I have a number of regrets, like all persons who have lived and are living. One of these is that I do not think I possess the intellectual capacity, the intellectual endowment, to fully understand the best book on philosophy ever written in human civilization.
It is by the deep German thinker, Martin Heidegger, whose genius got derecognized by the world after the Second World War, because he had some kind of relationship with the Nazi government of Adolf Hitler. This controversy is irrelevant for the purpose of this analysis, so I will not dwell on it.
Heidegger’s magnum opus is “Being and Time.” This is a fantastic journey into understanding the nature of the human, the purpose of the human, and what part the human plays in relation to others in life and life itself. This is a phenomenal exploration of the nature of the human condition and the meaning of existence.
This is one of history’s most difficult writings from ancient times to the present century. Heidegger wrote in complex ways that the ordinary mind like my own can hardy cope with, but you keep reading, because his adumbrations tantalize your curiosity and imagination.
I read this book three times when I was doing my doctorate at the University of Toronto, and I don’t think I fully grasped the inner meanings of his directions. I reiterate that the work is just too complex for an ordinary mind. In the barest of ways, I think I understand what “being” is, what he meant by “being” and how “being” relates to time and to existence. But there are nuances to “being” that keep evading you, because the language is too recondite.
One of the things I got from Heidegger which has guided me before I read, “Being and Time”, but which overtook my psyche after reading Heidegger, is the role of conscience. When Heidegger died in 1977, the New York Times carried his obituary by Edward Fiske.
I do not think I can reach the intellectual heights of Fiske in explaining the role of conscience plays in Heidegger’s thinking, so I will let Fiske do the layout for me. He wrote; “Conscience summons man to confront the nothingness that penetrates the core of his Being. By an act of resolution he affirms his finitude, acknowledges the possibilities that lie beyond the everyday and takes unto himself his Freedom‐toward‐death.”
What is currently taking place in Guyana is so tragic that only the invocation of conscience can save this country. But where is conscience, save for one exception – Dominic Gaskin? If Guyanese and the world allow the election caricature that presently grips this country to pass as normality, and to accept it and go on with their lives, then such a life will remain unfulfilled and devoid of conscience.
Heidegger put conscience as the engine that guides meaning in the existential foundations of emptiness. Conscience removes emptiness and replaces it with the consciousness that “being” can transcend the mundane, the banal and the pessimistic, and clothes existence with endless endeavours.
But where is conscience in Guyana when the very society is facing extinction that does not necessarily have to be beyond choice?
The election controversy in March 2020 has seen the level of human absurdity never before witnessed in the history of this country. The killing of a human is an unnecessary act, but it has a context about it, that though unacceptable, may not strike at the heart of reasoning. The situation that we currently face in Guyana with the election results is an absurdity that defies imagination, and it can only succeed if conscience takes flight.
Repeating the banality of the absurdity is worthwhile if one hopes that conscience can be invoked. A counting is taking place to determine the winner of an election contest. The counter stops the count. He ruffles and shuffles non-existent pieces of paper. The non-existent becomes the existent. Fiction becomes reality and the counter looks at his corrugated pieces of paper, finds imaginary meaning in them and simply tells an entire country, I counted what I imagined, what I imagined came through, what came through is what you must accept.
This is not a work of fiction that an astute screenwriter has turned into a movie. This is a country, a real country in the 21st century. And this entire country cannot confront the counter and his fake numbers and tell him that his game is over.
Why can’t the inhabitants of this country invoke conscience and tell the counter that he is beyond redemption? Is it possible that some humans can exist without that priceless value that Heidegger saw as one of the fulcrums of human existence – conscience?
(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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