Is anyone out there listening?
Stabroek News
November 17, 2002

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If only space technology were more advanced. Then we could bundle all our politicians into a spaceship bound for some inconsequential planet circling some inconsequential sun orbiting in some inconsequential - and distant - galaxy. In mental terms, of course, many of the members of our two leading parties are there already; they certainly don't inhabit the same cognitive space that the rest of us do. Rather they are talking - or more accurately, hurling abuse - among themselves on their private planet, while we ordinary citizens struggle down here with the reality on earth. They have stopped talking to us altogether, and more important, they have stopped listening to us.

The last serious attempt we earthlings made to send a message into political deep space occurred at the beginning of last month when businessmen closed down Georgetown and parts of Berbice. The message was that both political parties were responsible for our current situation, and it was incumbent on both, therefore, to respond in a way which would bring peace to this troubled land.

But did the politicians hear? Not really, in view of the fact that since then, their diatribes seem only to have increased both in frequency and intensity.

In the meantime the inhabitants of the city and the lower East Coast live in a situation of intolerable stress, the economy is in a state of precipitate decline, shadowy networks with their private armies perpetrate killings with impunity and social life is slowly being extinguished. If the politicians are supposed to be representing the people why haven't they noticed all this? Why in these exceptional circumstances are they persisting in their private war of words with each other? The answer to that question is, unfortunately, that they have deluded themselves into believing not just that the other party is wholly responsible for the all the ills of the nation, but that if they say this often enough, and aggressively enough, and crudely enough, we will believe them. So now the atmosphere is saturated with invective and blame. Even if one or the other of them were

correct, it still would not help deal with the present state of the country. But the people of Guyana are not fools. In a crisis of current proportions they know when our politicians speak what is relevant and what is not relevant. And what they are saying to each other at this point just couldn't be less relevant.

The people know too that the only route out of the minefield is a measure of co-operation between the two major parties on the issue of crime, and following that, on the question of exploring the options for adjusting our political framework. As a consequence, they support the Social Partners who are labouring valiantly to bring the two sides to some accommodation.

It is not easy, however, seeking accommodations in circumstances where there is so much hostile static polluting the air. The people of Guyana have no doubt reconciled themselves to the fact that the two major parties will always be antagonistic to one another; but do they always have to be so noisy about it?

Does every irresponsible allegation made in the course of some quite superfluous media briefing have to be answered? Does each aggravating and misplaced comment really deserve a response in kind? Can the politicians never rise to the level of a rational, even if not a friendly, debate? Will neither side take the high ground and consider some rhetorical drivel not even worthy of a retort?

If we can't have silence from the politicians, could we at least be indulged with a significant reduction in the volume of offensive propaganda they are spewing out at us? Guyanese have enough to contend with, without having to endure that as well.

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