For 50 years we, the people, have held supreme power, through those voted into office to lead us forward and upward. Fifty years have left us with a lot of things, good times and good memories, good results and good places have not been part of the story of our history. Twenty-two, then twenty-three, then another five, and a great many wonder about what power we held, if we ever actually did, we the same people.
Some may argue that power was never real at the level of the people, but a tantalizing mirage imagined. Others may assert that the power was held by people of choice, but that it was squandered by those political proxies, those trustees, who helped themselves to principal and interest, and left nothing for we, the people. Still others will take objection and say: look what we did: there is a highway, a bridge, and some systems that lifted out of the medieval swamp.
Similarly, another set of political choirmasters will sing of a hotel, investors, housing, a sharp economy. After fifty years this is what we have, which would fill, at most, the first page of the writing book of a nursery-level student. Where did it all go? All the money, all the years, all the promises and potentials?
There are three answers that are irrefutable, which occupy pride of place re the devastations wrought with the power that came from being a Republic. First, our people cannot stop running after fifty years. Hundreds of thousands of the best and brightest and cleanest gone, the dust wiped from their feet.
No society could prosper with such a massive haemorrhage of human capital, of capital itself, as the cores of the national soul were gutted and hung on a line for the world to see. That line was Main Street before, Duke Street today, Atkinson Field yesterday, and CJIA today. And it has been JFK and Lester Pearson and Heathrow, among others, in the uninterrupted brook that became rushing river, that continues to this day. This is regardless of which political group was given the mandate to manage, since their own people comfort themselves with the exit strategy, the guarantee of a Plan B.
Second, the experts say that we are poised to be the richest country in the world per capita, which is by head or per person. Our empowered used their heads to figure out ways to ensure that the benefits of the cash components (loans, projects, resource wealth, output) of the Guyanese economy neither reached nor were touched by the hands of the Guyanese people, who put them in power.
Monies generated, monies borrowed, monies spent, all found a place in their hands and then pockets in a stream of greed that boggles the mind. So, we quarrel endlessly (50 long years) of who cheated more and who stole more. The years keep passing us by, while we survey what has failed, what was not delivered, what has cost overruns, and what is due to whom for the accumulated bills.
Third, money could be the first diagnosis as to the cause of our sicknesses, but it is more than merely money. There is – and continues to be – the appalling dysfunctions of a self-destructive national family. We think that a real-life illustration would be most helpful, since it almost perfectly parallels the devastating realities of Guyana and Guyanese.
There was this family name: Getty. Getty of America, at one time the richest family in America, some would say the world. Despite having the wealth of ages at their feet, all the family could do was kick themselves: the animosities, addictions, and asininities that crippled and made emotional and moral paupers of this wealthiest of families.
That story is the story of Guyana, fifty years later: the wealth that makes us the envy of peers. The frailties and follies and fragmentations that blight our blessings. It is the unflattering saga of our fifty years as a Republic. The next fifty, the next five years, do not have the capacity to absorb more of the same mistakes, more of the same powerlessness that prevailed, more of the same people empowered to bring still more of the same pathos.
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