A little ease
February 10, 2004
Travelling along the east coast public road the other evening with a beautiful, starlit sky and a gentle breeze it was wonderful to see hundreds of families sitting on the sea wall, the children playing on the nearby parapet. There has been so much pressure, so much tension, so much fear that it was comforting even a little reassuring to see people relaxing.
The political instability, the criminal violence and the ongoing emigration have so destabilised and alienated us that we tend to forget that there are thousands and thousands of Guyanese who are desperate for a bit of peace and quiet, for a chance to live a relatively normal life. The tranquil scene that evening was a heartening symbol of normality.
For over 50 years there has been trouble and turmoil of one kind or another in our land. The saddest result has been the massive emigration. It is painfully nostalgic to look at old photographs and to see former friends, colleagues and public figures who would in a more normal situation all still be here. They have made their way in other lands, quite a few not surprisingly have written Guyana off as a hopeless case which will never get its act together.
But that idyllic scene shows that all is not lost, that some of the deformations that are now evident, the brutish attitudes on the roads and in some offices and shops, are not endemic and can be changed in the right context. The negativity, the slackness that we have learnt to expect and tolerate are not immutable. There is a capacity for rebirth.
People need more opportunities for public relaxation, to bring the pressure down a notch. At one stage they had almost stopped going out in the evening. One remembers a late middle aged woman coming to a poorly attended talk on the Camp street avenue on orchids by orchidologist Edward Hopkinson in a taxi. In normal times such a talk might have attracted hundreds of keen gardeners. Upon enquiring it was ascertained that her daughter, with whom she lived, had a car but it was a white car and the daughter had said the bandits liked to carjack white cars so she couldn't drop her mother to the lecture. The criminality had had a profound effect on lifestyles and people were living in their own little barred and shuttered prisons. There was almost an involuntary curfew.
All of that contributes to tension and deformed behaviour patterns. People need to be able to enjoy their leisure time. There have been various efforts to upgrade the seawall as a place to relax, for example, but they have not lasted. Free concerts in the bandstands there and in the botanical gardens, say once or twice a week, by the police and other bands and some of those old time singers (Mr. Stoute, where are you?) could provide opportunities for families to go out again in the evening and enjoy the splendour of our tropical nights. A little ease in our lives is so important.