Imbuing pride of nationhood in today's youths

Guyana Chronicle
May 27, 1999

FOR MATURE Guyanese, tired in spirit from politicking, and worn out with the ritual antiphonal exchanges of insults and accusations, the 33rd anniversary of Independence is but a sad reminder of a time when hope and aspiration for this country's future burned in the breasts of citizens. That wonderful night in May 1966 when the Guyanese nation was born, citizens forgot the divisive acrimony, the three bitter years of civil strife, and joined hearts and hands in unity and silently committed themselves to the noble task of nation-building. It was the moment when Forbes Burnham and Dr Cheddi Jagan, the duo who in the late 1940s ignited the first flames of the Independence struggle, would pause in their private battle to share an emotional embrace.

Now 33 three years later, that moment of national pride and unity seems almost mythical, and a year and a half before the commencement of the new millennium, the sad reality is that the Guyanese nation is more than ever politically riven. Every occurrence, every comment, every situation is seen through a glass darkly, and examined suspiciously for political or racial overtones before being accepted or rejected. If a media practitioner is assaulted in the course of his duty, condemnation of the act comes only from those who see the reporter or cameraman as being on their side. Acts of violence perpetrated on persons unjustly are only condemned by the individuals or groups who see the victims as persons in their camp. Thus sections of the society would applaud when good things happen to those perceived to be their own, and jeer when mishaps are encountered by their enemies.

Therefore, it is difficult in this scenario to imbue in the youths of today a sense of unity and a pride of nationhood. In the words of one commentator, our present crop of leaders are carrying around far too much psychological baggage for there to be genuine efforts at unity. That individual is convinced that the solution to national unity lies in the fertile soil of the minds of youths. Yet, one may argue, how could this be when the youths will be influenced by the thinking of their elders and the events that are unfolding in the society? After all, doesn't the adage say that example is better than precept?

The long-term answer, we would respectfully submit, is the deliberate pursuit of measures to bring about the relaxation of tensions, the gradual elimination of suspicions based on political or racial assumptions, and the negative attitudes that focus on differences rather than on the essential human similarities. In other words channels of communication must be initiated at several levels in the society with the formal talks being the dialogue process between the two major political groups. Youths must be taught the history of this country and the courageous struggles made by the all the forefathers to build the foundations of the society. They must also be told of the value of the national symbols and their place in the consciousness of our people.

If we neglect to impart these values to the next generation, we may as well forget about natural potential and prosperity, for without national unity, there would nothing worth striving for.

A page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples