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OPINION: After all the preening, the table of conversing it has to be

By GHK Lall

The calls keep coming for leadership conversation from well-meaning corners, and they have to be heeded. The cynic in me first asks: to what end? But quickly comes the realization that if there is no meeting, and no discussing, then what and where to?

I think it has to be appreciated that there are stubborn streaks and the equivalent of ‘I’ll get around to this when I get around to it.’ Make no mistake, this is on both sides. It is well-fueled by the hardcore within both groups, and both of which are determined not to appear to blink, not to exhibit any sliver of weakness, not to appear to be willing to either listen or to be interested in seeking consensus through compromise. Of course, there are egos at work, playing to target audiences, and keeping up a generalized macho appearance. That may be well and good for purposes of rallying the faithful, transmitting big stick messages, and appearing resolute and unmoving. It certainly brings a cheer in the respective quarters, this first creeping, then accelerating, and now settled brinksmanship. It should be remembered and appreciated by the more thoughtful in this society, those with more depth, that at and after the edge of the precipice, the destination at which all brinksmanship (and brinks-men) inevitably arrive, there is nothing. There is absolutely nothing, but a vast, sinister, unknown void that waits to welcome the intemperate, the unwise, and the unbridled.

But here are some old, hard realities devoid of emotion or passion or conjecture or frailty. When all the shrill talking (screaming over the heads of the other, really) has faded into inaudible echoes, when all the preening and grandstanding have run their course and into barren ground, and when all the tough guy pugnacity has faded into the exhaustion of meaningless impotency, then matters circle back to the point that is resisted stridently, scorned powerfully, and hedged against carefully. At the end of it all, matters are reduced and distilled to those three simple words: to the table. Here are three more: to vital conversations. And let there be still three more: to achieve consensus.

Thus, after all the hardlines and hard talks, the way forward has to be – must be – through the collective of meeting of minds. In this country, that is the equivalent of bringing heads in close proximity and then knocking them together, if only to remove the blockages and shake some sense into the consciousness and usher (perhaps hurl) to the stark political realities that enshroud and mummify this nation into a waxen immobile lumpen mass. One of those current realities is that no political group can hold the ascendancy for too long, or as has always been the one-sided history. Groups can aspire to that pinnacle; but the objections, oppositions (whoever it is at whatever period), and the rigidly ingrained mentalities of segmented racial views are that the other side, the winning side, cannot – and must not – be allowed to exercise the authority and auspices of office smoothly, peaceably, cleanly, and effectively. In other words, whichever political party is numerically victorious at the polls will not be able to – or allowed to – manage the affairs of the state.

One recent local development as to how this can be done was the abrupt, jarring shortage of sensitive and vital foreign currency in the street. The price soared in a whiff; the supply disappeared. This can be made to happen and can strike more often and in the same place(s) than lightning. I suggest the sensible zero in on that pointed phrase of mine: be made to happen. Another way to disrupt the likelihood of strong settled governance is through a proliferation of bomb scares, which can grind the day to day to a halt. Still another, is that the street could be so inflamed that tensions rise and the accompanying machinery (now dormant) of intimidation, exploitation and deterioration for unwholesome purposes sow deeper and greater animus in an already fragile, vulnerable society. It ought to be noticed that in all of these possibilities, the electoral victors – whoever such may be – would be strangled by social and commercial bottlenecks that encourage instability, economic malaise (possibly depression) and generalized discontent and distress. Unsaid up to this point, is anything about the automatic ethnic upheavals and psychological traumas. It is as easy and complex and ominous as any of these ingredients, with so many more not mentioned.

Editor, the word is this: unless political groups and political leaders are honest and truthful with themselves, and recognize the surging ethnic sentiments (arguably uncontrolled), then it is the same fool’s paradise of the same ways and same roads, with the same results promised and sure to be experienced. For those who know or care, no one party can ride the local tiger anymore. It is a bucking, cartwheeling, angry creature, a temperamental monster of a beast, and a self-created one. The best that can be hoped for is some semblance of calm (a euphemism), some room to maneuver. But when examined closely, this would be a nation walking on one foot, clapping with one hand, functioning with one cardiac artery, and living and reliving one misery after another. Stated differently, it will chug along at half-speed, half-assed, and half-hearted. In Guyanese parlance: haffa haffa. And everyone knows how far and how high such crippling restraints are able to take things.

So, the room for reaching stands empty; the table for exchanging is silhouetted in the silence of continuing bareness. It cannot continue. It must not. It will not. If not, then what…?