FIFTY THREE years ago, around this time, then British Guiana was abuzz with activities. Guianese were ushering in a week of celebratory events leading up to, and after, the lowering of the Union Jack and the hoisting of the Golden Arrowhead on 25th May at midnight. Those were fitting actions to mark an achievement which came through centuries of resistance to domination, marginalisation and oppression.
The mere thought of Independence is deserving of deep reflection. Foremost, it starts with the thought of thinking not in conformity with others, or accepting things as they are. The history of the nation, which was established on the debunked belief that some will serve, live and be treated at the behest of another, to recognise and decide that such ways of looking at life and treating with others are unacceptable, have redounded to this country’s benefit. Where the enslaved, indentured and colonised had the presence to fight against systems that denied, abused and deprived them – such was emboldened and sustained by independent thinking.
The celebration of Independence always comes at a time of mixed emotions. There would be no pretense that there continues to be questions as to whether Guyanese were ever ready for this stage of our development, or deserving of same. Persons can point to various issues as proof of what is considered to be inabilities or unpreparedness to manage our affairs and treat each other with respect and dignity.
This is not lost sight of, equally as it raises the question as to whether anyone thinks that colonisation is deserving of us. It also is no secret that the struggle for Independence was premised on the principle that, in being left alone to charter our destiny, things could be better with ourselves and among our fellow man. In that this period attracts pensive reflection as to how far the country has progressed and human relations improved cannot be lost sight of.
Outside of the institutions that have come to define our indigenous identity and place us as equal among other independent nation-states in articulating and pursuing our interests – domestic and foreign – there exists legitimate concern of the state of affairs on the local front. And these ought to be addressed, as Independence must not only find a nation growing in age, but also its people feeling their forebears’ efforts were worthwhile.
While moments of pessimism can be addressed, the sense of belonging as equals in this society must never be questioned or compromised. A people who have emerged out of unpleasant experiences moving forward, do not necessarily require ignoring these, given that lessons can be learnt, mistakes avoided, and strengths built on them. In the process of doing such — which is an important element in human evolution — the need for appropriate context and honest discourse ought to be applied. Unfortunately, the society continues to witness forces more inclined to recount history through lenses not built on truth and in furtherance of partisan political agenda; lenses that are dismissive of the contributions made by others, or employing efforts to wipe those contributions off the nation’s records. And where, over the years, our politics have been characterised as racially-driven and in another instance class-driven, the failure to look honestly at the past and ‘give Jack his jacket’ will discard significant aspects of the nation’s evolution and contributions of its people.
Independence also requires looking within ourselves to examine truthfully, what has been achieved, who played what role in achieving them, where we have faltered, how we can learn from our missteps, and grow from strength to strength. In 2019, independence of thinking will find us refusing to accept things as they are when we know we are capable of making them better. Equally, it must not find us overtaken by pessimism, but imbued with awareness that we, who today are alive, have a role to play in improving the conditions under which we live, and have the confidence to know that we can do it.
Even as the 53rd Independence is being observed, it should not be seen as a state of fulfilment – for it merely marks a milestone in the continued journey on the path of self-determination. Consequently, this must see the redoubling of efforts to safeguard our sovereignty from any invader equally, as we strengthen and deepen systems here in the quest for a better Guyana.