Caribbean philosophers like Edouard Glissant, Caribbean literary scholars like V.S. Naipaul painted the Caribbean as a troubled land. Caribbean post-colonial thinkers consistently polemicise on the Caribbean being the only region in the entire world where transplantation, migration, settlement and cultural confusion have radically altered the cultural, sociological and anthropological landscape.
Literary giants, poets and academics from the Caribbean have no quarrel with the label that the Caribbean is a troubled place. No country in the cultural confusion of the Caribbean stands out more as a failure than Guyana.
Every European and American scholar that writes on the Caribbean singles out Guyana as the main aberration on the sea of post-colonial stultification.
Prime Minister of St. Vincent, Ralph Gonsalves, posits that Barbados is the exceptional quality in the Caribbean. He put Jamaica high up and Trinidad but Guyana is not in the same category.
Of the four big names in the English-speaking Caribbean, we are always last on the list of achievers trying to break out of the prison, Glissant said colonialism brought. Even on the surface of global image, we haven’t come near to Barbados, Trinidad and most of all, Jamaica.
Why is this so? It is outside the scope of a newspaper column to undertake an analysis of post-colonial failure in Guyana. I wish this country would overtake many in the Third World now that we are an important oil producer that will figure decisively in US foreign policy.
But I will be long dead and gone, and the wishing and hoping and the leaving will go on keeping us where we have been since the West Indies got Independence – the bottom of the ladder. My mom was fond of saying, “like how butter melts against the sun.”
Oil money will dry up under the intense tropical sun.
As we go into polling stations to vote in the same week we celebrate 50 years of rejection of the symbolic rule of the British monarch, it may be the last attempt to keep the journey of optimism alive.
So we come back to the question asked above- “Why is this so,” that is, why 50 republican years of failure? The complexity of the picture is too enormous to discuss but some factors stand out.
Let us leave out the cultural and psychological deformation that colonialism brought. There just isn’t space to include a discourse on that.
There is no question Dr. Cheddi Jagan and his party and Forbes Burnham and his party have disfigured the philosophical foundations of Guyana’s existence. I believe we are existential creatures responsible for our own decisions.
Therefore, we cannot go on blaming the psychological effects of colonialism and the legacies of Burnham and Jagan.
The legacies of the Jewish race point to graphic failure of the colonialism paradigm. Seventy years ago, the Jews were massacred. No country wanted to accept European Jewish refugees in 1933 when Hitler began to dominate in Europe. Today, the Jewish people are extremely powerful folks in powerful countries of the world.
How then do you explain in the context of what the Jews achieved the continuation of the effects of colonialism 55 years after the demise of colonial rule in this land?
I do not buy the academic nonsense that sees the psychic damage of colonialism as the reason for cultural deformations and barren minds in Guyana. Surely after 55 years, what was wrongly transmitted to humans they have to exorcize and it is not an impossible task.
Take homosexuality. Civilisation as late as 60 years ago, frowned on homosexuality. Civilisation evolved to reject people of same gender having sexual relations. Today, more and more countries are legalising homosexual transactions.
The world overcame the psychological brainwashing of centuries of anti-homosexual sermonising. Why then can’t Guyanese overcome the stultifying effect on our psychology that came with western cultural domination?
There have to be other compelling factors that account for 50 years of failure since we became a republic. One of these determinants is mediocre, visionless leadership that has plagued this land since the founding fathers laid the groundwork for Independence.
Here is where we lag badly behind the Caribbean. The other big three (T&T, Jamaica and Barbados) have produced better quality in leaders than we have. They have produced leaders who are not angels but phenomena.
However, the difference with Guyana is that they are intensely nationalistic and they put their country above partisan politics.
We cannot get that right in Guyana because we keep mass-producing mediocre leaders who love power and their party mandarins over their country.
Will we come out of the chasm after March 2? I hope we do. It is the last throw of the dice.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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