We must avoid jaundiced emotionalism in our reviews
Guyana Chronicle
February 23, 2004

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I refer to the article by Freddie Kissoon in KN of 2/20, captioned "Today is Burnham's Birthday", and offer these comments. I propose, for the sake of analysis, that we use Mr. Kissoon's comments as a background against which we can assess three current issues:

First, in urging forgiveness as a sine qua non two weeks ago, we had described the nature of the political animal in Guyana: "Each current player conveniently mentions nothing of the great men and women of our past, on all sides of the racial and political spectrum, whose massive insight shaped our nation. Conversely, strident appeals to ONLY the sordid elements of the competitor's past become every politician's defense for his/her convenient myopia ... Little or nothing is mentioned of our glorious moments since independence, and the natural growing pains of a young nation are twisted on the altar of political expediency to become an indictment of a race, a culture, a party, a family. And we have all been guilty. And all this is WRONG."

In the light of this simple truth, I find that the comments in the article of record fit the stereotype exactly, the frightening thing here being that the author is supposedly a journalist with apparent access to infinite amounts of column-inch space, and one who has apparently chosen sides, and one who shares no empathy with 90% of Guyanese (ie. the fact that they are religious, and that it is the nature of religion to change people for the better, while ideology without the suasion of morality or religion inevitably warps the mind).

Secondly, I have in previous letters urged a call to arms in addressing the issues that confront our nation, as cited by Gaiutra Bahadur (http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/7884544.htm) ... the arms of well-researched intellectual discourse, bold but dispassionate expression... high political ideals devoid of despotism and opportunism..., responding to media articles with careful research and analysis, a respect for every person's opinion, a joy for truth revealed however painfully, love for country and fellow citizenry, a passion for integrity and fairness, a rejection of charisma and untruth. In the light of these lofty goals, I find that the vernacular used in the article of record is for the most part appallingly articulated in the future tense as a given or predictable, and so seething with insensitivity because of this liberty in presuming that there will be no reflection or remorse at the memorial, utterly disrespectful to at least two national religions, and remarkably and sweepingly contemptuous of all and sundry who by now would have graced the "audience" he alludes to. Can Kissoon hope to debate Gibson's work if he is part of her evidence?

Thirdly, consider the implications of David DeCairies' comment to Bahadur: "... I'd rather live under Lenin than Al Capone ...", and thereafter hope that Kissoon is not lost in the same region of semantic hyperspace when he says: "Those who want to rule this country, those who want power-sharing, those who claim that they are better rulers than the present ones we have today in power ... have no place in the administration of any government much less a poor state like Guyana whose future depends on new, vibrant, democratic leadership." These are the words of a politician, not a journalist or commentator, and further they imply that old political models will rediscover their usefulness under "chosen and circulated leadership".

The tragedy of loose words continues as we read SN on February 6th, 2004: In his address, UG Lecturer Frederick Kissoon focused on African (not "PNC", mind you) extremism and said examples of this frightening phenomenon were evident in a "certain emotional approach to political discourse, in which violent propaganda, race hate advocacy, extra-parliamentary machinations and psychotic violence formed the agenda for African-based organizations to openly seek to remove the PPP government that they considered discriminatory, racist, corrupt, incestuous and beyond the politics of compromise. He said African (not "PNC", mind you) extremism was exhibited in the post-1997 ideology of the PNC and the change in Desmond Hoyte after he lost those elections..." Contrast this with Kampta Karran's more careful assessment in the same SN report at http://www.stabroeknews.com/index.pl/article?id=3160016.

In light of the above, it must be painful to the multiple thousands of caring and apolitical and law-abiding blacks, and the Civic and Reform citizenry, that Kissoon is STILL equating PNC with "African", insinuating that criminality and "African" are synonymous, and speaking of "vibrant democracy" while being unapologetically Marxist in outlook. These are contradictions in terms, even illustrations in deception, and do no justice to our new understanding and maturity as Guyanese trying to escape BOTH our pre- and post-1992 past.

The vein of lawlessness that eventually defined Burnham's rule in the eyes of many is well documented, as is the reality and scope of post-1992 excesses. As for DeCairies' comment, both Al Capone and Lenin are key players in the current reality that is Guyana, so DeCairies KNOWS that he really doesn't have a choice. I believe that it was partly in this context that Clive Thomas now argues for foreign intervention to fix a "structural deadlock": see the article at http://www.stabroeknews.com/index.pl/article?id=3345620.

These are strange times, however, and, if anything, Kissoon's commitment to labeling (attendees are "misguided"; Burnham was "demonic" and a 'diabolical ruler", and possessed of a "imbalanced mental structure"...) and looseness of expression will only vindicate and validate Kean Gibson's opinion in some persons' eyes. Kissoon's words and social commentary fit Gibson's profile seamlessly from Chapter 1, and he has his own superciliousness to blame.

We must, we absolutely must, avoid jaundiced emotionalism in our reviews. In the multitude of words, says Proverbs, there is much sin...
Roger Williams