by GHK Lall
The more the merrier. After all, that is what elections times have come to mean right here in Guyana since back in the day. Elections legends, wannabees, and political jumbie stories stalk the land: overnight sensations, cultural mirages, the rituals of public national exorcisms every five years. People never before heard from make public appearance under a flag, which almost never looks like the flag of Guyana. That is the first warning light. Then, just as abruptly, they disappear right back towards whichever cave or tree or rock from which they had emerged. Thus, the repeated intrigues displayed before humored local electoral spectators for the briefest of intervals. Ah, that moment of the fresh, sparkling electoral air. So much promised. What is yet another lacy frill to add to the string of disappointments?
This aspiration, these visions, ought to be of ordinary citizens compelled by circumstances to reach for something so extraordinary that they compel contemporaries, in turn, to reach inside for the special. It starts with the different, away from the sleazy and sickly and the same unerringly dirty. Dirty people, dirtier backgrounds, the dirtiest of intentions. We have had enough of that, haven’t we? I say that we did, and we do. So why more?
Still, other than for lonely, isolated exceptions, the coastline of entrants has precious little that recommends. Because I submit that when the contexts and characters of those with honey on the breath, and money always on the mind, are considered, then this society is in deeper turd than it can ever manage to overcome. The sweet flush and flash of words cannot conceal that some of those assaulting the public consciousness have had dark spots. Issues with money, with representations of the altruistic before; and how they interpret truth and obligations, even the finer points of the law, then where are we really going?
Now if this is the best that this country can inspire, then it just might be better to be of the devil(s) known, lived with, and feared. There is also the fatal attraction of that strange kind of love that binds; it has bound captive the peoples of this sorry nation that keeps disintegrating towards more of the same, which has hurt and horrified. Where do we get these people from? Is this all we can muster? To challenge whom? When they themselves represent nothing; nothing by way of the exceptional; exceptional in character, ideals, a vision? Who is going to lead whom to where?
Let there be no misunderstanding: I offer no advocacy for anyone, make no defense of what has failed and failed and left us so feeble as to be made frivolous by every outsider, including the patient and charitable. For generations, its entire lifetime, this society has lived with a peculiar ugliness: the reductionism of existing with one abomination after another, and having sampled both, then settling for the lesser, as prompted by the most heinous and capricious of motivations. And to pile insult to perennial iniquity, there are the latest cavalcades of candidates. In a loveless, society, they should be embraced and cherished. But I can’t. Who can?
I register my grief, my cri de cœur. This is exactly what all the other fellows have done every time they have turned up and fooled the simple, fickle folks of this foolish land. Be they grizzled in the political jowls, or baby faced with the glow of youthful promise, this country is yet to hear or see that which is, shall I say, pioneering. If that is too demanding, then how about anything that is distinguishing; come to think of it, I will settle for what is peculiar about the pack of them, other than the usual ineradicable craftiness of character. Now there is a national concern; in fact, a national crisis. For this country suffers from a crisis in its political character, which originates from personal character crisis. Many of such crises from almost all the varied characters, who emerge to face the voting people.
They are all there: those not bought out already; those already readying to sell out; those hedging for a shot at the big money; those positioning and fence-sitting for a calling to glory. That means cool cash. The people? Who are they? Who cares about them? Democracy and accountability and transparency? Same story, new season, newer faces. As an old Wall Street hand, I recognize red herrings, green males; Black October; and poison pill people.
Have we come a long way, baby! What a posse of cool operators (at least, so it is believed) all of us are! This is what we have, the sum of all our fears. These are my fears. I live with them, I hate them, I learn not to be consumed by them. I wish things and people and candidates were different here. I wish that I, myself, was constructed of a different kind of DNA. I confess that I am not. Thus, we have what we have. I must live with those, too.
This is Guyana. This is the plague of national elections in Guyana. Why should it not be loved, not be pageantry, not be attractive to opportunists and stargazers, grass eaters, and assorted scoundrels seeking to make hay while the seasonal elections sun shines? Like the paradox and parables that was the Ancient Mariner, I must remake myself, if only to absorb them. What are they about, other than the obvious?
Sugar may crumble, rice get weevils, but oil don’t spoil. I love it. What is there not to cherish about this fly-by-night society where such under-the-radar fanfares proliferate? Every day is Old Year’s Night. Let the countdown begin. This must be the greatest show on earth, bar none. I can’t wait for March. Or, who else and what next looms on the political horizon.
Mr. GHK Lall is a Guyanese author, columnist and former financial analyst on Wall Street.