TYPICALLY, one starts off the new year elegantly by making plans, setting goals, and hoping for the best. I am, however, hesitant to gravitate to these sentiments, unfortunately. Consider for example that at least one person or group or company every month last year was suing someone for some reason, rightly or wrongly so. I have noticed that three dailies, Stabroek News, Kaieteur News, and Guyana Times, were sued by high-profile individuals in politics and business. As far as known, the Guyana Chronicle was not sued last year but paid a hefty price before August 2020 for some reckless reporting. Kudos to the current Editor-in-Chief and the staff at the Chronicle. I suppose I am in safe hands, knock on wood.
I understand that newspapers can be a product of fake news, and the intent can be to twist and distort facts to create and present a bad impression of an individual or a company. The outcome is the misrepresentation of information and defamation of character, commonly referred to as libel, slander, or mama guying. However, the aforesaid, if experienced, is not axiomatic. Anyone pursuing a legal claim must prove that a false statement has caused injury to someone’s reputation.
Now, I am not a lawyer, but commonsense would lead me to think that opinions are not willy-nilly libel, and if so, we will be muzzled. If opinions are false, or deliberately false, then one can be sued for falsity that causes harm. However, if opinions are based on truths, then a libel or defamation case becomes difficult to prove. There are additional defenses that consider statements to be purely opinions that are protected by some law or privilege. I will have to call in the lawyers to help me on this one. I do know that Guyana’s Libel/Slander Laws state that “defamatory libel is a crime punishable by imprisonment of three years or less.” For this reason, one cannot in the news media, including columnists, simply say or write anything he or she wants. The most acceptable route to publishing is to experience the freedom to express views in a responsible and ethical manner.
Of course, one should seek some sort of justice when felt harmed using the journey of jurisprudence. I am not sure, however, if all cases deserve to be in court since some appear to be frivolous.
Then there is this New Year resolution thing, which I have googled to see what it really means. I have settled on this description. It is a European thing that goes back for centuries, and, ever since, Christians every New Year make a pledge to be good and obedient to their God. Today, these sentiments have been extended to include almost everyone and the guiding principle is based on self-improvement. So, every New Year people across the globe embrace resolutions, and the most common are weight loss, and how to save money. Unfortunately, the research has shown that more than 50 per cent of people do not keep up with their resolution by mid-year. In my case, I have always been less curious about resolutions because I was born and raised in an unenvied environment where resolutions were not only a New Year thing but an everyday occurrence. One must make new resolutions every day to survive. I did not realise the difference until I arrived in North America.
If I am pressured to make a resolution, however, I would do the following. I would invite my friends regularly and feed them all sorts of good food so that they would put on weight, while I maintain my weight, and in that way, it would that appear I have lost some weight. Isn’t this resolution more realistic to achieve? Joke aside, I would rather see us tackle climate change more seriously as we move forward, as so aptly expressed in a stanza of Ryhaan Shah’s forthcoming collection of poems titled A Leaf Trembles and Falls.
Of destruction enraged by our callous carnage
Dressed as progress that rampages
Without thought or concern and burns a hole
In the heavens that causes the seas to rise
And shatter our puny manmade wall
Which snakes all along our coastland lives
But cannot yet defy the might and the majesty
Of skyscraper waves whiskered with delicate foam
This daily existential threat
That edges our continental self
From where we look out on the world
And our drowning death