Jan 21, 2014 Editorial
As the world remains financially unsteady, our general ennui will certainly be exacerbated. Much of the tedium, or even dissatisfaction, centres on the social world in which we find ourselves. Our political, social, economic and cultural structures appear no longer capable of delivering the goods. This will be the grist for the political mill already launched.
Some have maintained that we have a severe case of “bad governance”. The incumbents insist, with the aid of a few selected examples, that things aren’t really so bad. But they are merely conceding the accusation. One can always conjure up some other examples that “prove” the original charge. The reality, of course, is that we live in an imperfect world, and contrary to what politicians may state, all that is conceived cannot necessarily be achieved.
As citizens of a republic, we must interrogate the assertions that are thrown at us, as far as governance goes, and make our decisions on what may be feasibly implemented and what cannot, based on our circumstances.
Bad governance is a form of injustice that must be corrected; it is just that we must realise that we are part of the problem as well as part of the possible solution. Many of us have become intellectually lazy and allow too many of our leaders to do all our thinking for us. Good governance ultimately rests on a vigilant citizenry.
There is talk of initiating “state” reform and “deepening democratization”. State reform must involve more than just reorganization of the administrative system or the system of resource allocation as is presently being pushed by the ‘advocates of radical change”. Changes at this level will only be meaningful if they foster participatory nation-building processes.
But are we, the citizens, prepared to become more involved with governance issues? Right now the system, for instance, demands that the citizens of every community have the right to demand the details of any governmental project that is being implemented in that community and to monitor the execution of same. Are we doing this? No; but we get all worked up when excesses are uncovered by a vigilant media.
One of the bulwarks of a viable democracy is the existence of a vibrant civil society that can act as a counterforce to an always potentially tyrannical government, no matter who is in office. If citizens balk at getting involved with governmental processes, why is it that they also balk at strengthening their own organisations? In Guyana, we desperately need a strengthening of civil society.
Civil society involves various sectors, including the business world, trade unions, women’s groups, churches, and human rights activists. If we are alienated from the institutions and practices of governance, and public institutions are unable to solve social problems, then we always have ourselves. Community relationships and civic life either should not be allowed to further disintegrate. When civil society is absent or inactive, it is an open invitation to an oppressive regime.
It is hard to dispute that strengthening community and civil society will not help to address persistent social problems such as destructive injustice, poverty and violence. Strong civil society can promote dialogue and reconciliation, foster good governance, and build peace across cultures.
It can also foster the values of caring, tolerance, and cooperation, and encourage public discourse and broad participation in the construction of public policy. People who care about community are less likely to participate in mindless development and racial and economic segregation.
Civil society can also play a positive role in dealing with dislocations in the economic arena – such as uneven economic development – that is a great source of tensions in our society.
The educational and skill discrepancies that result in economic disadvantages to some unfortunate individuals can most efficiently be rectified by local, personalised programmes that are the forte of civil group activity. It is not that government does not have responsibility for much of our angst, but that it will be up to us, as subjects, to initiate change in our own names.
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