We have to follow the steps to create the discourse of science


NOTHING is wrong with the minds of Guyanese toward their application to scientific dialogue, except that the process in the human consciousness that developed the early foundations of scientific thinking have scantly been a part of our formative daily discourse at any level.

I’ve covered aspects of this in previous articles, but my brother Elton McRae’s letter on science Shyness in the Guyana Chronicle on Monday 20 Nov 2017 has indicated the need for dialogue. Elton’s letter covers a wide area of this problem over a wide historical space, however, despite the fact that we were a colony and conditioned toward the priorities of that status, there were always creole cottage industries before and after emancipation that continued into the colonial subject era. Artisans served the villages and grass root industry sustained the self-employed efforts long after the villages moved away in their majority from the business of cutting cane. With the estates, many of the colonial subjects outside of indentured labour would return to the Estates as skilled factory workers.

Though agriculture remained a stable force of employment across Old Guyana, other areas akin to the sciences of the day, during the 1890s/1900s occupied reasonable percentages of active employment; Cooperage, Bakeries, Boat and Shipbuilding and Mining among other operations like the Train and Steamer services that required semi-skilled employees. In Georgetown and New Amsterdam the Hackney-Coach services [Taxis of that day] commanded management of both horse and coach, as this service fell into the hands of the colonial subjects, thus a line of local mechanics and service was demanded.

By post indentureship, though estate culture maintained its status quo. The industrial revolution, the final division of the old world by Europe placing in Colonising hands their physical and intellectual resources, commenced with the forced colonisation of Africa except for Ethiopia. That colonising push took the rivalry of those nations down the road to WWI. This period led to the competitive movement of the sciences on a war footing, that would spin off to commercial usage. It must have been realised that in the Old world, much of the engineering, astronomy and metallurgy was encoded in the ancient religions we today refer to as mythologies through the study guilds sacred to certain Gods. I have touched on the nexus between the arts and scientific inspiration before, but not from this perspective, can it be denied that in the modern world the author Mary Shelley’s classic ‘Frankenstein’ did not without intent, herald the physical concept of Genetic Engineering, eclipsing the occult séance and other related beliefs.

I spoke with Elton on the absence of sources of local inspiration. Where are the records of professionals who excelled in the practical scientific fields, like the Pool brothers my father and Godfather spoke about? He was aware of them, was sure they were from the East Coast but neither I nor Elton knew where to start looking. It’s not that the average child is uninterested, it’s that ‘we’, meaning subsequent generations, have failed in this crucial part of nation-building that requires the need to capture the work of these people by attributing their names to institutions in their performance stream which can serve as inspiration. I spoke with a young professional in the media the last week in November and he didn’t know who Dr Giglioli was, much less what he had done. Ignorance can have reasons for existing, but it still is ignorance.

It will not be easy to develop patriotism and commitment to nation building without knowing who has done what to build the foundations that we stand upon. No wonder our media and street slangs are either Jamaican or American movie imitations. I worked with a talented and creative welder named Prescott or Prescod. He and his brothers lived in Campbellville and possibly still do. This brother built working models of moving industrial and military vehicles. He made the Newspapers, but to my surprise continued to work at GRB. There didn’t seem to be anyone in authority with the vision to explore his potential other than his talents which were an anomaly. I could remember seeing at a national exhibition a booth manned by the Linden Technical Institute of a model of the operations of the Bauxite mine.

It was impressive. I was a teenager, and when I asked an official that was obviously attached to that Linden group, if it wasn’t possible to build models of the operations like this one for schools and for sale as toys, the man responded, ‘No, it was just for the exhibition.’ I walked away, thinking ‘what an idiot.’ I learnt from my daughter that the Motorola flip phone was copied from the design used in the Star Trek Sci-Fi series. The science of comic books is earning reviews from serious science journals like ‘DISCOVER’. I have been and may still be on the list at Midtown comics on 41st and Times Square.

The clientele there is far removed from the stereotype of giggling children. The popular series BIG BANG THEORY is a great example of stimulating a particular social/cultural scientific profile through well-constructed entertainment. We don’t have the museums, nor do we have the volume of teachers or the virtual reality /holographic teaching aid labs for students to explore the basic foundations of the science we want the present generation at the threshold of adulthood to be encouraged into.

There are not conversations anywhere they go in our society; no platform has been developed for our young people to stand upon in meaningful numbers to explore science from a career point of view. The atmosphere has to be developed. Our STEM team performance was great and inspirational but a wider movement is needed that only the Arts can provide with the reality of our levels of illiteracy and semi-literate young citizens created over the past 20 years of negligence.