Learning to build

Stabroek News
July 1, 1999

"We who have created nothing must exist on nothing"

There is a distressing tendency in Guyana today to criticise almost anything positive that is done or attempted. This springs, we suggest, from a deep frustration at the stagnation and lack of achievement we have experienced for so long. After a while, alienation and despair express themselves in a contempt for anything that seeks to relieve their condition. And of course, like most human projects, a new one will be flawed so there is always something for the critics to hang on to.

We have become specialists in pulling things down, the crab barrel philosophy. The phenomenon exists at many levels. A band leader, for example, speaks of the resentment he has encountered because he achieved a modest success in an overseas tour, and the obstacles he faces. He says he is North American in his head, meaning to say that he is a doer, an achiever, not a perpetual limer. It may be connected with the fact that we have a negative or ambivalent relationship with our own country. We all learnt in our schools that we were brought here, usually by force or by guile, to serve as labour on the plantation. It was an unhappy beginning, and has become a crippling mental legacy. But legacies can be overcome.

Guyana can be a nice place to live in, if only we could see this. The land, the rivers, the climate. And there are things to celebrate, to enjoy. For a start, the beauty and variety of our people, visible on the streets every day. And the different qualities and strengths. It is all a question of perception. The cup can be seen as half full rather than half empty. The opportunities can be seen as limitless or non-existent. Some of the same people who despair here work like demons in North America and achieve success.

The political leaders before and after independence placed the emphasis on redistribution. But the pie was small, the country was undeveloped and redistribution was not really the problem. The problem is building and creating, we must learn to build. That is the basis of all real and lasting achievement. It is hard, it takes time and perseverance, but it is what is desperately needed in Guyana today. At the moment, the society is turning in on itself, imploding. There is an increasing sense of futility and frustration. All the negative qualities are coming to the fore. Lives are being wasted in despair and idleness.

There is a German word, schadenfreude, which means taking delight in the misfortunes of others. It is a perverse part of human nature anywhere. In Guyana it is in danger of becoming a political motif. No outlets are being offered for the frustrated energies. The politicians seem trapped in the dilemma and themselves feed off it. It is more than time for a new vision, a new dispensation. We have to engage somehow on the real, challenging work of building a new and more prosperous country and stop fighting each other. There is so much to be done that is positive and creative.

A page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples