The land of Dostoyevskian agony
I have a friend who returned to Guyana for a holiday. He found himself among prostitutes in a bar in the interior. He couldn’t believe that a particular prostitute was making fun of him for being generous and nice to her. He couldn’t comprehend why she didn’t appreciate a gentleman’s hand.
Psychologically, she couldn’t because she was conditioned to respond to one type of value only. That is the only value, only standard by which she judged men who wanted to buy sex from her.
Any psychologist would tell you that a conditioned mind cannot think outside of the box. The behavioural standard prostitutes use to judge their clients, is male chauvinism. If you go into a bar and give her a rose, she may find you either to be living in another world or a foolish guy who doesn’t understand the world.
It does not mean the woman is inherently incapable of higher thoughts, but unless you remove her from her occupation, she will tend to judge men by their macho deportment.
It is the same with entire societies. When a country loses its humanity, it ekes out a living as a matter of routine, its people are poor and treated cruelly, therefore violence and cruelty are not negative values that shock the average citizen.
The sociologist would argue that in such an atrociously Hobbesian condition, people become numb to violence. Violence against and mistreatment of citizens does not engender feelings of indignation, angst and pain.
I read in this newspaper that literally feet away from where patrons were dining in a popular spot in Werk-en-Rust not far from the Camp Street jail, two brothers were attacked by bandits for their jewellery. One of the men put up a fight and was shot. The sound of gunfire did not disrupt the enjoyment of the fried fish and beer. Patrons saw what happened and just immersed themselves in their enjoyment.
To these diners who were looking at the attack, it was just another violent incident. This was life in Guyana they figured.
No one from the legal community or the human rights organizations ever comment on the way poor people are treated in the magistrates’ courts in this country. I have no respect for a majority of our magistrates, who I think are intellectual failures. I read in last Monday’s KN that a man was sentenced to three years for possession of a single, I repeat, a single bullet.
The Kaieteur News headline read; “Rupununi man gets three years for one bullet.” Should any society accept this kind of crassly inhuman sentence? In which other country an accused will be jailed for three years for possession of a mere bullet? That is unacceptable. You just don’t take away people’s freedom like that.
I am saying most unambiguously that Magistrate Hazel Octive-Hamilton was wrong to impose such a harsh sentence. Did the man understand the implication when he pleaded guilty? But what was going through that magistrate’s head when she sentenced that man so harshly? Where is the society’s condemnation of this mistreatment?
While in the High Court last Wednesday, I ran into Moses Nagamootoo, who told me about a case he won for a sugar worker against Guysuco. The same day I read Moses’s affidavit. It made me sick. The next day I saw the case was carried in this newspaper.
At fifteen years, the litigant worked in the cane fields for Guysuco carrying bundles of canes on his head. One day, after years of service, he slipped, hurt his back and medical examination revealed he couldn’t work again for the rest of his life. This young man had to take Guysuco to court to get his compensation. He was awarded $6.4M, which Guysuco no doubt will appeal.
If anything should remind the people born in this country after Independence in 1966 that the white colonial in his khaki outfit has been replaced by an arrogant local in shirt-jac more sadistic, more inhuman and more depraved, it is the state-owned company named Guysuco.
It is this writer’s view that Sir Jock Campbell as the head of Bookers would have treated this young man in a more civilized manner than the very people his parents no doubt voted for over the years.
If any country proves that colonialism may have had a more humane face than the post-colonial governments, it is Guyana. It has to be an act of madness that our post-colonial leaders appealed a court decision that granted a 15-year-old youth $3M for the brutal torture he endured by the police. To understand Guyana, read Anthony Burgess’s great work, “A Clockwork Orange.”