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‘Opinions’

by Heston K. Rodrigues

“Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government…” (Abraham Lincoln, Chicago, December 10, 1856)

Over the past few weeks, in fact much longer, I have seen what amounts to a growing intolerance for the opinions expressed on any range of subjects but in particular, the just concluded General & Regional Elections and the subsequent installation of a new government.

Much to my dismay, there are some of us who seem to think that opinions, once they are not in conformity with our own are somehow below the benchmark of what may be considered worthy and able to contribute to the discourse, in this instance, our national state of affairs.

Opinions are not equal nor is there a monopoly on who can or is allowed to have an opinion, however meaningless, trivial or superficial you may consider it to be.

And therein lies the problem, most people, particularly the ones with inflated egos of their own self worth tend to view other opinions as falling short or worse, mindless chatter, failing to acknowledge that their own opinion, no matter how elegantly and sophisticatedly clothed and well supported by logic and coherent arguments, is just another opinion.

And so, it was rather distressing to see decent, respectable brothers, resort to, of all things, rancorous name calling and outright repudiation of opinions deemed as folly simply because they lacked appreciation and moreover respect for someone else’s inherent right to freely express an opinion.

It is a right, though inalienable, we must never allow ourselves to take for granted. It may surprise you but there are societies that know what it is like to live under the tyrannical machinations of a dictatorial regime.

A particularly chilling illustration of this is the recent news that four individuals were all sentenced to life imprisonment in the United Arab Emirates, wait for it…”for disseminating information, rumours and pictures on Twitter that harmed the reputation of the UAE…”

Let that sink in for a moment.

Closer to home, history is replete with notable instances of men and women who have paid with their very lives for expressing their opinions, manifesting itself in the form of public protests and other forms of civil disobedience against a regime not responsive to or swayed by expressions of public opinion.

Against this backdrop, it is easy to understand the wave of resurgent hope that has swept ashore like a tsunami with the election of a government, which campaigned hard with the need for change as its central message.

Expectations are high, hope is in the air, men’s faces are no longer strained and anxious, everyone is looking though not everyone is cheering. There’s a lot of buzz, a lot of speculation, a great deal of wheeling and dealing and yes, a heap of opinions, some scholarly, some mean spirited and outright racist, some indecent, some mostly pedestrian thoughts.

Unlike any other adminstration in recent memory, the Granger administration will be the most analysized, dissected and intensely scrutinized, coming under the microscope for all of its actions, generating varied opinions from Guyanese and other stakeholders both at home and abroad.

It has been decades since we have had anything even remotely resembling an accountable government, a government that was responsive to opinions beyond its circle of friends and families. And so it is only natural that a government which tirelessly preached change and a sharp rebuke of the status quo would receive near forensic type analysis from everyone, not just its detractors.

In all probability, missteps will be made in the new dispensation, as has already been perceived, whether real or imagined. Blunders will be made along the way, there will inevitably be personnel issues, ministers are merely human beings like the rest of us mortals, prone to the same frailties and shortcomings like the rest of us.

Hopefully, the Granger administration would be guided by the strict code of conduct it has signalled for all its officials in high office; for far too long, we have seen public officials commit all manner of transgressions and remain in office, never again should we ever allow that to happen.

Speak your mind and speak it freely, ask questions, demand answers, develop what my undergraduate thesis supervisor, Dr. Michael Scott, called an enquiring mind.

It all starts with an opinion, cherish it, value it, be glad in it.

And yes, the sentiments expressed herein are MY opinion, you may or may not like it but I thank you nonetheless for taking the time to read it…

Mr. Rodrigues is a former Sales & Marketing Executive, Administrative Consultant and blogger, he holds a Degree in Public Management from the University of Guyana.