This political process is taking us into deeper primitivism

Stabroek News
June 21, 2001

Dear Editor,

In response to Frederick Kissoon's letter [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] captioned "Mr. Hinds makes no allowance for individual initiatives" (SN, June 14th) four sets of considerations seem important?individual initiatives (to use Mr. Kissoon's phrase), the methodology of social enquiry, the state of the country's development and the role of theory in proposing solutions to heal the destructive wounds being inflicted by the elites.

What scope is there for individual initiatives to increase harmony and collaboration among the racial groups? President Jagdeo was an economic planner at the State Planning Secretariat under the PNC Government. Admittedly he did not reach senior levels, but does Mr. Kissoon think that the President would return that compliment by recruiting young PNC fanatics as economists in the Ministry of Finance?

While we all have "space inside as to allow for self assessment," as Mr Kissoon observes, it would provide an interesting research project for Mr Kissoon to understand why so many individuals find it difficult to reconcile their earlier multi cultural stances as members of the WPA with their racial identity. Many have now become openly staunch supporters of the PPP.

No one wants to deny these individuals their racial identity. Randall Robinson, the famous leader of Trans Africa Forum, the organisation that took a strong position against apartheid in South Africa, said in his book that he is passionately black. The circumstances of his upbringing forced that racial consciousness on him.

It is possible to be passionately Indian or passionately African or passionately Amerindian or passionately Dougla and yet be passionately committed to racial equality. In respect of my passionately black position, I have not changed and will not change. Where I have changed is in my preparedness to speak out openly against the authoritarianism and the lack of democracy in the organisations that represent Afro Guyanese. I have always been committed to racial fairness. The hundreds of Indo Guyanese whom I have taught and with whom I have worked can attest to that. I am, however, now clearer in my mind about the imperative of racial equality and have articulated that position publicly. That greater clarity has made me more committed to identifying the hypocrisy in the blandishments of the racial supremacists in our midst. If Mr Kissoon truly believes in individual initiatives, he should similarly personally expose undemocratic and racially biassed policies wherever he finds them.

It is in regard to the social enquiries associated with my suggestion that Mr. Kissoon's methodology falls short. It is incorrect to exact from all social enquiry the standards for a Ph. D. in anthropology which require the researcher to live in the society she or he is studying. But the fact that Mr. Kissoon's standards should not be taken seriously is that he breaks the very rule of living in the society by his references to Gorbachev, Mubarak and Tony Blair. It is true that day to day presence in the country provides an intuitive feel for"nuances," as Mr. Kissoon puts it, but nuances do not always add up to trends. What is important is the authenticity of the data and the quality of the analysis. I do hope that Mr. Kissoon does not commit the "crime in academia" of limiting his students to "nuances" and to "access to the actors, the processes and the events." Does he indulge in cross country studies? How? By flying in an aeroplane from country to country? Does he refer to history? How?

If Mr. Kissoon would return to the reality of Guyana, he would take note of the WPA statement issued on the occasion of the 21st anniversary of the killing of Walter Rodney. Most important is the observation that "the political process has now become a major agent for reducing the quality of life."

Is it not more important to mobilise all Guyanese, including African Guyanese, to address the many unattended social issues than to construct a bridge over the Berbice river? We do not have the management capability to address all these burning issues and build the bridge at the same time. In addition , modernised stellings and two faster ferry boats will reduce the wasted manpower personified in Mr. Kissoon's long waits at the stelling. In a similar vein , is it wise to stretch the university campus to Berbice when the Turkeyen library cannot afford to buy journals and up?to?date texts?

What theory is appropriate to address these many issues? The latter half of the 20th century saw the break?up of empires and the attendant explosion of ethnic conflicts in India , the Soviet Union , Sudan , Indonesia , Sri Lanka , Nigeria , Rwanda , Burundi , Zaire, Cyprus, Macedonia and Guyana. Each one of these ethnic conflicts is different. Professor Clive Thomas in The Rise of the Authoritarian State observed that "a correct theory of politics and the state.......cannot be simply deduced from a theory of politics and state in bourgeois society because it must root itself in the concrete conditions of the periphery." Dr. David Hinds has been brilliant in doing exactly that?in rooting his analyses in the political situation in Guyana (the periphery) and in recommending many creative solutions to "recombine the two separate pre?nations into one stream," to use the language of Brother Eusi Kwayana.

And yet, the colonial in us rejects our own local thinkers and yearns for a theory of the state based on European bourgeois individualism when not a single decision in Guyana is based on the merits of the individual without consideration of her or his race. Is it not surprising that Mr. Kissoon rejects the arguments of "Dr. Hinds and his friend Clarence Ellis, and Eric Phillips and Festus Brotherson" but does not make a single adverse comment on internet dependent Mr. Rickey Singh? Is this not group solidarity behaviour with a vengeance? And is not this solidarity behaviour typical of Guyanese social actions? Whither these individual initiatives?

A heavy responsibility rests on Mr. Kissoon to contribute solutions publicly based on the reality of deliberately fostered racial aligments that will burn Georgetown to the ground rather than accept the sanity of enlightened governance. This political process is taking us into deeper primitivism. Mr. Kissoon should cease endorsing this short sightedness. If we don't succeed in modifying the behaviour of these dictatorially inclined elites, they will destroy us and the few physical assets that took centuries to build. These people don't care. The fanaticism to seek and to hold to power has made the elites in both the PPP and the PNC insane.

Yours faithfully,
Clarence F. Ellis