It was the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, who wrote the words above to describe Russia in 1939. That was over 70 years ago. Since then Russia has thrown off the curiosity the world had of it. If I were to lift Churchill’s assessment out of its particular context and apply it to another country in the entire world, it would be my own homeland, Guyana.
Yesterday, the Ministry of Social Cohesion held a roundtable on national unity at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre. The number of national stakeholders was staggering – over fifty. But it was déjà vu. Haven’t we been this way before? I didn’t attend; not out of disrespect for the Ministry. Its effort should be applauded. But out of the mental discomfort of sitting in the same room with stakeholders who just a few months ago were willing participants in the perpetuation of national divisiveness and power madness.
Then there were others in that round table that couldn’t be bothered if a magistrate jails a baby for crying too loudly.
I remember representing the TUC on a similar occasion at the same venue years ago. Each stakeholder brought his own bestial instincts to the meeting. Absolutely nothing was achieved and that was because this is an inhuman, unconscionable, uncaring, dishonest, immoral county, riveted by horrendous self-interest.
If national cohesion is to fertilize in this Dostoyevskian desert called Guyana, it has to start with people having an appreciation for the fundamental law of right versus wrong. In this barren landscape of cowardice and raw instincts, Guyanese must use every moral thread in ontology to invent a culture of human endearment. If you are devoid of the capacity for empathy you cannot appreciate the cultural and ethnic difference within the human race.
Everyday in this society, human tragedies cascade like falling water from a fountain and Guyanese don’t even look in the direction of the misery in front of them. Is there another country like this? Magistrates are out of control and not one citizen dares to speak up. You pick up the newspaper each day and you see reckless decisions by mediocre magistrates that destroy the lives of hundreds of teenagers not for violent robberies but their first offence of marijuana possession.
And the dozen youth groups we have here utter not a word. It never occurred to this society that if voices are raged against what these magistrates do then we can regain some human value in the society.
Guyana, we are told, is a nation of youth with almost half the population being of young people. Not even one group of the dozens of youth organizations we have in Guyana voiced even an ounce of concern about the disappearance of the Ministry of Youth. It has not occurred to them that if they had asked for the return of their Ministry it might have happened.
A new government comes into power after winning the general election after spending years on the opposition benches.
Just three years before they won the election when they were in the opposition, they passed a pro-democracy motion to remove a canopy of jail fences that surrounded the National Assembly edifice.
No sooner had they walked into the halls of power, than the jail fences grew longer and wider devouring more streets in close proximity to Parliament. Not one citizen sees this betrayal of a pro-democracy advocacy as an ominous sign for the future. A long, long time ago, in 1811 to be precise, Frenchman, Joseph de Maistre, wrote the following words with cynical intention; “People deserve the government they get.”
The jail-fences around Parliament worry me because I have always been a student of history and philosophy and when you study both, they leave you in a permanent state of disappointment with power. History is very instructive. Power takes an inch.
When silence greets it, it takes another inch. When the silence is more deafening, it takes three inches. When the silence becomes the norm, power takes over the soul of a country.
What becomes of all those stakeholders who left the Arthur Chung Convention Centre yesterday? Do you think they care to comment on why the APNU-AFC people betrayed their own pro-democracy motion in Parliament now that they are in power? Do you think these stakeholders will have the decency to tell the supermarket owner that they patronize that he is running a sweat shop? Will they boycott the super-rich family that compels its employees to buy their own toilet paper for use in the work place? Do these stakeholders hold anything that is dear in the menagerie of values that hold civilization together?
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