Guyanese have contributed to Barbados more than the Bajans know

Stabroek News
August 1, 2001

Dear Editor,

There was a period of time in the early 80s when Barbadians like others in the Caribbean benefited a great deal from a crisis situation in Guyana which sponsored a parallel economy. Large groups of professionals and hordes of suitcase traders loaded with smuggled precious stones and metals and foreign currency fanned out across the Caribbean to gain meaningful employment or to do business.

Many personal relationships were also spawned during this period. Somewhere along the way, however, some of these relationships, both personal and business, soured for whatever reasons. The Bajans, of course, in these instances, whether the initiators of the upheavals or not, always benefited from the home-court advantage. All it takes in most instances is a single phone call to the Bajan police or immigration to get rid of an ex-lover, a triangular rival or a business acquaintance or professional competitor. The Guyanese profile was open for exploitation and-vilification and it got both in large quantities.

Although a few bad eggs may have shipped out, Guyana, undoubtedly, is Caricom's largest supplier of teachers, nurses, skilled trade-persons, journalist/broadcasters, doctors, lawyers and musicians to Barbados. Additionally, our gold, diamonds, agricultural produce and foreign currency has kept a number of Bajan businesses viable. When a factual analysis of this period of Bajan-Guyanese relationship is written we may well find the benefits of Guyanese contribution to Barbados massively outweighing the mostly perceived negatives. Honest Bajans may well find that their fear of Guyanese has little to do with possiblecriminal intent and everything to do with our unrelenting ambition and aggression in the Bajan job and romantic relations market.

But I write to you today, my Bajan brothers and sisters, to address an even more significant issue, the issue of our common destiny, even as you prepare to celebrate Crop-Over around the same time as we prepare to celebrate Emancipation. Both festivals are poignant reminders of our common origin and of the complex plantation systems designed by the Europeans to ensure that brothers and sisters of a common heritage can be split so far apart that a century and a half later the chasm still seems as unbridgeable as the unnaturally hostile interaction which marked the relationship of some house slaves with that of their brothers and sisters out in the fields. It is time that we all understand that Bajan and Guyanese are both victims of mis-education and cultural genocide. Our common enemy, the colonial system, has cleverly kept us ignorant of our historical memory even as we foolishly compete for its erroneous concept of progress which renders us more dependent upon it with each passing year. We both run our countries like we ran the colonial plantations. For their benefit only. The skills which we have today is much like the plantation skills of yesterday; irrelevant to ourselves and our common destiny.

In Guyana, for example, our bauxite executives, engineers and technicians are perhaps still unaware that they are all merely sophisticated labourers. The system which buys our bauxite also controls the market, the prices, every piece of equipment right down to the safety helmets, boots and clothing of the staff. The list goes on to include the ships, fuel, every bolt and nut and our stationery and medicines and yes our professional education and half the food we consume. We are as marginalised as we were on the old plantations. The power to influence and to shape events are still firmly the legacy of the masters of the First World who are one and the same as our past colonial masters. We continue to contribute to this sad state of affairs by squabbling for the few positions of higher pay and privileges which can be equated with the promotion of a slave from the field to the household station of a butler, or handmaid.

The plantation system created dependence through the manipulation of information in order to control production, supply, price and profits for the purpose of making large groups vulnerable and pliable. It is an evil that was perfected during slavery in opposition to the African consciousness which ensured that our humanity took precedence over materialism and ambition by making knowledge available to all in order to preserve self reliance and mutual respect on an individual and community basis. No country has the right to depend upon or to cause another country to depend upon it for its basic needs. First World policies contribute to global insecurity and are so inhumane, that the leaders of Barbados and Guyana have called for those policies to reflect civility and humanity respectively. African reconstruction fails in Africa because the self destructive European philosophy still informs their structures.

When the nations of the First World eventually get together with other nuclear-weapons club members to fight World War 3 over the rapidly depleting world resources, their preoccupation will not include concerns for critical supplies to smaller non nuclear nations such as Barbados and Guyana.

In Guyana, it may well be the most important disruption to bring our leaders and those whom they lead to their senses with respect to Capitalism and the overall European system of government and administration and as to what really constitutes development and progress. For nearly 200 years we have bought their system, lock, stock and barrel without questioning its sanity. Nevertheless, when the ultimate wake up call comes, the Guyanese resilience and resourcefulness born of decades of deprivation will come to the fore having endured long periods without the many modern facilities and amenities our Caricom neighbours have learnt to take for granted.

Additionally, unlike most of our Caricom brethren, we will have that special advantage of being a part of a massive rainforest land mass with large stocks of fresh water as the name Guyana implies. Our hospitality is legendary, surely, you will be most welcome. If your boats cannot make the journey, we will be happy to come fetch you. It will give us all that great opportunity to rediscover our historical consciousness without interference from our traditional exploiters who will be militarily engaged in Europe.

We will finally be able to distance ourselves from their materially driven and feudal class systems so as to revisit our original natural laws designed to accommodate the human family in collective non competitive comfort; equal fights and justice. It will be good once again to cultivate our land and our herds and flecks without the harmful and debilitating chemicals, and fertilizers which are now necessary because of our failure to rest and to rotate our agricultural lands periodically as did our ancestors. Our lakes, our creeks, our rivers and the fauna and flora will be happy to welcome the non supply of the tons of

cyanide and mercury poisons which now pollute and threaten our pristine rainforests and our quality of life. We will be able to rediscover our long lost scientific and medicinal skills so as to take care of ourselves free of cost.

Yours faithfully,
Berkeley B Houston