Kaieteur News – In support of Amanza Walton-Desir (AWD), Vincent Alexander attempted to explain the difference in the thinking of Africans and Indians. The result is a flawed analysis in which the criterion that Alexander used is misleading.
The criterion is religion. It should have been sociology. This column is a brief sociological note of why Indians and Africans think differently in many areas of their Guyanese existentialism. In replying to Alexander, his context must be kept in mind.
He was providing an intellectual fulcrum for the theory of AWD that the conceptual ways of the two major Guyanese race groups are seriously dissimilar in that Indians tend to adopt a Pavlovian embrace to political exhortations of Indian politicians while Africans tend not to quickly accept the rhetoric of their leaders.
Alexander is capable of plausible sociological analyses, AWD is not. In rushing to her defence, Vincent did a performance that was poor. Here are the words of Alexander, “Indo-Guyanese oscillate largely around the Hindu religion and (Eusi) Kwayana even said in his writings that even those Indo-Guyanese who are not Hindus, by virtue of their involvement in the same community, the same history, they tend to be Hinduised and so my argument here is that Indo-Guyanese are likely to have an ideational base that is universal to them as opposed to other groups of Guyanese who may be described as Westerners.”
There is no supporting evidence that Muslim and Christian Indians tend to merge their religious identity under the identity of Hinduism. In West Coast Demerara where Islam is pronounced, Muslims have not subsumed their religious feeling under the rubric of Hinduism. The historical evidence is that if there is any religion that Indians tend to view with opportunistic lenses is Christianity. This was because to seek out opportunities of existence in British Guiana, the adoption of forms of Christian values was necessary.
Alexander went on to argue that there is less “ethnic consciousness or one-dimensional socialisation (my words) on the part of African Guyanese as opposed Indians. Here is what he observed about Afro-Guyanese, “They come from different ethnic groups and their experiences here not necessarily led to them evolving as one ethnic group….”
There are too many misleading and deceptive conclusions in this assessment of the two major race groups. What Alexander has done is to substitute religion for the rural/urban divide. The sociology textbook from any country you read it informs you that attitudes, instincts and behavioural manifestations of country folks will differ from urban denizens.
Let’s now apply the urban/rural binary to Guyana. Georgetown is the political, cultural, business, entertainment, sporting, educational, medical, security centres of Guyana. Urban people live a completely different life from rural folks. Africans are essentially an urban people with a majority of them living in the entirety of Georgetown and in districts in close physical proximity to Georgetown.
The areas of life available to urban people far exceed those that country people have. Opportunities in the country side are very limited (Black Bush Polder may still be the suicide capital of the world as it was just three years ago) so what happens is that Indians tend to congregate among themselves with strong attachment to the Muslim and Hindu preachers.
As sundown comes, the radio and the television become the villagers’ biggest and most comforting companion. While the lights go off at 6pm in the villages, they never go off in the urban centres. In the villagers, you see the same people day in, day out. In Georgetown, you hardly see the same people the next month much less the next day.
In such an ambience, the people with status, wealth and religious power tend to have more sway than in large Georgetown. But there is a part of the existence of the rural Indian and the urban African that are uncannily similar – the role of ethnic politicians. Here is where AWD and Alexander collapsed sociology into politics. Yes, there are vast differences in the way the rural Indian and the urban African socialise but not in the political environment.
This is where AWD has been very unfair to Indians. People like Vincent should not be that deceptive because I do believe he is intellectually equipped to know better. Both major race groups behave identically when it comes to their reaction to the leadership charms of their respective ethnic political parties.
Whether Africans came to Guyana from different tribes in Africa and even though they are westernised, they are not different in their weakness to propagandistic race sermons. In fact, research reveals that it is the Indians who are more willing to leave the ethnic flock than Africans. Guyanese history can prove this.
(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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