Soon enough there will be the stirrings and sounds of voices raised for a great victory won against all the odds and one overwhelming tide after another. That may be so, and it should not be begrudged. Against my better judgment and all that militates against my deepest instincts I venture near (again) for a fleeting moment to what brought me here, to what I still love, in spite of all that I say to the contrary.
First of all, congratulations to those who emerged triumphant. I will not speak of what is deserving or otherwise. But I will say this: it has been hard earned in a most bruising of contests. In truth, it has been so bruising that this society is now brutalized and traumatized. And because of those concerns, those priorities which are so dear to me, that I break my peace to share a thought and a few words. Euphoria may deafen; I urge great care. Shortsightedness may blind; again, I counsel patient sagacity. I am not going to state whether those who come in have what it takes or not. This is not the time nor is it the point, and I extend the benefit of every doubt and the best wishes to surmount the herculean challenges that stand in the way and get the job done. There are many jobs waiting to be done, begging for attention. I highlight and focus on one only.
As the echoes of the great struggle and victory surge and resonate, I take the time to remind and caution this little thing, which may be shrugged off and snarled away. That is alright, but I do trust that some understanding will follow and sooner rather than later. That small thing which I emphasize is this: after this great victory sure to be heralded, there is the great peace that must be conquered and claimed. I warn that this great peace will be harder than what went before in the last year and a half. How this is gone about is not my business. I only table that the victory will be wasted, all the efforts for naught, if the great peace that should belong, but which has always eluded, is not sought with still more energy and dedication and zeal than before.
This great peace to be pursued and embraced is what counts. For here we are, a nation unfree, with its oneness of peoples unruly and shackled to so many simmering and sullen silos, and a destiny that remains unemancipated. This is a country that has been a circus (and enjoying it) for the longest while, as in the last half century and then some more. It is time for Guyana to deal with real life, as in what we have and what is the most challenging of occupations that is ahead.
I will now tell what that is and in words and phrases easily understood, but perhaps not so easily and readily accommodated. What this country and its new leaders have in front of them as the greatest challenge is what is being termed by many major cities in the United States as a “public health crisis.” And that public health crisis in the extensiveness of its deformities and associated diminishments is called racism. Racism is housing. Racism in opportunity, as in jobs. Racism in pay. Racism in scholarships. Racism in contract awards. I ask to be forgiven the latitude of tailoring some of the elements of this public health crisis of racism to the circumstances of Guyana from time immemorial and regardless of who have been the political principals.
I will not waste anyone’s time by lecturing he or she about tokenism, cronyism, nepotism, and all the other jackpot realities. But I say that we here in Guyana do have, and have always had, a major public health crisis on our hands. That public health crisis, this great peace of which I speak so earnestly, has the potential to spiral into an epidemic of national proportions, given what we have just been through, and at where we are sure to be uneasily perched. I would hope with every fiber of my being that there is genuine and comprehensive effort to heal wounds and to lead gingerly along as the days ahead loom with great uncertainty and great promise. Do not let the moment, the long hour of opportunity, go sliding by, as has been our history, the dirge of our tragedy, the tale of our self-defeating exploits. Do not squander the great peace so urgently needed by doing nothing but the usual.
I close with the words of Shakespeare, as the bard placed them on the lips of Brutus prior to the Battle of Philippi, “On such a full sea we are not afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”
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