by GHK Lall
As is now an almost reflexive aspect of election traditions in Guyana, there has been the usual appearing and flocking of them around this time. This would be the new faces, new voices, and the new sounds of the new political parties taking their places in the parade of aspirants for the attention and hearts of Guyanese voters. Though an encouraging aspect of democracy in action, it is only one side of the story. From my position, the smaller and less significant segment of this business about offering hope to the citizenry and declaring group seriousness through introducing the unheard-of in governance and corresponding much-needed uplifting.
I submit that the arrival of one new party, or a score of them, is the smaller, lesser, and more inconsequential of the components that motivate and set the stage for change of any materiality. No matter how reputable and idealistic, and visionary, and well-grounded, I insist that the presence of the new people features less in the outcomes expected and required. I say this because, at the end of it all, what matters are those listening, those targeted, those affected all along and now impacted again in a new way, through fresh appeals, different advocacies, and sturdy commitments that run the continuum from thoughtful to probable to stirring. Or nothing of the sort.
How will they, the people, react? How much of a difference the individual and collective messages will make and resonate in the hearts of audiences? How do those messages and the messengers bringing them will be viewed in the prisms of those parsing and measuring and deciding? Is what is being tabled of sufficient meaning, with powerful enough surges, to make the objects of the political calculations pause, sit up, straighten up, and step up to say: that is about me? That has something for me, and could mean something for me, and my family and our future.
To put some meat on the bones of my thinking and where I am going with this, I present a real-life environment and the real-life examples from it. I believe that more than enough Guyanese would be able to identify with this precedent and see where I am taking them, as well as how they are an integral part of the events unfolding, of the potential that there may be present for them, and why the crucial outcomes are in their hands.
The environment was the Jim Crow South in the pre- and post-World War II era. The real-life examples were from the nascent, then electrifying, Civil Rights Movement. The human instruments that brought the harrowing story and reality to the fore were Dr. Martin Luther King and companions, who need no reintroduction at this time. I agree that his presence and proclamations and power were out of this world and took his audiences to heights previously unimagined. Who is there that would disagree? But that was not the half of it; in fact, not even a significantly lesser half of it.
I tender this because what was more important, vastly and incalculably more important, was what the issues first in the fire-hosed and state-menaced streets, then in television living rooms, and last in the hearts of those physically beaten to the knees, and those onlookers whose consciences were ripped into shreds. That was what mattered. For by then, there was the shaming and inflaming followed by the rousing that said: enough! No more of this! No more of the poll tax and the non-representation and the impotencies. It is when people—black and white—were forced to look at themselves, peer deep inside, and ask: is this what I am? Is this how we are? And now that I (and we) have confirmed that it is indeed so, then it is unacceptable and cannot go on any longer, must not be allowed to linger for one intolerable moment longer. Some fifty years later that struggle for racial parity and economic truth rages on in a more muted, less public, manner. Now so much for examples from America; time to use that as context and refocus the microscope on Guyana and the Guyanese voter.
Is the Guyanese electoral participant so sufficiently disturbed, personally concerned, and individually and collectively infuriated that he or she is ready to tear away from the ancient anchors, the racial sanctuaries, the revolving political trapdoors? In aggregate, is there a meaningful enough number of those Guyanese citizens, who clamor that they are appalled at the past and present, and anxious about the future, that they see a ray of light? A beacon of hope in the agencies of the arrivals? Who are so horrified that they will take the plunge?
It was James Baldwin who wrote: “The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.” Are Guyanese at that place where they look at themselves and realize that I/we have nothing? Nothing to lose? I don’t think so. I do not think so, because (returning to America) what was seen in, and heard from, Martin King was the product of endless decades of the same horrors and heartaches, the same tempestuous and thorny tales told and retold in the churches, the communities, and amongst the crops, and which then unleashed so much magnificent vibrancy from within him that tossed conscience and stirred souls.
On the first front, Guyanese are woefully lacking, lacking in that essence of suffering that distills to: no more. Not this one. Nor that one, too. And on the second, the long and tireless groundwork by political workers and aspirants neither has been attempted nor delivered to any degree. Thus, I ask: whither traction? And if any, the source, please. The people that come did not put in time nor effort -no foundation; and the people reached for do not possess the adequacy of agitations of the spirit to respond and say: let’s move on. Let’s go to another place with these other people.
Mr. GHK Lall is a Guyanese author, columnist and former financial analyst on Wall Street.