Mar 23, 2020 Letters
Do you even know what you are supporting?
At the outset, allow me to state that I write this piece in my personal capacity and my views do not represent or reflect any of the organisations for which I am a member.
Guyana has been pulling on the weakening shackle of racism for decades in order to free itself from what we, as Guyanese, readily admit constrains our collective developmental objective.
A country is not just mountains and rivers and land, it is mainly about its people. For as long as humans have been in existence, we have been part of a tribe. Our belonging and feeling of belonging to the tribe augmented our individual survival but ensured our collective survival. In the earliest days of humans, almost always, the members of those tribes looked very much like each other. The feeling, therefore, of both belonging and comfort among members of your perceived tribe is instinctive and transcends time and rationality.
For a long time in Guyana, some leaders exploited this instinct of their followers and fostered the crystallisation of that instinct into an ideology, which is subconsciously understood to be that the acquisition and maintenance of political power by a member of their tribe/race is the only way to ensure the survival of their race/tribe. The ideology may be framed from the perspective of the collective i.e. the tribe/race, but its acceptance is very much instinctively individualistic, i.e. if the tribe/race survives, there is an increased likelihood of their personal survival and their lineage. This is a universal fallacy and Guyana is yet another example as will be explained below.
The consequence of that ideology results in supporting, justifying, excusing, and/or ignoring the acquisition and maintenance of political power “by any means necessary”.
Ideologies are not always obvious to the ideologues or their followers, but this particular ideology is the single most destructive threat to the multi-racial collective called Guyanese. Why?
The factual historical analysis of the development of countries and their citizens has proven that being a democracy is the single most common and important ingredient for sustained prosperity of a collective over time. This analysis has also shown that citizens do not always make the right decision at every election but over time, the collective intelligence makes fewer errors in choice of leaders which in turn advances the collective.
Guyana has already had its own experience with undemocratic rule and the results were destructive. During that undemocratic period, Guyana moved from being one of the most prosperous countries in the region to becoming the poorest country in the western hemisphere – even poorer than Haiti. Guyana also had our experience with democracy when we moved from being that poorest country in the western hemisphere to becoming the fastest growing country in the western hemisphere with over 10 consecutive years of economic growth and categorised as a middle-income country.
In more detail, during our undemocratic rule from 1964 to 1992, Guyana’s GDP (a measurement of a country’s annual productive value) moved from US$194M to US$373M which means that over the course of 28 years, Guyana’s GDP grew by about US$180M or 92%. Meanwhile, during our democratic period from 1992 to 2015, our GDP moved from US$373M in 1992 to US$3.2B, an increase of almost $3B or around 800%. Guyana’s Gross National Income per person moved from US$280 in 1964 to US$390 in 1992 (a growth of 39%) during our undemocratic rule while it moved from US$390 in 1992 to US$4760 in 2018 (a growth of 1120%) during our democratic rule. Our national debt was 900% of GDP and we were using 153% of our income to service our debt at the end of our undemocratic rule while the numbers were about 55% and 5% respectively during our democratic rule. Those numbers, while stark does nothing to describe the history of suffering, poverty and repression during our period of undemocratic rule. Public servants and fixed income earners were pauperised when the exchange rate moved from GY$4 to US$1 to GY$115 to US$1 from 1985 to 1991 (just 6 years). In 1985, employment in public service was 28, and by 1991, it dropped to 18,361 – over 10,000 persons lost their jobs. The bauxite industry was nationalised in 1971, and by 1983, the aluminium plant in Linden was closed resulting in the termination of almost 3,000 workers. People would die from rickets (a lack of vitamin D and Calcium) and scurvy (a lack of vitamin C) because basic nutrition became scarce and persons were criminalised into burying flour bags and sardine tins. Blackouts lasted for 2 weeks at times, there was no free press, roads were given names like “abortion road” because the craters were so many and so deep. Long lines exited for basic goods and fuel, which were all rationed. As the public discontentment grew, so did the repression in order to maintain the hold on power. Political loyalists were inserted into every facet of the state proclaiming a doctrine of “Party Paramountcy”. Every state institution was politically invaded. Even the Court of Appeal of Guyana (at that time our final Court) flew a party flag outside of the Courtroom building. Everyone regardless of their race suffered during the period of undemocratic rule except the few persons holding political power. The period of undemocratic rule found its support mainly from one constituency. The facts show that constituency suffered the most as they were the ones who lost their jobs in the public service and closed aluminium plant. The race ideology is a fallacy.
Meanwhile, all of our democratic CARICOM brothers left Guyana behind during that period of undemocratic rule. Barbados for example, a country with no natural resources was a US$311M economy in 1974 and by 1992, it was US$2.1B. Meanwhile, Guyana, a country rich with natural resources, was a US$433M economy in 1974 but declined to US$373M by 1992.
So, the one question that all Guyanese need to ask themselves is “do you know what you are supporting?”
The species of human beings of which all that remains is homo sapiens (Latin for “the wise man”), survived because of our ability to learn from each other and to learn from our mistakes. Individuals may be foolish and march towards their demise, but the collective must never. Everyone has his or her role to play and must have the courage to play their role guided by the wisdom to recognise the race ideology fallacy. Many times, the blame is caste on the “foreign forces trying to divide us” but the truth is, the real truth is, some national leaders chose power over people and their agents chose tribe/race over the collective. The Guyanese people did not deserve this. The Guyanese people do not deserve this. We are all in this together.
I write this because I still believe in the power of the collective intelligence and the collective courage. These two ingredients can and will break any shackle.
Your Guyanese brother and son always,
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