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OPINION: Age of the Guyanese antihero

by GHK Lall

This is increasingly seeming to be the Age of the Antihero. The many who thought it died in the late 1970s are due another contemplation. That was the era of drugs, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll in mainly decadent America. Today, comes the arrival, fifty years later, of the Guyanese version and interval of its own spawn of antiheroes.

The dawning of the Guyanese antihero is best narrowed to the evening of Friday, December 21st. Scrooge was stingy; this one was generous with his poisoned chalice. No jeans, long hair, or leather jacket to outfit this patriot. Only suit and tie were becoming for such a fine conscientious citizen, and ill-starred night of infamy. There was also exhibited neither gastric rigor nor gut-like fortitude (to stay and face the fallout) in the chaos unleashed, in the continuing quagmire that is Guyana. That apocalyptic vote ensnared one and all: roiling, spoiling, uncoiling. So, it was off to the protective habitat of Canada; a citizen seeking sanctuary through tight midnight flight.

Fleeing Guyanese from another time called it another name then: asylum-seeking. And the Romans of old termed such: Timidi mater non flet (A coward’s mother does not weep). A hero to unthinking few; a freakish antihero to countless others. Conscience? Sellout? Payoff? A million greenbacks? A ghostly trail of untraceable yellow gold headed north (not to Alaska) but the welcoming shelter of the Maple Leaf? This is absolutely not the stuff of Amitabh Bachchan nor Jimmy Stewart; nor Cuffy nor the Enmore Martyrs. Try the cinematic Deliverance. And if that fails, then there is that familiar false bravado of the loud companion, who taunts adversaries, and then disappears when matters erupt. Melted away. Vanished.

One antihero is gone. Another arises; still another hustles for political revival. The former has a heavy history; it is neither inspiring nor comforting: arrogant, obnoxious, disturbing, highly suspect through reservoirs of the rancid and the ramshackle. The latter pursues a redemption of sorts: political rebirth through restoration to the pinnacle. Through that craved for ascendancy using the transparent mask of an obsequious surrogate, and however contrived or configured, there would come the political Powerball jackpot of limitless cash and the unequalled command and control that goes with such. This antihero has an unforgettable history, well deserved and well-worn: malicious, acrimonious, venomous, and (from the hearts and lips of the well-knowing), felonious, too. The very first antihero who winged his way out of here to seclusion and safety has shown a clean pair of heels. The two resident ones strengthen their own oversize, impatient heels to kick this whole society-partly mesmerized, partly trapped, and party dutiful-deeper into the gutter. There are sharp jagged spurs, too, extending from those uplifted heels readying to rip and shred those who dare to object, or stand in their way, or interfere with their visions of rich unchallengeable futures. There they stand: waiting drooling over another rewarding turn of the political wheel: these are the local Lords of the Guyanese Ring.

The now almost ancient antiheroes of North America and Europe from the 1960s were about the self-destruction of acid and amphetamines; free-loving and freebasing and free-associating; be they Charles Manson or Jim Morrison (The Doors); or the earlier political mindbenders from Asia and Europe respectively, who were about brutalizing and torturing and killing: Chairman Mao (Zedong) and Josef Stalin. The survivors are still recovering. Unlike that pantheon of the self-destructive, the local antiheroes are fiercely focused on the self-empowering and self-enriching. This had previously taken (and promises a resumption in, if allowed), the forms of cash, corruption, control, and more cash. Good luck, Guyana!

With domestic political divinities like these, there is neither need nor place for hell or devil. Both are present and accounted for in spades right here. As is the case with all antiheroes, there are the starry-eyed who see some positive and promise in them. Caution: remember Jim Jones; and David Koresh, too.