By GHK Lall
I would usually welcome and embrace any call by anyone from anyplace at anytime to remove prejudice from the midst of thinking, visions, and practices. There was one such call uttered here recently by an influential figure. I confess readily to instant skepticism; such is the creep of cynicism, the chronic crises of confidence that bedevil this nation, and especially when they originate from up there and out there. What to make of this? What should I do with it? What can be done with this?
I began by asking myself: yet another soundbite? One more media opportunity? Still more lip service? How long and how far will this be pursued against the frightening tide of fratricidal domestic racial history? How much will be labored to untangle hardwired racial memory, confirmed racial intellect? Talk is cheap; it is why this nation is so poor in spirit, so impoverished in addressing the things that matter most. The government is not innocent, or possessing of clean hands either. Three years later, there is just as much, if not more of that eternal Guyanese hymn cum battle cry now symphony: it is our turn. It is our time.
Again, I ask: to do what? To be how? For what purpose? But we know, at least I do, the answers to all three questions, as well as the long list of unasked ones, and which go unaddressed anyhow. We know full well also of the scope and implications embedded in those answers, that would make any hoped for civilized progressive society reel. In a nutshell: however genuine or hypocritical or misleading this newest call for the removal of the racial element from the Guyanese environment (all of it) it comes down to this: one hand cannot clap. One voice may make a choir, but not the crowd of a country. Thus, I would settle for reduction of the bitter entrenched bigotries that get the better of us, and which batter and cripple into mere shadows of what we can be, how we ought to be. Even reduction is a tall order; practically an unreachable one, but I say again: it is not a one-way street; cannot be, and is worth the effort.
Racial healing cannot be realized through one-off postures for the record, to register yet another hollow meaningless message. This thing has to be felt at the core, then projected consistently, then lived faithfully. And then starting over and building with another coat of cleansing knitting paint, and through one more board replaced and formed in this divided tottering house called Guyana. Without a doubt, this society lacks foundation. The occasional candles of racial understanding flicker uncertainly, weakly. When the national light is this low, then I do not think that any citizen can see his or her way forward through such impenetrable ominous darkness.
As an aside, I laud all those commentators and critics, and people and pundits and politicos, who have waxed powerfully and persistently about the glitter and gore of oil. Hats off! Many bows, too. Yet, there is a part of me that wonders what would be the result if only some of them would take the gloves off and display half the interest, spend a quarter of the energy, and exhibit a mere fraction of the vision in dedication to the talking and tabling and reckoning of Guyana racial (mis)fortunes. Reckoning with such consistency just might open the door to reconciling. Some form and degree of it. I believe that where there is a will there is a way past insuperable obstacles, including one’s own limitations. This is I believe immovably.
We will have a way-some way-with the oil money. What will be the way with ourselves, when there is only raw distrust and intractable antagonisms that intrude and overwhelm the interactions, the thinking of the day? It would have been easy to lash the messenger from the other day: credibility, history, personality. But to what end? To get where?
Instead I say that as this society huddles at fateful crossroads at the feet of beckoning mountaintops, let there be sanity, let there be wisdom. Let there be the understanding that comes from cultivated respect and appreciation. Tolerance is not enough. Harmony and unity may be demanding too much, elusive dreams neither followed nor realistic. But let there be the commonsense genius of widespread acknowledging that we cannot go on this way. And then may there be the resolve to act to carve out and to create a different Guyana from that which has always been.
At least, let us try. Together. I submit that we have never truly tried and confronted the racial devil in our self-created local hell. I believe that if we tell ourselves that we can, then we will. We just may get somewhere.