So, Minister Lawrence has apologized for words “attributed” to her. I am not sure whether she meant the words that she uttered or that she was hinting that she was misquoted. But the fact is that she apologized to those who felt hurt by her words.
This is the problem with our politicians—they find it difficult to admit errors. The fact is that the Minister offered a feeble admission that what she said was out of order. Perhaps she realized that she has embarrassed a lot of government supporters. But consistent with the cynical side of our political culture, many supporters endorsed the Minister’s statements and saw absolutely nothing wrong with them.
But as soon as she “apologized” – something they had urged her not to do, they pivoted and heaped praise on her for having the courage to admit an error. Well she “apologized” not because of the cheers of her supporters, but because some of us had the courage to tell her that she was wrong. And trust me, she did not apologize because the PPP said she was wrong, but because some on her side of the political fence and some independents said she was out of order. If she had followed the counsel of her supporters, she would have gone to the Square of the Revolution and repeated the speech.
This is precisely one of the main reasons why our politics can be so frustrating. Supporters on both sides of the ethno-political divide take an uncritical stance towards the actions of their leaders. Those who today sing all praises to this government were just a few months ago very critical of the previous government for the very things they now view as acceptable. The problem is that in the process they diminish themselves and help to consolidate a sense of infallibility in their leaders.
Others have downplayed the seriousness of what the Minister said and meant, because the other side does it and because clientelism has always been part of our politics. Such people prolong the normalization of bad politics. When do we muster the courage to say something is wrong and should be discontinued?
I was appalled at the extent to which PPP supporters went along with, excused or remained silent about the PPP’s excesses. Whether they realized it or not, in the process they diminished Guyana and ultimately contributed to making Guyana a worse place than during the bad old PNC days.
I am amazed that many of these people continue to hold up those bad PNC days as the lowest point of our very lowly political state. It doesn’t occur to them that their hatred of the PNC and the bad PNC days, was used as the mask to expand and extend the authoritarian state they vowed to dismantle.
It was my biggest lesson from the PPP period in government—how governments and parties could subtly, and no so subtly, use the promise of returning democracy to mask their dictatorial agenda and how party supporters’ insecurity, fear and drive for revenge become props in that process.
I, therefore, vowed that the current government should not be allowed the same luxury. In that regard, I have turned my face away from uncritical support. Of course, there is a price to be paid, and I am paying that price. As an African Guyanese and an Africanist, I should not be critical of the government in public or be critical of it at all. I get daily advice to do as the East Indians did — “David, did you see the Indians criticize the PPP when it was in government?” I resist such urgings, I know it is the norm, but it is a norm that I reject, and would like to render it less normative.
PPP supporters are united in their belief that persons like myself are racist—after all, I do not hide my sense of Blackness and Black Pride, and I wear African clothes after Emancipation Day. You see, we don’t make a distinction between racial pride and racism—once you proclaim cultural pride, you are racist to the other side, and even some of your own ethnic group. But to the diehard government supporters, I am more than racist—I won’t repeat the nastiness that is heaped on me by government supporters. My crime is straightforward—I dare to say that this government is wrong.
Mind you, these very people heaped praise on me whenever I lambasted the PPP — “you now making sense David, I don’t agree with everything you write, but on this one I am with you.” I often shake my head and wonder what a place to be. I know some of these people know better, but others have surrendered to the logic of our ethno-political logic. “What power sharing you talking ‘bout David, can you share power with devils?”
I know the origins of such political instincts; at a certain level I sympathize with it. But I refuse to be part of it. I am not spending my time lambasting Jagdeo and the PPP just for the sake of doing it. I am not making excuses for this government’s errors because I don’t want to sound like the PPP. I am not allowing African solidarity to determine my support for the government or lack of support for the PPP. I am not advising Black people to be uncritical of their government simply because Indians did it. I come from that Black tradition that wants Black people to use their blackness in positive ways.
In the end Guyana is diminished by blind political loyalty. Minister Lawrence heaped scorn on those party councilors who don’t toe the party line—she is obviously against independent thought and action. When the party gives a directive, you follow or face the consequences. That kind of political culture is inimical to democracy. No wonder many of our younger party members are so uninformed—they are dissuaded from embracing critical analysis and independent action and they in turn accept such orthodoxy as normative.
It is why the PNC has a hard time functioning in a coalition. Coalition politics are inimical to the “follow the leader” syndrome. And even if you try, you look stupid. It is why it should not be surprising that the party preaches coalition building while undermining the coalition.
Just listen to Minister Lawrence and it becomes clear that she is not thinking coalition; she is thinking party. For me, the story is clear—I did not fight party paramountcy to then turn around and help resuscitate it in the name of coalition loyalty. The coalition has my qualified support now, but it has to earn my support in 2020. The PPP is not an option for me, but a coalition that has lost is way is not an automatic alternative. I am not supporting that kind of politics articulated by Minister Lawrence—It’s not my cup of tea.
A month ago we, of the Kaiso tradition, said farewell to Shadow, the bassman. Within a month of his passing, fellow kaiso legends Defosto Himself, Lord Superior and Composer have all gone back to the ancestors. As my Congo Brethren and Sistren from Annandale South Congo Pasture used to chant: “Congo Creolie/One b One, See them a go way/One b One.
And a Congo boy from Buxton-Annandale-Congo Pature, Bevon Currie has also gone home. Farewell Countryman—you were a true activist with a conscience and a vision. They don’t make them like you no more.
More of Dr. Hinds ‘writings and commentaries can be found on his YouTube Channel Hinds’ Sight: Dr. David Hinds’ Guyana-Caribbean Politics and on his website www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.news. Send comments to [email protected]
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