By GHK Lall
As I note the campaign emphases of the two major political parties in this elections season, there is one significant and startling difference from the ones that went before. Neither the PNC nor the PPP is going near to it or mentioning it and, from all appearances, both are distancing themselves from it. That is, other than when reports escalate to the ERC about overexuberance leading to serious missteps.
The usual grounds, not intended to be traveled, are paid loud lip service: anticrime strategies (they spawned the monster), constitutional reform (don’t hold breath), and clean oil oversight (a certain bestseller). But I now submit that which both parties (and all of them) are ducking and almost completely silent. It is the major issue on which there is palpable and thunderous emptiness, the vacuum sucked dry. I dare to call it by name: RACE! Or, more specifically, national unity. Nobody is tabling it, bothering with it, or sparing any effort or energy over it. It as if both behemoths, with their race-based constituencies uppermost in mind to appeal to and excite, if not placate, have decided to leave it alone (too messy and cumbersome); not worth the interest and will not bring the kind of voter returns hoped for in prior years. The new groups are too busy trying to get their bearings, to allow themselves to get ensnared in the worst issue facing us. It seems that the conclusion is that they (the people) will be like that, while we (the parties) will be how we are. And that is that. And despite, the observers, international community, local sectors, this business—this fundamentalism—of race is what matters and determines where this society heads and how. Yet there is not even a passing spare phrase that mentions.
In earlier contests, there was at least going through the motions, with some stirring call for the bonding that leads to social cohesion (where is that one these days?), some empty and token platitude for the record about togetherness, and which group was the more bigoted and hence destructive to nationhood. It was a continuing case of the pot calling the kettle black and men with blood on their hands pretending it is cranberry juice. But this time around, nobody even wastes time with any of such meaningless gestures.
The way I see it is a combination of two things: not caring anymore and sensing how too far gone are the passions and sentiments of the warring factions of this country for that to be relevant, as in given a listening, gaining any traction. There is just too much suspiciousness, too much animosity, too much deep-seated, outright hatreds. And that is how, most regrettably, is how the cauldron boils.
It is ironic and tragic that at the time when this society urgently needs healing and reconciling, there is a widening of the distances, deepening of the divisions. This is to our detriment, the road to guaranteed social trauma, certain national tragedy, oil and all, arguably because of that this time around, more than all. Just take a measurement of the pulse and heat that saturates communities and environment. It is there, it is undeniable, it is restless, and it is piling up.
And yet, amidst all the speeches and preening by the political leaders and masters, there is scant interest in prioritizing and insisting that this has its place in our elections discourses, and it is now at this fateful, sensitive, crucial hour. Nobody is listening, because everybody is preoccupied with dreams and drives towards positioning to get their share of the bonanzas that come. There is no interest in expanding the net to include others, since that would lighten the financial load, lessen the personal and group return. Inclusivity is out; division is prospering.
Of all the single-interest issues making the rounds, the one about national mending and unifying should be most timely right now, and belongs in the highest tiers of expression, of discussion, and of the political missions and visions that flourish and rage. Except that it is not. Things are so bitter, minds so skewed, that it would be most untimely and inappropriate to bring up. There would be no reception, no progression. Therein lies the essence of disasters ignored and dismissed, of what will haunt in the days beyond March 2nd. Am I the only one with some degree of prescience? Who cares about this particular poisonous ingredient in the arteries? I ask this because it traps us and imprisons all of us in that which has injured in the past and is sure to imperil acutely in the times ahead. Mark my words: nobody is going to let go, no one conceding anything.
And so there is nonchalance and what is best described as seriously and comprehensively unheeding. Nobody cares anymore, in spite of misgivings. Everybody is so consumed with his own alignment that he just wants to be certain that all is done to keep the other man and other people out; it is a picture and the reality of what it takes to be a fanatic, the worst kind of fundamentalist at this moment in our history. I wish it were otherwise, so I could honestly and frankly say otherwise. But it is not. And with such agitations in mind, there is no telling where this could take us, where we could end up finally.
Nobody has the time of day for this. No party is talking about this. No crowd is willing to be positively responsive to this. And so we lurch forward full of ourselves and our soaring program as the campaign war dances intensify in strength, the ashes of the peace pipes have long cooled and scattered to the winds. That will come back in manners most unpromising.
Mr. GHK Lall is a Guyanese author, columnist and former financial analyst on Wall Street.