Let us converse
Guyana Chronicle
November 7, 2002

Related Links: Articles on civil society
Letters Menu Archival Menu

THERE has been an intriguing debate taking place in the country and in the letter pages of our daily newspapers.

The letters may have been long and a little daunting to read but the debate has nonetheless been absorbing. As part of this ongoing debate, there was the recent call by Dr David Hinds of the Working People's Alliance for a genuine conversation to take place between Indians and Africans.

His proposal is built on the premise that as far as discrimination and racism are concerned, there are no innocent races in the country. Therefore, we are all victims of racism in the country. He condemns African bullyism in as much as he does against Indian indifference to the wrongs committed by the present government.

The conversation between our two main races has unfortunately mirrored the discourse between our two main political parties. The tendency has been to blame each other. One side blames the other for 28 years of misery, repression and deprivation while the other side throws barbs about existing marginalisation. In this conversation, the truth often becomes victim to bias and self-righteousness.

Guyana needs political reconciliation at the national level. Reconciliation has to begin at the personal level, move on through to the family, reach out to social groups, thence to our political parties before coalescing into a nation wide force.

We must begin at the most fundamental unit and that is at the personal level. Each person must be prepared to examine his or her conscience and to ask how he or she may have offended others, in what ways we may have been guilty of prejudicial thoughts or actions towards others in our society.

To what extent have we shunned others because of the colour of their skin or the texture of their hair? Are we willing to admit that there were times when we took advantage of others? This kind of personal discernment is not for the self-righteous. It requires honesty and purity of heart.

Forty years ago, this country went through a terrible period when differences supported by foreign interests rained violence on this country, resulting in serious ethnic and racial turbulence. Those were the sixties.

Yet, close to four decades later racial antagonisms and racially directed violence have again emerged in an attempt to pressure the Government to demit office. So that in as much as reconciliation is very much a personal process, it is a requirement of the social order, which is harmonised through the practice of forgiveness and understanding.

Each one of us must ask ourselves at the individual level to what extent are we either through acts of commission or omission, contributing to the demise of our collective conscience. We must do so in our homes, in our churches, mosques, and temples and wherever we gather with friends and loved ones.

This generation has a responsibility to inculcate in our children values of tolerance, love, peace and multiracial unity. We have to set the example by the way we relate not only to our children but more importantly how we relate to others in the presence of our children.

Respect and understanding must extend to the wider society. The various ethnic and political groups also have an obligation to examine this very sensitive issue. While we all aspire to move forward as one people, this movement will be stultified unless we purge ourselves of feelings of ill will and prejudice towards others.

A conversation must not be confused with negotiations or consultations even though both of the latter processes may involve conversation. A real conversation aims primarily not at any predetermined output but simply at understanding the other side, to know how he or she feels, what are his or her primary concerns.

In Guyana, we need conversations not only between our main races. We need conversations between villages, across generations, between religious groups, and between the sexes. What we need in Guyana is a great deal of conversation, deep and meaningful talk that will help us to understand our differences and lead to unity.

The dream of a united people will only be accomplished if we embrace national conversation with a clean heart, healthy respect and an absence of self-serving agendas

Not only should we be willing to listen with our ears but we should also listen with our hearts, to appreciate the deep meanings that words cannot understand.

In the truth, we will move forward. Any other journey will only bring us back to where we started.

Site Meter