there are no saints) continuously search for new ways to exhibit how disfigured and how contemptible this place has become. Reverse out of the yard into an empty street, and as sure as there are carrions in this country (they are around), there is a horn. Or worse yet, the other citizen in this undomesticated animal farm is manoeuvring to pass on the side. This reversing and moving forward literally is a three second exercise. What is the hurry of these creeping slithering creatures that remind of the Ancient Mariner and his encounters? That same meanness of spirit expands and extends to pedestrian crossings, the lights, and the endless rest. Reader’s Digest has it right: I find laughter is the best medicine for the national ugliness that flourishes. Thank god for the concrete restraining orders of ever-present speedbumps; let’s have more of them and those parking meters, too. Both should furnish excuses for chronic lateness.
Returning to restraining orders, they rarely restrain anyone from lethal expression of deep-down meanness. Maybe this is the real essence of Guyanese character: deep-seated meanness through verbal venomousness, as well as personal and professional discourtesies, no vulgarities. Meanness has progressed so far that this is one of those bitter lands where friends gather for a good time, and end up dead by the hand of those same so-called friends. From road rage to rum rage to the regular rage of domestic battery, there is this near overpowering meanness that freezes civility, diminishes good intentions. Cumulatively, this is the sledgehammering that bludgeons the national psyche into settled, even accepted, national barbarisms. Is not that the driver seated over there in church? How about that letter writer with the Latinate prose? What about the sector with a dark history (and membership) that trumpets about corruption and all that is unclean? Forget about kettle and pot and rank hypocrisy: this is the norm.
Just when I am about to lower the curtain I read a story-a couple of them-about Venezuelans in Guyana. A helping hand, some provisions, a little space, and any welcoming mat can mean so much when the world is bleak and there is nothing, absolutely nothing. Been there. Yes, the collective body is diseased, but the national heart still beats, even if faintly and in one chamber only. It is enough on which to lean, to hope, to start over again, to build. It is enough to make me forget the great sweep of wrenching meanness so pervasive in this once different land. How about a national day of encouraging moving from hard meanness to a much-needed mellowing?