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Eye On The Issues: Time for strong, decisive leadership outside identity politics by GHK Lall

I immerse myself from a distance in the existentialist environment called Guyana, and I shudder.  As I listen, observe, exchange, and absorb more shuddering comes.  And what follows is sure to introduce even more cringing, especially among the self-congratulating, the self-satisfied, and the self-indulgent.

For its entire post-colonial life, this entire society has been imprisoned in the unchanging life sentence of a retarded and deformed way.  For the vast majority, wherever positioned in the political spectrum, this is thrilling, acceptable, and empower immensely at different intervals.  They seek nothing else, other than the visions and power of raw identity politics.

Identity politics has degraded this land to the ugly art form of the tribal, the desecration of the greater good, and the dismantling of intelligence, will, and commonsense.  A great many are contented with the episodic and the segmentation; there is abandonment to the devastation that leeches away at the guts and fiber of a nation; and homage to the sullen, the adversarial, and the community sanctuaries of an accursed vehemence.

None moves out or ahead or away or across; they dare not, they think not, they cannot.  Too many like matters as they are in this narrowed stupefying cell of life.  Thus, a society languishes in that spectral, and sometimes laughable, even questionable realm deemed potential.  The only determined movement is toward the barricades to huddle and seek the comfort of numbers among the like-minded politically blind, deaf, and dumb, which in this country ties in irreversibly with the racial, too.  There is this supposedly comforting huddling in stickier and trickier quagmires of reciprocal loathing and settled madness.  Therein resides calculated vision, mission, and also the seeds of societal self-mutilation.

This place cries, needs, and longs for something different, radically and terribly different: different in complexion; different in outlook, and different at the center of its tortured soul.  What this country needs is a racial contrarian.  He has to be a man, in spite of all the undeniable failures; with every respect due, it is not a woman, not at this time, and not at the beginning.  Yes, a racial contrarian is called for; one who is prepared to be a social leper, and the embodiment of a national aberration; and all the while a ubiquitous piercing corkscrewing thorn in the nation’s conscience.  This society needs someone who manufactures and constantly delivers psychic havoc, if only to bring to the senses.

If this country is to somehow have some probability of political maturity and real economic growth, of fulfillment of promise and palpable contentment, then the racial contrarian(s) must commit to the intractable tasks at hand.  There has to be reasoned appeals to one’s own kind; and when that fails damn them, wipe the dust from feet, and move on.  Similarly, those now applauding from the other side of the racial divide will, in time, manifest parallel resistance and hostility; they, too, much be condemned in unmistakable terms for the willful blindness powered by identical prejudices.

Editor, the question to be tabled at this juncture is this: what ought to be the emotional, mental, and psychological constitution of a racial outlaw determined to be a political Jeremiah and, hence, a social outcast?

He had better be one tough hard hombre: a thinking zealot; a single-minded patriot; a self-emancipated maverick; and someone always looking into the distance.  All of these qualities will be handy, as there will be few friends; appalled relations only; and no partners and no admirers.  The mother’s milk of clan, cleavage, contempt and conflict are too endearing to abandon.  On another front, the ostensibly respectable, chic, white hatted, white gloved crowd will quickly and cleanly distance itself from any association.  Additionally, the believed honorable and misidentified formidable-whether from the army or church or civil society or academia or media or other realms-will all be non-starters and non-contributors.  The self-sacrifice is just too much; the heart is not in the call of the soil; the mind is too engaged in current earnings streams and future projections, along with bank balances, and the magnetism of belonging.  Theirs is the now self-evident easy choice of the untroubled way away from the ferocious pandemonium involved in remedying; theirs are the comforts of placidity that leads to acceptability, and the financial prosperity of cultivated personal mobility.

I look around and ask who in the public pantheon of palaverers can rise to the level of this near mythical creation?  It is not either of the legal chiefs, where one is sword fencing with shadows and before mirrors; or the today man spearing the questionable and the vulnerable.  Both manifest obvious historical freight and are too entangled in the tribal.  It is not the man of the opposition: too much radioactivity, too much self-centeredness, too much past and too much of a racially barren future, and altogether too much malignancy.  It is not even the big chief himself, who has succumbed to the old dry rotted cardboard constructs that maintain the local racial reactor at threatening temperatures.

If there is no one, then there is nothing; and if there is nothing, then the conscientious in this country are left to ponder if this society can amount to something that binds, or anything related to its still undiscovered, still unmeasured, still untapped potential.

It is my belief that this land cannot be fixed by the timid and the limited, or the craven and the self-enriching.  It will not turn any corner, or lift itself out of the unyielding racial morass unless there is the racial readiness by someone-one Guyanese-to rise far above from the jaundiced, carcinogenic, sclerotic tissues that hogties in racial Gordian knots.  This calls for an unprecedented Guyanese original.  I am not talking of one focused on his own people alone; not talking of men submerged in the destructive racial customs of yore; not talking of men using the convergence of racial heritage, political timing, and political alignment to capitalize for personal progress (or allow themselves to be used in this local Machiavellian political world).  No, this calls for unbelievably brash and daring; a trampling iconoclast; a non-conformist in heart and mind, and mandatorily in soul, too.

It is one who is always ready and willing to challenge friend, family, neighbor, and government and opposition simultaneously (especially leaders) on principled grounds.  It is to lay bare the injury and hypocrisy of their sordid practices, and their real and terrible calculations before the tribunal of conscience and truth.  It is about someone who is willing to let the chips fall and damn the consequences.