AS the prolonged elections season inches towards what most Guyanese hope would be a just resolution to the problems therein, it is time for us to begin to think of a post-elections Guyana. There is no doubt that the elections have engendered severe damage to our national political psyche. It would take a tremendous effort on our part to rebuild the broken bridges and the severed relations. Guyanese have to recapture that shared aspiration that has kept us together as a nation for so long. Experience has shown that that is perhaps the hardest task to accomplish the morning after the storm.
Like many countries of the post-colonial world, Guyana has been cobbled together by the force of history—a history that was determined by forces and actions which the vast majority of us did not control. In the case of Guyana, the European quest for wealth led to the institution of slavery after attempts to subdue the original inhabitants failed. Millions of Africans were then uprooted from their homeland against their will. They came to the so-called new world to a long night of inhumanity that has no parallel in history. Slavery shaped everything that came after it.
Colonialism in its many manifestations continued the agony for the formerly enslaved as they were joined on the plantation by new victims of bondage. It was during this period that the diverse groups developed their distrust for each other. Despite moments of mutual solidarity in the face of the hand of oppression, the seeds of distrust and animosity were sowed and nurtured. By the time the long hand of colonial domination was forced to retreat, our multi-ethnic fabric had been infected with the virus of insecurity and fear of the other.
Since independence almost six decades ago, we have struggled to make good on our aspiration of one people, one nation, one destiny. But the push towards this aspiration has been impeded by the pull of the competition for power to guarantee defence against domination by the other. Amidst this seemingly permanent state of siege, we limped along to the present. We paid enough lip service to national unity to get us from one scare to another. We dodged our self-inflicted pain to live for another day. We kicked the ball down the road. We danced the dance of “one people” even though the rhythm betrayed something else.
And then came 2020. Everything seems to come together in one moment. All the contradictions which we papered over for five decades and more escaped their makeshift prisons. For three months now our insanity has taken hold of us in a way that defies logic and commonsense. We walk and talk past each other as if we are old enemies. What is most dangerous is that we convinced ourselves that we are defending precious ideals such as democracy and rule of law. So, we crush one another with a strange conviction that it is a fight of what a former Attorney General dubbed “good over evil.”
When the goodly Attorney General uttered those words, little did he know that he was betraying a formulation that is pregnant with decades of simmering hate. That is the basis of the tumultuous days we have experienced these past four months. Today, Martin Carter’s “Brown Beatles” are not the British soldiers of 1953, but the soldiers of ethnic venom disguised as something else. One side is being egged on by new “Brown Beatles” from the metropoles aided by those closer to our our shores. Vidia Naipaul must be smiling in his grave as the Mimic Men and Women lift their voices in true mimic style.
Where do we go from here, we ask in part desperation and part triumphalism; forked tongue, they say. The answer to that question lies in our capacity to embrace sanity over insanity. As unprecedented wealth beckons, we seem bent on ceding it to others who are willing us on to keep fighting while they stand in waiting with outstretched hands. Where do we go from here? Will we reach for our joint patrimony or will we keep wallowing in our new-found aggression? Will we reach for a hand of goodwill or will we plaster our faces with the grease of doom? Will we drop the sword of domination and reach for a sharing and caring solution? Will we come to our senses or will we keep clinging to senselessness?
Guyana, this is a call to change course—it is not too late. Everything potentially uplifting is within our horizon. We just have to see; we just have to want to see. After the battle for the power is over, we may well discover that there is no power. Where do we go from here? The path is in our hand, if only we have the presence of mind to grasp it.