Kaieteur News – I ran into an old friend, Jacob Rambarran, in the supermarket recently who I seldom see. Jacob is the former owner of “Hotel California” the description the boys on the street gave to the COVID-19 Hospital at Liliendaal. I once hosted a weekly interview programme – the Freddie Kissoon Notebook – on Jacob’s television station, Channel 13, as part of establishing the station.
Jacob bemoaned the continued lack of progress in Guyana, things we would talk about in his office more than 25 years ago. Jacob said it still takes endless time to get things done in Guyana. I was mostly in agreement with his general pessimism but I told him when I look back at my praxis in Guyana after 50 years, I have no regrets at what I did and what I became.
Then I said to Jacob, “I am going to tell you the one regret I have that I never told anyone before.” It was my mistake of having my talented wife return to Guyana with me. She won the Chemical Institute of Canada award for the best graduating university student and if she had stayed in Canada, she would have landed a lucrative job in chemical engineering. I deeply regret I brought that woman back to Guyana. It is the most disastrous mistake I made in my life and the angst will never go away.
As I get older and as Guyana continues to disappoint me, I am beginning to question the decision I made to become a human rights activist. I believe the time is fast approaching when I am going to regret the decisions I made about my activism when I was just 16 years old. It began when I was a PPP polling agent at 16 years of age.
I look at the faces in the advertisements in newspapers and on television in Guyana. I look at what people have in their trolleys in the supermarkets and I know and feel it deep down in my heart that this country has failed me. It has failed Cheddi Jagan, Forbes Burnham and Walter Rodney all of whom tried to inspire a love for country and to be proud of being Third World people. It has failed the countless numbers whose sacrifice paved the way for Independence.
I was a freshman at UG at a time when the slogan, “Proud to be Black” was ubiquitous in Guyana. Today most commercial placements in the newspapers and on television advertising from a screw-driver to school bag to ice-cream to television sets to motor vehicles carry a white face or a highly light complexioned person. Today in Guyana, there is an atavistic reversion to colonial days where dark skin was tantamount to evil. If Kaieteur News ever folds up and I am out of an income, I will survive by selling skin-lightening lotion.
I published two columns on this page in which I pointed out that international icon, Pele, gets a percentage from every bottle of Café Pele that sells. It is truly horrible to see Guyanese buying coffee made from the same Brazilian beans by one of the richest companies in the world – Switzerland, a European country that is shamelessly racist. Pele is in his eighties and is in and out of hospital. Pele comes from our neighbour – Brazil. There is every philosophical reason to support Pele.
I look at what Guyanese shoppers have in their trolleys and I know Guyana failed me (I can only speak for me) and thus the emotions are piling up. I look at the contempt for local products and I wonder what Burnham, Jagan and Rodney must be saying from their graves. I watch at the White folks shopping and the things they put in their trolleys. If they had a choice, they would buy foreign eggs. Nothing is wrong with that. They are foreigners. It is the lost Guyanese souls that buy the foreign eggs.
I subscribe to the free online Harvard Medical School bulletin. Last week they sent me a list of highly nutritious fruits. They are cranberries, blueberries, blackberries, apples and grapes. Those are their fruits. Their scientists do not do lab work on mangoes, papaws, bananas, guavas, golden-apples, etc. These fruits are tropical delights much healthier than the Harvard list. But do we buy them. No! An importing firm in Campbellville became wealthy through the marketing of grapes and apples.
I have a working-class friend that is employed at a local ice-cream company. He has a family. If that company flops, he is on the breadline. What is insane in Guyana is that local producers also crave foreign products. I end with my favourite French saying – “God is dead. Marx is dead. And I’m not feeling too well myself.”
(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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