Put The Past In Perspective

Letter to the Editor
Guyana Mirror
August 8, 1999

What does putting the past behind us mean? Does it mean to completely forget the events of the past? Does it mean to totally erase past events from our memories? I submit that the answer to these questions is "no."

Putting the past behind us means to not let the events of the past, especially negative events, be the basis for our present and future actions. For better or worse, we have been shaped by our past, but we must not allow the terrible deeds of our past to haunt us and direct our actions today.

Putting the past behind us means to look back at our history, not with fear, trepidation or partisanship, but with an understanding and insight that the past must be a lesson to remind us of actions that must be avoided and those that should be emulated. It means to use the past not as a sword and a spear but as a plowshare and a pruninghook, not as a weapon of destruction but as a tool of construction.

In the USA, that countryís turbulent history of the 1950s and '60s is discussed in school classrooms with a candidness and impartiality that would amaze most Guyanese. No one seeks to cast blame, but everyone seeks to gain understanding. Why canít the same be done in Guyanese classrooms? Why canít we dispassionately and maturely discuss the turbulent history of our recent past? Is it that we do not want to understand each other, that we desire only to act mindlessly according to entrenched stereotypes and fossilized mental attitudes? Only when we begin to understand each other can we even start to forgive each other and move ahead as a united people. If we cannot do this, then it means that we are not socially mature enough to discuss our past; we can only mindlessly hate and call one another "braying jackasses" and "howling baboons."

As a young Guyanese I have made it my duty to do my utmost to understand our past by reading the books written by the principal participants and observers of the events of the 1950s and '60s. Is this such a difficult task for other Guyanese to do? Or is it that our education system has failed the young Guyanese in acquainting him/her with even a modicum of understanding of our past? Because young Guyanese lack a knowledge and understanding of the past, they can be easily manipulated by "race"-minded demagogues to commit deeds that will harm this nation.

Therefore, as we approach a new century and a new millennium, our education system must gear itself to design and implement courses that will impart a non-partisan knowledge and understanding of recent Guyanese history into the minds of Guyanese children, too many of whom have a warped, one-sided knowledge of the past. We must never forget that no matter how thin you slice it, a bread or a roti has two sides.

M.L. Hackett.

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