– Time to measure our laws against our cultural references
AN act of fatal domestic violence in many cases is not rationally conceptualised and executed. Though yes, there are those clinical and sinister acts. Because from the most learned authorities on neurology, most of what goes on in the brain are subject to an array of factors that are speculative rather than can be clarified as more than 70 percent fact in relation to how the human brain works. For example, you know someone, you have engaged that person in conversations, there seem to be no fanatical hardliner positions on any political or belief factors that can be identified, yet that full-of-life person commits a murder and concludes with a suicide. I knew one such person who was an electrician at GRB years ago and who had acted out such a scenario overseas. I have constantly however referred to a reality to which I was exposed as an adolescent and which I was much later able to define, via exposure to a specific training. I have mentioned in several articles as the two cultural perceptions on domestic and life matters in Guyana, as Patriarchal and Matriarchal they hearken to completely opposing domestic cultures of management.
Recently, in a December 2019 edition of Stabroek News, a letter was carried: “Failure to address the ethnic impetus in domestic abuse will see the scourge continues,” by Sushil Persaud. The letter is progressive in the context of understanding domestic violence in this country from a cultural standpoint, though it was narrowed to one ethnic group.
Domestic murder traverses cultural and human variation (ethnic) borders I concede, but it is crucial to understand the ignored cultural undercurrents that we are dealing with, and how they impact on many of the fatal situations that have not been abated by high-handed court sentencing. Our lawmakers have never related to the cultural synapses that impact on our impulsive reactions to social matters.
Exposure to different cultures and the sometimes openness of key individuals to explain what may seem one way, but is, in fact, another, plays a definite crucial role of enlightenment against the arrogance of one’s own solidified perspective. I am grateful to have been raised and exposed to two provincial cultures, Afro and Indian, and at the same time to predominant urban values, country and town. Believe me, in the context, I mentioned four different life perspectives based on different social evolutionary experiences. I can remember the brother of two young girls breaking up a playgroup and ordering them home; they lived in a more provincial area of the two villages. They were Indian, the other three girls were neighbours, one Indian and the other two Afro-Guyanese. I met the father the next day, he was a friend of both my godfather and my father, so we had a gaff freedom. I asked him if he didn’t want his daughter to mix with ‘Black people’ (the term used then we sat down by the 40-foot bridge and he explained in current related language that if Indian girls interacted with Afro Guyanese, they will become like them, meaning not conditioned as Indian girls should be, but commanding negotiations on expectations, rather than obeying.
Another incident happened repeatedly that added to his explanation. Sohan and Dolly lived next to my godparents. I knew when my godfather came home late; he had to look to the oven and the flask for his dinner. When Sohan came home everyone could hear him abusing Dolly to get up and cook fresh food. My godfather would go across and threaten him to stop ‘or else.’ When I told Dolly’s nephew Michael to talk to his uncle and rough him up, he told me he couldn’t get involved; he said, “that’s not how it works Barry.” But on the other hand, Nicky assaulted Gwenye and her brother came up and punched him around.
Patriarchal is the authority of a man without the capacity to negotiate from the female;matriarchal is the reverence and allowed authority of the female. These systems are ancient, the African matriarchal system traces its roots to ancient Khemet (Egypt) with Ammon Ra as the creative force and Máat the female force as the ‘Lawgiver’ we still say “When Mother gone, family done” after 7-10 thousand years among Afro new-world peoples. Sushil’s letter refers to “an extremely uneasy conversation” that is an understatement, because this is not purely an intellectual discourse, but rooted instead in culture and the historical-religious memory we term dismissively as Mythology.
The gross and medically dangerous practice of child brides is active in the old worlds, but the balance again applies. There, in those areas, children as young as five years old are dragged from childhood, denied an education to be enslaved under the yoke as child brides in certain parts of Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Some brave women seek to intercept this horrible practice; In Afghanistan and Yemen where Islamic extreme patriarchal-ism reigns, the policewoman Malalai Kumar of Kandahar would arrest grown men who violently assaulted their child brides; Malalai was murdered by the Taliban. See –National Geographic June 2011. While in Malawi, African Chief Therasa Kachindamoto nullified all such child marriages, returned them to parents and placed them in the school system, because of her matriarchal stature, she succeeded.
There are no platforms in Guyana to assess either the up or downsides of these systems that are drivers, at times fatal, within our social domestic currents and intercept them with revolutionary practical cultural tools supported by laws that can reshape values.
I have written about the downside of both systems, that if left unaddressed, what they will initiate and summon in retaliation as they borrow and adopt negatives, will continue to be manifest in the consistency of our fatal domestic conflicts and arsons, driven also by inevitable economic changes.