UNDERLYING the social space of this land, there appears to be a sort of abrasive, antagonistic spirit at play in some quarters, which the nation would do well to be conscious of for progress to accelerate without unnecessary diversions and deviation into distracting, sidetracking paths, because this pervasive scapegoating habit shows up all over the place, carving a schism in the body politic, populating constant unending opposing views in sections of the media, and dividing the society into cynical groupthink segments, much of it stemming from irrational, emotive, personal bias, rather than sourced in factual information, sensible, well-thought out conclusions, or reasonable concerns.
It is one thing to air one’s raw views in private, in personal conversations; it is quite another matter to air one’s unrefined views and raw vents on the public stage. For this society to tackle its natural inclination to vent and say whatever comes to mind, for the country to guard its public space and to cultivate a social atmosphere for Guyanese to feel inspired, motivated, empowered and edified when encountering the public square, when listening to fellow citizens discoursing matters of national interest, this delicate undercurrent cries out for a safety net.
In fact, one could easily see that this phenomenon played a big role in the country’s history, especially since Independence. Some intellectually-minded souls point to the colonialists of the past as the architects of this underbelly to the Guyanese society, labelling it the divide-and-conquer tactic. So, the society accepts it as a realism, and then blames it on an abstract concept that finds no reality in current times.
This spirit of antagonism leads to scapegoating, blaming, and non-engagement, which drains energy on the national stage, demotivates the population, and renders the public helpless under the spell of opposing personalities being unproductive in expending their energy in uncooperative endeavours.
An interesting presupposition for this state of affairs seems to be that it is a natural outgrowth of a democratic society, that there is freedom for anybody to say anything at anytime about anybody, with little regard to such decent considerations as responsible public behaviour, professional conduct, or exemplary leadership. Some folks feel that if they oppose everything the government does, for example, then they are exercising a sort of moral high ground.
Of recent, the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) exercised its authority to haul a few people before the courts for social media posts that violated this tenet of respect, decent public discourse, and consideration for the well-being of others. However, much of the negative emanations across the society, day in and day out, surround not ethnic disrespect, but the functioning of government, with a seeming free-for-all to malign, gossip about, and tarnish the image of leaders who stand up to serve the Guyanese nation, with even a couple of the daily newspapers seeming to feel it is their moral duty to be critical of every facet of this society’s government and State, some even behaving as if they must “balance” the proactive public State-owned media, with opposing views.
Some media houses even blatantly ignore any attempt to practice objective public discourses or propagate professional media content, with their strenuous opposition to leaders who they do not like or agree with on public matters. And they hide under the guise of operating a media outfit in a democratic society, touting the freedom to say and propagate anything as freedom of speech, but ignoring the need for responsible professional conduct in the public arena.
It is a strange phenomenon, this scapegoating spirit that stalks the land, which most people ignore, and may not even be conscious of, but if left to fester and evolve, could derail, delay, and dent the progress and prosperity of this land.
One could argue that it is precisely this phenomenon, this penchant for scapegoating, fault-finding, and this irrational finger-pointing, that caused Guyana to suffer during the 28 years that the People’s National Congress (PNC) stifled democracy to keep the People’s Progressive Party from governing this land, with a deliberate ploy to paint Dr Cheddi Jagan with a bad brush, and it is patently clear that this is the phenomenon that vaulted the Coalition into Government in 2015, causing five years of retrograde decline for the country. So detrimental was the scapegoating against leaders of the PPP/C in 2015, that citizens across the country started believing that every leader of the PPP was corrupt. Now, everybody sees the truth, with five years of the Coalition focusing on vengeance, producing not an iota of evidence for the most devastating claim against PPP leaders. The country must exercise great care and sound wisdom to make sure this sort of thing never happens again in the nation’s history.
Such a thing may not be a big deal in a complex society, but for a small population like Guyana, with only four daily newspapers and a handful of national media outlets and with just a few national leaders and public commentators, this phenomenon becomes of vital importance, with every utterance invading, impacting, and influencing every corner of the country, touching the life of every Guyanese, causing a real possibility of disruption, public angst, and lack of citizen confidence in their government and their direction as a people.