Spare a thought this Christmas
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CHRISTMAS has always been touted as a time for family and togetherness, but I can’t help thinking about all of the trauma that was faced this year and spare my thoughts, at the very least, for the affected families.

This is my pre-Christmas column, and while I wanted to integrate my column with the rest of the warm and maybe cheery stories in this edition of the Pepperpot, I am mentally incapable of doing so.

This past week a mother confessed to hitting her six-year-old child with a piece of wood. The child was left in an unconscious state and the mother fled the scene. The child, as of Tuesday, was in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). A few days before, a man burnt his wife and two young children to death. These are only two recent events, following a spate of such events this year alone.

I’ve always been cognisant of the ‘bliss’ of the Christmas season; the magical feeling brought by the fairy lights and decorations, ‘fancy’ food and goodies, and whatever was in the air that just made everything seem so idyllic. I don’t feel that this year.

What I feel is this lingering sense of pain and trauma, drawn from the violence against vulnerable individuals– women and children. I think about the families in pain, suffering from these traumas. And if there is anything that I’m certain about, it is that we have to do better.

There is a pervasive culture of silence in Guyana which helps to empower perpetrators, who are more often than not, men. Exacerbating this is that by victim-blaming instead of culprit-blaming, we embolden these perpetrators. But it is more than what a man does or does not do. Women’s rights activist Danuta Radzik related recently that the root causes of these occurrences include gender inequality, gender discrimination and the social system of patriarchy.

I see activists and other social workers working day in and day out trying their best to create a safer Guyana for vulnerable groups, but then incidents such as these occur and I try to imagine the kind of resilience they must possess to keep pushing against an oppressive system.

I think a lot about the strained racial and ethnic relations emphasised this year, too. I think about how biases, stereotypes, prejudices, and perceptions proliferated our social (including social media) spaces. As we wind down to Christmas, what relationships have been strained or even damaged? And do we sulk for a bit and then go back to that place where everything is “alright”, at least on the surface? Or are we willing to engage in conversations where we can listen and learn from each other, and allow ourselves to really heal and potentially, uncover solidarity?

I think it is important for us to recognise that these issues are not isolated problems. They are part of an inherent system of inequalities, informed not only by race and ethnicity, but also by class and gender.

And while I do believe that decision and policymakers do have a role to play, I also believe that as individuals there are approaches we can take, particularly those of us who are better informed. We have to try speaking with our family members, friends, and community members about things we see happening, even if it is uncomfortable and difficult at first.

I don’t want to sound like a broken record, playing the same tune week after week, but I genuinely do believe that dialogue has a role to play in our efforts of “doing better.” Dialogue helps us to talk about wrongly held biases, stereotypes, prejudices, and perceptions. It also helps to empower us all because it provides not only a safe space for us to be heard, but also a safe space to listen and learn.

I hope this Christmas when we’re with our loved ones we can think about all of the pain and trauma from this year and think about how we can do better going forward.

Before I go, lest we forget, Joel and Isaiah Henry (“the Henry boys”) and Haresh Singh were also gruesomely murdered just a few months ago, and the perpetrators have not been brought to justice as yet. I hope we can share our thoughts for those families and what they must be feeling at this time.

If you would like to discuss this column or any of my previous writings, please feel free to contact me via email: vish14ragobeer@gmail.com

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