Kaieteur News – The political strongman attracts a special adulation. The more authoritarian and ruthless a leader is, the more he or she is idolized.
When we speak about our leaders as being “baad men”, we neither mean they are bad nor good. They are simply admired for some quality, which they possess.
Burnham is often described as being a ‘baad man’. What people really admire about Burnham was his authoritarian instincts.
Most of us only pretend to exalt democracy. The truth is we admire the strong-armed leaders; the more undemocratic, the better. This contradiction has its roots in our social organization.
We live in imitative society. Everything about this country was copied from elsewhere. The plantations and farmlands which we cultivated were designed using the polder system of the Dutch. The main crops which were planted were transplanted. The education, political and legal systems were also imported. The country main religions – Christianity, Islam and Hinduism were all alien to these parts. The only thing original and natural about Guyana is our Indigenous peoples and their culture.
Guyana adopted British institutions, including free and fair elections and democratic government. But these adopted institutions turned out to be fragile in the hands of the post-colonial elites because the political and bureaucratic classes did not have the know-how to manage these institutions. They lacked an understanding of the standards and principles necessary for the proper functioning of these institutions, which were ‘racialised’ and rendered dysfunctional, a mere two years after Independence.
Democracy is so fragile here is because we do not have democratic culture. We only pretend to subscribe to democracy. But if we had our way, we would want to be ruled by strong-armed leaders. That is the legacy of colonialism. We have come to accept as acceptable, the methods which were used us to oppress us.
Democracy is just a word. There is no democracy in the home. Parents decide for their children. Those who cannot conform are given a sound flogging. Men dominate women, at times to the point of abuse. Where is the democracy in that?
Democracy is not practised in our schools. Our schools are the most authoritarian institutions. A few weeks ago, someone placed comments on social media, which alleged that the teachers at a certain High School were abusive. Instead of addressing the charges, the teachers took to their high-horses. They accused the person making the allegation of being disrespectful and demanded disciplinary action
The teachers refused to teach. It never entered their minds that that person was entitled to free expression – a democratic right.
The workplace is not democratic, even though Guyana was ruled by parties that once espouse workers’ rights and workers participation in management. Where is workplace democracy? You have an option if you do not want to do what the boss says. You can walk.
Our political parties are far from democratic. Ask the Working Peoples’ Alliance when last they held a members Conference. Ask them if they have members. The WPA is cabal, not a political party.
At the last Congress of the People’s Progressive Party, certain individuals were sent to oversee the groups who were discussing the party’s future. The clear intent was to stifle free expression and control the narrative.
The PNC/R appointed a Leader of the Opposition – someone who was only weeks before made a member of the party’s executive. There have been complaints about lack of consultation in this and parliamentary appointments. The Citizens Initiative has imploded because of a lack of internal democracy.
The trade union movement is the most undemocratic of social organization, even though ironically its holds regular elections. The leadership is tightly controlled, as some aspirations found out to their dismay. Workers have little or no say in the decisions emanating from within these unions. Some trade union leaders behave like mini-tyrants and others call for political leaders to ignore the outcome of democratic elections.
Does anyone truly believe that our private sector institutions are democratic? They are far from democratic; they are controlled by a clique. The voting rules within the Private Sector Commission, for example, are biased in favour of corporate members.
If people are to be empowered, if Guyana is to be a true democracy, then internal democracy has to pervade all of our institutions, public and private. Democracy has to be instituted beginning in the home, moving to our schools, then to our workplaces, thence of non-governmental associations and finally to our political and governmental institutions.
But guess what? The majority of those who wield power in these institutions are themselves not advocates of democracy. So what really will change!
Happy New Year to all of you who pretend to be democrats but if, given the chance, would become demagogues!
(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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