I regret I write with grimness in this festive season. Perhaps it is good to remember that for countless millions in the world this is, as T S Eliot reminded us in the greatest poem ever written about the birth of Christ, “Just the worst time of the year.” So this column records an event which I vividly remember once cast a shadow for me over the festival of goodwill and love and peace.
Nothing can compare with the beauty and warmth of life at home. Bred into bone, steeped into blood, is the everyday sweetness of living in Guyana with its river-light and forest green and soft air and garden quiet in the sun and rain.
A great part of Brazil has been in the grip of one of the worst droughts in its history: reservoirs running dry, water strictly rationed, particularly in Sao Paulo.
We should beware the over-mighty state. A state that gathers all powers to itself drains initiative away from where it does most good ‒ at the local level, at the level of the small group, the family, the individual.
For God’s sake, what is going on? Remember: A young Pakistani girl is shot in the head for trying to educate herself and others like her.
Reading is a good friend, whether the wind blows good or ill. There is not a single day it does not yield knowledge of interest, insights of value, moments of surprise, shocks of recognition and even visions of splendour.
The list is long in Guyana of problems needing solution and the list isn’t shortening.
Do you find, as I do, that as time passes you accommodate a vast sludge of useless information which remains stored in the brain for no purpose whatsoever?
Many companies in Japan have a special room for their employees which is called, in free translation from the Japanese, a “letting off steam and bile” room.
I have been thinking of my father. Since he died in 1995 at the age of 89 I have not written very much about him.
I have been looking at a great deal of cricket lately from across the world: Test cricket ‒ the Ashes, India versus Sri Lanka ‒ and ODIs and Twenty/20 cricket from all over.
Even in the worst of times – and who can doubt that the daily, brutal, unstoppable exploits of uncaught criminals have made this time one of widening and deepening fear and frustration – reading comes to the rescue by revealing other worlds of experience where cruelty and mindlessness and man’s inhumanity to man do not continually have the upper hand.
It is described how Confucius when asked by one of his disciples what he would do if he were given his own territory to govern the Master replied that he would first and above all “rectify the names” ‒ that is, make words correspond to reality.
I have been re-reading, slowly and with renewed love and admiration, all of Martin Carter’s poems.
At the ripe old age of eighty-two, when one is fully aware that it is time to make sense of what has happened in one’s life, I am convinced about two major things.
We are richer by far in having a varied media as part of the life of the community.
Good poetry holds its truth and relevance throughout the ages. It may retail the facts and thinking of its own era, but part if it will always express what is eternally true and recognizable.
In Guyana, there is a pervasive anxiety about the state of things in general which currently focuses on the seemingly unstoppable spread of criminal activity and violent crime in society.
The end of the world as some of us know and love it is here.
The burden of debt is overwhelming country after country. Greece is in the headlines now but there are scores of others teetering on the precipice.
There is an entry in my father’s diary which moved me deeply when I read it after he died.
In Guyana getting a good education is defined as getting good exam results.
We are fortunate in Guyana that even in the worst times of party paramountcy the full ruthlessness of power was never exercised wholesale.
“The writer must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honour and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.” -William Faulkner: Nobel Prize Speech, 1950 Once, immersed in the hectic daily round of mostly trivial happenings, hurrahs and harassments which make up life.
Isaiah Berlin, who died a few years ago at the age of 89, was in my view the most distinguished political philosopher and historian of ideas of the 20th century.