More and more that’s how I feel: that the traumas besetting mankind around the globe that we complain about are not about to abate. For a number of reasons, some to do with exploitation of A by B, those sometimes shocking actions, popping up in the world, flow from the nature of human beings, whatever the country, so we have to step back from that assault and concentrate on the other strands that exist ‒ like the four musicians playing together on one cello, or the order and the splendour of nature, or the voice of Andrea Bocelli, or, a local example, the glorious sunsets in Guyana, or, as I type this, the small bird on the phone wire outside my window, happily pruning its mate, and I’m warmed by that happening just naturally. And that we then actively embrace the good examples, because the other kind is always going to be there. Racism and pollution and corruption, as well as disregard for nature and animals, are all propelled by mankind; seeing them as ‘things we have to eradicate’ may be philosophically sound but ultimately impossible; they are simply part of us. No country has succeeded in the edification and the unification involved there; what makes us think we can achieve it in a small nation, and particularly one struggling with development issues?
Consequently, it follows that, for example, all the well-intentioned exhortations (a recent one coming from our former Speaker Ralph Ramkarran) for bridging the racial gap in our politics, constitute a noble idea that never gets legs. The proponents of the idea argue that the emergence of the AFC on the political landscape in recent years shows that there still exists a substantial body of voters who continue to be motivated by the desire to eradicate from Guyana’s politics “the deleterious effects of the culture of ethno-political domination” but even if we agree that such a group exists it lacks the numbers to actually achieve its ends, as indeed the AFC scenario shows.
To look widely at history is to see that racial division has been with mankind from the time of the caves to now, and every decade in between; we’re not dealing here with something that has emerged in recent times, as in the disposition to dump litter indiscriminately all over our landscape, or the addiction to the internet. The ethnic consideration, including voting in elections, is something firmly entrenched in mankind and almost always blindly obeyed. The presence of it in Guyana, sometimes blamed on the ‘divide and rule’ mantra of the British, actually owes to the presence of two dominant groups in our country, with differing ethnic backgrounds, and while the British did manipulate it for their own ends we are putting on blinders by claiming that our racial politics stems from colonialism. We have been shouting for an end to it for well over fifty years now after the British have left (I heard it as a youth here six decades ago) and there is not even the faintest sign of any shift. As one pundit remarked in the press recently, the Indian politician who proposes a non-Indian leader for his party will be immediately abandoned by his/her followers, and the same polarity exists among Afro-Guyanese towards their leaders. To expect or to call for otherwise is simply naïve. That is the reality. Whether we are talking about politics in Guyana, or the Middle East, or Africa, or Asia, such is the creature we see emerging in country after country. Specifically, we have been talking the racial unity talk here in Guyana for the greater part of a century, and there has been no sign of the division closing.
A more realistic approach is to step back from the purely political picture, accept that reality, and take comfort instead from the other aspects of life here. In other words, to look at the country in totality, and see the negative ingredient of racial politics as the price we have to pay for the other appealing aspects of life available to us in music, in art, in our glorious natural environment, in our exceptional literature, in our multi-faceted culture, etc, so that we are considering the whole package not just one manifestation of it.
I will be told, of course, that this is a defeatist position. We are giving up a crucial fight; this is a worthwhile endeavour, one in which we should be actively engaged, but that leaves us with the question of duration. Given that we have not seen the slightest bridging of the ethnic gap in over 50 years of our existence, what is the foundation for continuing the quest? Any kind of examination of this issue, from the time of the British arrival and going forward, shows that there is no disposition for this idea in our particular mix of nationalities. The resistance to it is formidable, continuing, and widely based; that constitutes a formidable foe and one that resists conversion. On some issues it can be argued there has been some fusion, but every time the matter at hand becomes political, and therefore ultimately over who will rule, or who will be ‘pon top’, the dispositions to mix fall away and we end up with two groups, arms folded, showing no intimations to become one. Fundamentally, the point here is that racial positions and the various cultural aspects I refer to are all part of a whole. If you want to enjoy the social and cultural side, as positive things, you have to accept the ethnic division ingredient; you can’t pick and choose; one comes with the other.