We need younger politicians who can see beyond their noses
March 7, 2004
The Ramjattan expulsion has people talking of some new political culture. This would be a great thing because people from the sixties are still among us leading; young political upstarts continue being indoctrinated in our obsolete ways of politics; and the country remains cultured along manners of professional malpractice. Above all, the politics of mutual disrespect between the bureaucrats of the PNC and PPP tramples on. What new political culture can we possibly resurrect from such a colossal mess?
It is odd to think of progress without reform in our politics, and it is odder to think of progress in our politics without reform in our primary parties. This is, of course, if the debate on the future of politics is still to be centered on the PPP and PNC after their years of failed leadership. Since the "future" rests with the young generation-civilians who came of age in the 80s and thereafter and have no political heroes of their time, we must begin to look beyond these two dead-ended parties. We're a population fumbling in the dark because our leaders are essentially from another age (Jagan, Green, Corbin); they do not share our dreams or outlook on life. Year after year, all we do is stagger on-leader half dead, followers half buried.
Recently, a young friend said this; "I think this country needs some bright young daring politicians who are not into the old school methods...some radicals to shake up things and I don't mean just trying to get at each other and pick on inconsequential stuff. The world has big problems and we need people who can see beyond their noses for a change." Yes, she is right; the politics of my generation must involve a confrontation of youth versus old age-"daring" and "bright" on one hand and "old school" on the other. Unless we move away immediately from the Jagan-Burnham legacy, and begin a serious resistance against this incompetent inheritance, there will be no viable place for my generation in the 21st century.
The PPP-PNC has done nothing for my generation but to make life a nightmare. We do not owe anything to them. Indeed, they owe us and yet, our kindergarten bureaucrats will resist democratic changes because democracy is a threat to their endless privileges. It is a disease to their youth organs (PYO and GYSM) where people of my age group are being cultured to master the art of self-disrespect. There, individual integrity taught by our parents is dissolved under the weight of party "rules." Ms. Lurlene Nestor (PNC) and Mr. Robert Persaud (PPP), both youth "leaders," elaborated last year on national unity (over the GIHA cricket match) but neither objected to the PPP and PNC having separate Independence celebrations in the past. It is a sign of the terror still to come.
The only escape from this cycle of narrow-mindedness is a substantial break from the past, the possible dismantling of much of what is the PPP and PNC; that is, reform. Last year, a survey on young women showed them being uninterested in politics for obvious reasons. In similar spirit, there are hundreds of talented, qualified young Guyanese overseas who simply will not contribute to Guyana because of the wretched PPP-PNC tug-of-war.
Here is Mr. Ramjattan on the subjects of space: "Challenges, which are legitimate and intellectual, are what Guyana needs most. The debate must start and continue. We will all be better for it. This space must be created and given. So frontiers have to be relocated, boundaries changed. For too long, only a few leaders within the major spheres of our society have created this space; most usurp all, and interfere where they should not." In this light, the expulsion is a necessary virtue.
Since the PPP is very like the PNC, new "frontiers" cannot be constructed in one without the other. One cannot be happy Mr. Ramjattan was expelled and not disappointed that "trusted comrades" saved Mr. Trotman from the hangman. If these men are our best new options, they should be far from these two kangaroo courts. If theirs is the intention truly to lead Guyana into the new world, the time to redefine the "future" is, arguably, at hand. It is time to stop being part of an ancient problem. If this is not the end, let it be the beginning of the end. "All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was a vanity: But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams out with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." This is T. E. Lawrence or Lawrence of Arabia.
This is why it seems wrong for Mr. Ramjattan to say, "I am not a kangaroo" (he will not fight the PPP from outside). Better to be a kangaroo kicking than a hardheaded rhinoceros, especially since the politics of Guyana will have to come to terms with real democracy (not the slogans) eventually. Yes, this would be a difficult process given the well-established traditions of the PPP-PNC. But give my generation something universal to vote and live for and we will confront the PPP-PNC. It would be in our interest. No one will confront anyone if new leaders continue to believe well-rooted "boundaries" can merely be redrawn inside Freedom House and Congress Place.
So, until these figures are willing to take this struggle to the next level and beyond, there will not be any new political culture at hand, only another season of sterility.