Nov 13, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – The world loves to talk about democracy, and Guyanese are in the forefront with their own clamouring about its ideals. That is, until democracy and its demands come into conflict with what they say they are about, and then the degrading follows.
India has long been hailed as the world’s largest democracy, and it qualifies when numbers alone are considered. America, founded on noble ideals, had a head start over India, and almost all of Africa and this region, by the wide margin of a couple centuries. And so, too, did the British Empire, which at its height, had attached a myth to itself for fair play and justice.
Nonetheless, democracy and its ideals are never put to the test when the sun is shining, and the season of prosperity reigns. It is not challenged in those pleasant, tranquil times. Democracy’s ideals are, however, subjected to its best rigours under the duress of things that disappoint, what clashes against accepted norms, and when tough demands are made of those same countries named above, and its leaders and citizens.
The messages of the lessons for Guyanese, those seeking to learn and grow, reside in how America and the British Empire operated before in the times that meant loss, and more recently, with how one of the latter’s imperial subjects, India, reacted when its hopes took a sound trashing. No one incident or one set of circumstances can ever be representative of what democracy is about, or not, at its peak and in its valleys. But when the sum of them makes for enduring pattern, there is reiteration of what is what, what matters to people claiming to be all for democracy, and how they come down savagely on their own. The ones who are of lesser number, lesser power, lesser voice and reach.
In the United States, democracy was talked about, even while lacking equality. It was when humanity was reduced to property, through the peculiar institution of slavery. Native Americans had already gotten the full force of that, which condemned to the corrals of reservations, the brutal results of cultivated genocide. Old habits die hard, ancient mindsets remain fastened to what devastates others, and which preserves and enriches self, at the expense of others. Just last year, democracy started to falter furiously in America and was rendered still more feeble in January of this year.
Men who spoke in garbled fashion about democracy, suddenly found that losing was not such a welcomed proposition, with the feared tyranny of a potential perpetual voting majority. The constraints of democracy’s disciplines became more a charade than that of a calling. Voting rights laws are being massaged, sometimes mangled, for undemocratic objectives, and in America, believe it or not.
Within the British Empire, the Indians were considered not to possess the ingredients for self-determination. Indeed, democracy is what those in power say it should be. Of this Guyanese should need no lessons as they have suffered so much under those blubbering about democracy. From the British viewpoint, only they knew what was ideal for hundreds of millions of impoverished, backward, superstitious natives. From Canning to Lytton to Mountbatten, and the others in between, there was this condescending paternalism that looked upon a subcontinent of souls as mere children, pathetic ones. So, they kept them on a short leash, and unleashed all the barbarities that man can direct against ruled peoples.
Today, in India, the ideals of democracy are not enough to cushion religious hatreds. It is not about power, since that isn’t threatened. But over cricket, and the passions ignited against a proven winner (Shami), and against citizens celebrating (Muslims). Whither the press of democracy then, for what is right and noble? If citizens could be jailed for cricket, then what else?
Locally, victorious Guyanese celebrate oil, but denounce dissenting voices, demonise the difficult. Guyanese democracy allows for only the monstrosities of masters, whether from West or East, past ones or present ones. Then it is that all the rich talk about democracy runs into a wall. It is this way and no other, and worship or be whipped. Clearly, living democracy’s ideals, the rights of the powerless, has proved too much for people everywhere, Guyanese included.
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