Learned helpnessess is that state where people just stop trying
Stabroek News
October 9, 2001

Dear Editor,

Last night as I was playing with one of my daughter's College books on Social Psychology, I came across the term " Learned Helplessness and Depression". Curious, I continued reading and discovered that "Depression" is defined therein as a psychological disorder characterised by negative moods of sadness, despair, low self-esteem,pessimism, lack of initiative, and slowed thought processes", and that "Learned Helplessness" is that state where people just stop trying because they believe that the situation is either uncontrollable or impossible. I was about to throw the book aside when it hit me " my God, they are talking about people in Guyana". I knew I was in for a sleepless night as I sought explanations for the persistent poverty of a once proud, progressive and potentially rich and properous people.

Firstly, there is the "wrong education" factor. Both educators and political leaders seem to be consumed with lecturing the people on the management and distribution of poverty rather than the creation of wealth which in itself reduces poverty - one more rich person reduces the poor by a family of several. Such rhetoric as "hunger will be eradicated", "poverty will be alleviated", "the small man will be a real man", "eat less, sleep less, work more" and "poverty reduction strategies" may all be well intentioned, but without performance and results they carry with them the "power of suggestion" which only serves to heighten the feeling of helplessness and misery. Political leaders and educators need to expand their vocabulary to communicate motivational messages such as "be a winner,", "losing is not an option", "be all that you can be", "healthy competition", "start the day dressed in an invisible coat of success", "seize the moment", "boldly go where no one has gone before" - the list goes on and on. Within the framework of equal opportunity, these messages significantly help to power the individual to achievement and success with a resultant national prosperity. The newly created National Advisory Commission on Education should, as a priority, include this in its frame of reference. It seems that while we are trying to improve literacy, we are not educating for success and development.

Secondly, there is the "company we keep" factor. We are all familiar with the adage "show me your company and I will tell you who you are". And we constantly warn our children about the dangers of following bad company while educators love to cite case studies of the greater success and achievement rate of children from better homes, better company association, and better environment. I cannot understand, therefore, why as a nation, we choose as our best friends and associates, those countries that are worse off than us. Consider the following two groups:

Group A: Russia, Cuba, China, Palestine, Afghanistan
Economy: developing/poverty stricken
Language: Non-English
Way of Life: Non-democratic/authoritarian
Emigration: Backtrack to US- $10,000. - $30,000.
Group B: America, Canada, England, Australia
Economy: Developed/wealthy
Language: English
Way of life: Free and Democratic
Emigration Non -economic reasons
I just don't understand why the President and Mr Rohee are so excited about the new found relations with China. The only thing the two have in common is poverty and emigration. Guyana cannot feed its people because of under-production while China cannot feed its people because of over-population; Guyanese pay $11,000. to backtrack to America while Chinese pay $30,000.

On the other hand Guyanese who have settled in America, Canada, England and as far away as Australia have broken out of that "Learned Helplessness and Depression" syndrome and have themselves become motivators for progress and development- irrefutable proof that those countries are the ones to be best friends with. Simple common sense tells us that Guyanese can do the same in Guyana if our political leaders stop hanging around with the poor and dependent nations and instead, ride with the rich and powerful.

Whatever the reason, this generation can no longer allow poorly trained and seemingly misguided politicians to control their lives, much less the future of their children. Continue to support the political leader of your choice. That is your democratic right. But it is also your democratic right, not a disrespect, to question what they do and demand that they take the country in the direction where your "barrel and box shipping" relatives are. It is simply a matter of US dollars and sense.

Yours faithfully,

Shawn Mangru