A nebulous editorial

March 6, 2013 | By | Filed Under Letters 

Dear Editor,
I found your editorial of 3/4/13 to be nebulous with regard to the definition and use of the word legacy, and rather cavalier in the attribution of credit for the genesis of Guyana’s independence movement. Legacies in any context have to be viewed as passed-on measurable personal and professional accomplishments/achievements, or lack thereof, that affect individuals and societies.
And, as will be noted later, legacies with societal effects, such as those left by politicians, cannot be easily obliterated because they are disregarded or neglected by their political inheritors. So while I agree that Marxism should guide any analysis of Cheddi Jagan’s disappointing legacy, because he claimed reliance upon Marxism to determine his personal and professional contribution to our nation, I disagree that his legacy is Marxism or that his “legacy is dead”  because of the failure of the consciously corrupt minority PPP government to embrace Marxism.
I am no fan of Mr. Jagan because of his and the PPP’s rancid hypocrisy on democracy in Guyana and communist countries. He and his PPP gladly used their freedom of travel and speech under the PNC to wail about rigged elections in Guyana even as they gladly supported travel and speech restrictions and vote rigging in communist countries.
Nevertheless, if his legacy is dead for the reasons you posit, then so are the societal-enhancing legacies of every parent who ever raised several good children but ended up with some that chose a life of crime.
For while we wouldn’t mind a comparison of our legacy with that of others, we would reject any attempt to declare our legacy as being dead based on a conflation of our non-criminal actions with the criminal actions of our children or other relatives.
We must look at the effects of Mr. Jagan’s actions on our nation for his legacy and cannot conflate Mr. Jagan’s disappointing legacy with the odious one being built by the consciously corrupt inheritors of his party.
Mr. Jagan was known for his political use of the race card as much as he was known for his embrace of Marxism. And his and Forbes Burnham’s use of the race card has had tragic consequences for our nation. The consciously corrupt minority government learned the use of the race card from Mr. Jagan, and uses it at every opportunity it gets.
No one fails to see how much better our country would have been if Forbes Burnham and Mr. Jagan had failed to use the race card. So, in my view, aspects of Mr. Jagan’s disappointing legacy are alive and well because race relations in our country could at times be seen as a ticking time-bomb.
Mr. Jagan’s disappointing legacy is also evident in the disdain with which PPP complaints of PNC rigging are greeted by knowledgeable people. Mr. Jagan in August of 1968 refused to condemn the crushing of democratic reforms by the Soviet Union in Czechoslovakia, but was in December 1968 hollering about PNC vote rigging in Guyana.
On the positive side, is Mr. Jagan’s education legacy really dead because the consciously corrupt PPP minority government has been running the University of Guyana into the ground? No! Given his founding role in the university, every UG graduate and all they have achieved because of their UG degree can be claimed as part of that legacy. Thus many aspects (both negative and positive) of Jagan’s legacy are alive and will be for a very long time.
Prior to delving into Mr. Jagan’s nebulously defined legacy, your editorial further caught my interest when it used the contestable article “the” in addressing Mr. Jagan’s founding role in the PPP and the independence movement. The editorial stated that Mr. Jagan was “the founder of the PPP and the independence movement.”
Every knowledgeable person knows that Mr. Jagan was “a” rather than “the” founder of both modern groups, but I am here concerned with the independence movement. The term “independence movement” is not reflexively associated with slave rebellions, let alone leading to an association of slaves with the quest for national independence.
But if the slave rebellions in Guyana and such places as Haiti weren’t about national independence, then rather than rightly saying that Columbus was probably among the first Europeans to visit and see the New World, I insist on peddling the preposterous claim that Columbus discovered the New World, even though he met natives on arrival, and Inca and Aztec civilizations had been built and destroyed in the New World long before any European ever imagined that there was a New World.
Cheddi Jagan, Forbes Burnham, and other educated local elites played their roles in our nation’s drive for national independence. But those roles must always be placed in their proper perspective.
Lionel Lowe

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