Deep polarization here promises to stay the same way

Dear Editor,

I came across an opinion piece on the passing of John McCain in the Washing-ton Post on August 27th that highlighted how polarized America had become.  As I read what was a thoughtful and comprehensive essay, I was struck by how much what was described resembles the situation here in Guyana.

There were those dreaded and loaded words “tribal” and “partisan” and the world of ugly acrimony that they have come to represent.  There was the observation that people are comfortable at the poles, and that the once heavily populated middle is increasingly abandoned for the extremes.  That same middle is now precariously thin.  Things and issues have to be this way or no way; my way or yours.  Take your pick.  There is reluctance, resistance, and rarely the reach for anything that promises to deliver what can be embraced as ours.  However tantalizingly remote in appearance; however difficult to get near.

Rather sadly, this is so much the case here in Guyana, and tensely, rigidly so.  Of course, it could be argued strenuously that there never was a solid substantial centre here to talk about.  This is a position that I would have great difficulty countering; and this along with some other colorations that also match what has become the hard norm in America. The poles (extremes) here are distinctly racial and it is belong or begone. Those who do not bend before the overwhelming tide, or successfully resist the increasing pressure to identify with the crowd are viewed at best with contempt, or at the other end of the spectrum as traitors.  Traitors to the group; traitors to the tribe; traitors to the calling.  The racial poles are so fevered here that the few who break ranks to venture tentatively to extend, to mend, and to bond (in essence, to heal) face tearing destructive forces.

There is buffeting in the face: why are you here?  What do you want?  Why can’t you see that you do not belong, will not be trusted?  And there are the forces pummeling from the back: What is wrong with him?  Where is she going?  What do they think they are doing? From both polar extremes on the far sharp edges: Why does he seek out, why does he want to reconcile, why is he looking for common ground?  As always, why with those people?  Woe and anguish it is, damnation too to the handful of the intrepid who seek to find a shaky footstep in minefields in a long walk that countless times lead nowhere.

In this raw polarized society of bitter angry citizens, who is there amongst us that is brave enough, caring enough to want to bridge and bring relief?  To be different and say: It is I!  If this is harsh undeniable reality of 2018, then what is the promise of 2020?  How can it be different, when no one desires to be different?  When there is only angling for a drop of petroleum plasma?  If there is the surly suspicious Guyana before the bonanza, then what would it be like after?

As an aside, even though I disagree, it may not be such a strange idea after all to give cash handouts (I prefer subsidies for cooking gas, transportation, electricity and no VAT).  My thinking is that the cash in hand would be enough to make Guyanese forget the unforgettable: the past.  Give them cash so that they can focus on immersion in the present bliss and crave (like addicts) for more to perpetuate the numbness. The cash infused oblivion would blind them to what is happening with the real significant money.  Just like the Roman imperial distractions of panem et circenses, ash would serve to pull the wool over unseeing eyes.  Who knows: with cash sprinkled liberally all around, Guyanese may be happy enough to love one another.

Returning to the issue of extreme polarization, as currently exists here, I fear where this society is, and where it is pointed: there is zero interest and less inclination in the hard work of reaching toward and forward. Consensus be damned. I hate to be pessimistic, but any concerned honest citizen looking, listening, observing, and evaluating objectively would conclude that things are ugly now (like America).  The bad news is that it promises to stay the same, which is the brightest face I could offer on a troubling situation.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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