The cultural sterility of Mash is the outcome of thwarted colonial consciousness
Stabroek News
February 26, 2002

Dear Editor,

As much of Guyana once again endures that period wherein it would get ensnared in a superficial and egregious delirium appropriately called "Mash", I think we need to examine the subtle implications and consequences.

When the peoples of this land came here from their respective subcontinents, contrary to the thinking of some, it wasn't just a mass migration of nomadic peasants, slaves and indentured servants. It was the migration of highly sophisticated synthetic substratums of thought that were constructed over centuries and millennia upon which whole civilizations were erected. However, during the immurement of colonialism, this fundamental component of the people was under systematic and systemic erosion since such assets were seen as threats to the order of colonial dominance. The product of such undermining was foreseen to be masses of indolence wallowing in some embellished apparition, blinded to their perpetual exploitation and plundering.

Today, the outcome of this thwarted colonial consciousness still vibrates with exuberance even after more than three decades of supposed independence. We see masses of cultural sterility totally disconnected from their history, philosophy and heritage, in effect dislocated from their inherent grandeur glossing over their reality of economic and social decrepitude and gyrating in some bizarre farcical and non intellectual phantasm. No Wonder Naipaul refers to this place as the "bush", "unimportant", "cynical" and "bereft of institutional thinking".

Only a people suffering from chronic obscurantism and contumacious hedonism would wish, despite living in the most demoralizing poverty, corruption and illiteracy to expend gargantuan sums on an ephemeral "Jump up" of the most decadent order. Only a people suffering a ridiculous dementia would wish to push values totally estranged from the task of building a society of constructive, logical and insightful thinking. Any body of values that a people decides to foment must be contextual in that it must address the contemporary exigencies of the society, it is pure myopia and an unfathomable absurdity to nourish a culture inimical to our present day predicaments.

We must understand that the Burnhamite regime's decision to institutionalize "Mash" during the 1970's fitted into the PNC's agenda to de culturalize Guyana's people thereby restructuring their psyche, making them more susceptible to the socialist chimera. How different is this from the reality of our colonial past? We must understand that the underlying ideology of much of this was drawn from the soviet experience: that invidious experiment with the human consciousness. That experiment involving stripping man of his identity and essence and pitching him into a maelstrom of a mechanical existence. Why is it that today, when the rest of the sane world are beginning to grapple with the conundrum of identity and belonging, we are still reveling in this colonial soviet mentality? Are we so devoid of basic human reason? Why are we not in a storm of fulminating remonstrance?

I was immensely shocked at the editorial note to a truly relevant letter by M.A Ishmael captioned "Government should not fund Mash" published in the Stabroek News. We in Guyana will have to stop comparing ourselves with others to illustrate our lesser depravity. It has been a vogue bred by the current political landscape and will have to be discarded. To ask "Can't it just be seen as a day in which all the people of Guyana have some essentially harmless fun and get rid of some of their frustration?" is utter naivety. I belong to a body of philosophical thought that teaches intrinsically that the mind will take the shape of whatever it glories. Man and his activities have an extricable relationship. Knowing the activities is a sure channel of knowing the essential make up of the being. The emotional and intellectual predispositions predominant in an individual are constantly being molded by the climate of thinking he/she surrounds themselves with and is exemplified by behavioral patterns. Mind can be used for the gradual refinement of character, but left to oscillate as a vagabond of spontaneity, it can be the greatest enemy of the cultured self. It is therefore impossible to divorce an individual from his background. Hence, we cannot be cultivating ideals of profligacy, ribaldry and heedlessness and expect to pattern a society of progressive inclinations. It is a glaring non sequitur. Drifters, brutes, illiterates and hooligans are the only outcome of such bequeathal, which culminates in oppression and stasis.

Values of relevance, propensities of deep contemplative and reflective thinking, analysis of historical patterns and symbology and insightful tendencies of frugality, non vellity and critical thought are the energies that should be in the process of fomentation in accordance with reconstructing and enlivening the stability of the culture and philosophy brought by our ancestry. However, we must remember such propagation would make it difficult to coerce many votes at an election. Hence, it is quite understandable why such proclivities are always aggressively trammeled. Every thing we comprehend and or apprehend will be from the perspective of our specific angularity and if this instrument has been thwarted by years of oppressive and misguided pontification, obviously our vision will be impaired as to where we are and where we ought to be going.

A whole new breed of radical thinking will have to emerge in confronting this monstrous mainstream if revolutionary tendencies are to be fostered. The first step in such a direction will have to start with a norm of skepticism, an attitude of keenly questioning, doubting and striving for rationalization amidst the marshy lands of emotion and indifference. Such an onset, I think, will at least be the harbinger for a new value that will not accept things as status quo and at first glance (prima facie), but will begin to seriously expend much thought questioning the nature of our reality.

Yours faithfully,

Amar Panday