Reading our history
January 27, 2004
The late Mr Jack Bayley, a businessman who manufactured Windsor shirts, having retired to Barbados and found time on his hands wrote a novel based on his life in Guyana. It was well written and a good read but it had a particular interest for Guyanese in that it gave them a slice of life in Guyana (then British Guiana) in the forties and fifties as seen through the eyes of an upper middle class gentleman (the members of the colonial administration and the senior representatives of the planters would have been considered as the then upper class), with a conscience, an education and a sense of humour. Mr Bayley had worked at one time for the Sugar Producers Association and there are some interesting anecdotes but above all, one gets a feel for the life of that class of person in the colony at that time, playing tennis at the Georgetown Cricket Club, social gatherings and so on.
We know so little about ourselves and our past, at all levels and classes of society. There have been so few novels and reminiscences, so few autobiographies. Excellent work has been done by the History Society of the University of Guyana which publishes a weekly column [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] in this newspaper and has published a large number of valuable booklets on various topics. But we lack a modern history of Guyana, which allows all sorts of tendentious versions of various episodes to be published by some of the contenders. Our archives are in a mess. No wonder there are such basic insecurities and crises of identity. One fundamental necessity for us to feel more comfortable with ourselves and with our country is to have a better sense of history, social and political.
In our Sunday newspaper we published a short profile of Mr Lloyd Searwar [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] , a very distinguished public servant. This is to be the first of a series of profiles of persons who have played an important role, often unheralded, in our national life. It is necessary to build a record, a body of work, that can help to create a better sense of national identity. There has been no tradition of writing about our public affairs by those who have played a role in them and this has left a major gap. Recently, Mr Rashleigh Jackson, a former Foreign Minister, took a step towards filling this vacuum with a series of essays based on his experiences while in office.
Not knowing our past does not help us to understand our present or to plan our future. It makes it more difficult than it might otherwise have been to develop a national identity as a prelude to nation building.