Nov 20, 2020 Letters
As I observe and absorb the whirlwinds striking Guyana since the discoveries of oil, I am reminded sharply of two truisms.
The first is that history has a way of repeating itself; and no matter how nuanced, sophisticated or modern, that repetition in some form is occurring here. And second, it is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
I start with a quick high-level over flight through history, Caucasian history. In recent times, the Spaniards, through Columbus and Cortez and the rest, introduced ‘enlightenment;’ U.S. President Munroe called it Manifest Destiny; Englishman Rudyard Kipling waxed about the ‘white man’s burden; Scotsman Adam Smith, termed it capitalism; and an endless strain of Christian missionaries proselytized with the promise of heaven.
In the nutshell of this lumpen mass, all of this falls under one glowingly adventurous and inspiring word. It is ‘pioneer’ or ‘pioneering.’
To go a little deeper, gold made the Spaniards decimate the Incas and Aztecs; the Grand Design(s) and New World Order of the Americans, under the sprawling auspices of commerce and democracy fueled their ambitions to mold the world to their will, for their own prosperity; the British and Russians engaged in their Great Game over there for territory and influence; and the missionaries led the charge to save the savages from themselves. It was all good form and in good order. There is just one problem, and with this I focus primarily on the Americans of yore. The problem is that nobody asked the people on the other side of all that benevolence with its lights of leadership and partnership and discipleship; with the sails of ships of civilization and slave ships. And to those, I add the whips and men on horseback with their repeating rifles and advanced ordinances of war.
For it was war declared in America and the Americas, on the so-called ‘Red Indian’ now airbrushed with the more genteel Native American; and, of course, the dark sons and daughters of the Dark Continent.
Those, who are fondly remembered as ‘pioneers’ and fabled ancestors of old were land-grabbers, slave-owners and slave-drivers and, in Guyana, ‘massa’ or the ubiquitous ‘Crosby Babu.’ They took away the land from the Cherokees in 1829- who were driven all the way from Georgia to Oklahoma.
Gold was found, rich pastureland was present, and there was the source of many troubles. Sure, there were treaties from the Great White Father, which disinherited one tribe after another and took away their pastureland and hunting grounds. And, it was the same just under a century later in Forsyth County, Georgia when white men conspired to run poor and prosperous Black Americans from their homesteads and their rich fields.
That was under the aegis of law and order, for manufactured charges of rapes and fears of revolution. Like the Native Americans in their time, Black Americans were forced to flee before the ferocious thunderstorms from the media about insurrection and out-of-control violence that threatened the welfare of white womanhood, white property interests, and the white way of life.
Conveniently covered up were the plunders of the majority, the judicially sanctioned and sheriff-enforced lawlessness.
And in this, with this, and from this most succinct history-real history-lesson, I ask my fellow Guyanese: is this not what is happening here today with our oil?
Today, we have treaty and contract to furnish the same sheens on the predations that took place before. The Secretary of State came and went; the Ambassador came and will go; and Exxon, Guyana’s oil pioneer came, conquered, and carries away.
Mr. Pompeo got his treaty (“joint maritime agreement”) and more; like the Cherokees and Apaches and Comanches of yesteryear, Guyanese will rue the day. The tribes are still recounting their terrible fate around campfires; we will look back and wail along our own trail of tears. Guyanese will trek to the vast slaving fields of America to pick up the pieces, like the Indians were compelled to do.
Exxon has the sanction of law and court and contract to gouge out our eyes and remove our testicles, and for both we will declare ourselves happier. It is because we are so enamored from our self-enslavement to the powerful rhythms of capitalism. I thank our political leaders – PPP/C and PNCR and damn well all the others – for being house servants and collaborating Indians selling tribe and treasure for today’s equivalent of cheap whisky and a few shiny baubles.
In this 21st century, I understand that 500 top companies are interested in coming here. I say why not, given what we have got. Those will be our East India Company and our Santa Maria and Golden Hind.
They will run local content to the undesired places and slave labor, and for that we will celebrate. Exxon is Generals Sherman and Custer, Powell, too. The Secretary, the one making Guyanese feel good. And the Ambassador blowing smoke with her democratic peace pipes. To ensure prosperity, the Guyanese law will provide cover for ‘night riders’ to oppress renegades via social media, propaganda, and a brutalizing agenda.
If this is not a song and dance for our rich fields (just like Native Americans and Afro Americans), then I need a new western education. And if this is not history repeating itself in standing orders, then I must try my hand at being reborn.
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