We must be an example to the next generation
Wednesday Perspective with Freddie Kissoon
June 23, 2004
One of the most exemplary figures this troubled nation has produced is Eusi Kwayana. I have learnt a lot from Eusi. Although I have written about his faults; which one of us is faultless? One day, a long time ago, Eusi and I had a private conversation. I believe it was in 1988.
He was working at his desk at Rodney House and the conversation got around to my faults. This vintage statesman told me something I will never forget.
I had a problem relating to “status people” in the WPA, as an organization, and others who were generally involved in anti-authoritarian politics in Guyana. Eusi told me that my loudness offended the middle class. He went on to tell me about the cultural superficiality of this class and that they would not find me someone they could argue with or want to have around.
I remember Clive Thomas echoing a sentiment that was somewhat similar to that of Kwayana’s in my early student days at UG. There was this white Hungarian professor who stormed into a classroom where we were having anti-apartheid lecture and I was the chairman of the proceedings.
It was his classroom for that hour and we were occupying it. We thought that the sheer thought of the subject being an anti-apartheid topic, he would have given way to us. But he demanded his classroom back and the meeting was aborted. I told him off in no uncertain term.
Mr. Mike Mc Cormack at that time thought my behaviour was offensive. Later, Clive Thomas told me that it was ego-tripping. I have learnt a lot from my early experience in political activism. Both Mc Cormack and Thomas were right. It was the professor’s space and he wanted it back; he was entitled to it.
Getting more mature as the years went by, I reflected on these juvenile bravados, youthful machismo and misplaced chauvinism.
The most outstanding thing I have learnt from the generation that preceded me, and these include Cheddi Jagan, Eusi Kwayana, Clive Thomas, Joshua Ramsammy, Boyo Ramsaroop, Rupert Roopnarine, Walter Rodney, Keith Scott (Walter Rodney;s brother-in-law), Moses Bhagwan, Bill Carr, Vincent Teekah, Professor Rudy James, Professor Harold Lutchman, Andaiye and others, is to utilize the sharpest parts of your intellect to define your arguments.
Two of the two best intellectual devastators this country has produced are Eusi Kwayana and Rupert Roopnarine.
Roopnarine has a way with words and if you had told him he was a political fool, the reply would have been taken straight out of the lexicon of Dr. Samuel Johnson, the brilliant 18th century English literary scholar.
Eusi Kwayana would never ever stoop, not even an inch, to the level of semantic vulgarity. He is one of the most cultured and decent citizens this country has produced.
My attitude to political differences has been shaped by this generation. During the days of the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy, I had a diminished tolerance for Mr. Paul Tennassee. My intuition told me that Tennassee was an opportunist interested in power only. I used my pen to expose his narrow self-interested approach to the struggle for free and fair elections. But Tennassee never did descend to the level of self-humiliation by referring to the colour of my skin, the structure of my face, which asylum I came from among other semantic grossness and obnoxious terminologies.
The same goes for Mr. Mike Mc Cormack. He took umbrage to the analytical assault I made on his behind-the-scene- involvement in the political party, GUARD. But Mr. Mc Cormack never replied with grammatical scatology. We have lost that landscape. Today we have a small cabal of people who are endangering the culture, values and the mores that the next generation must embrace.
These people get on television and instead of proving the government, the Kaieteur News, the Stabroek News, columnists they object to, and other political parties and organizations they disagree with, that they are wrong and seek to prove it, they descend to an extremely horrible level that is so unspeakable that you see a clear and present danger that will adversely affect the next generation.
I saw with my own eyes and heard a doctor, his shirt sleeves buttoned down, bow-tie neatly folded under the collar, and with an unusual gesticulation referring to the Prime Minister as a donkey on Channel 6.
I hope C.N. Sharma never allows that to happen on his station again. This is the new culture of debate we have with us. The trouble is that organizations and politicians refuse to see what that resort to debating, is doing to young people.
Look at what happened shortly after Kean Gibson’s book (on a denunciation of the Hindu caste system) was placed in the public’s eye. Some UG basketball players ran onto the Rangoli circles as part of the Diwali celebrations on the UG car park, which was reserved for the festivities and when the organisers objected, they were abused in tones denouncing Hindus.
I was there, and heard one player yelling, “Ya’ll carry duh Hindu … to Freedom House.” And with that, he walked right onto the Rangoli formations. Here is an extract from a comment given on television of May 19, 2004 on Channel 28’s Evening News, ‘Everywhere around us we see the Hindus (sic) getting all the breaks, all the contracts, behaving as if they own the place….” The Stabroek News in an editorial referring to that kind of thinking wrote, “Where did that bolt of lightening come from?”
Don’t we owe it to our children and the next generation to pave the way for a more civilized way of confronting each other? What does it do for the school children to hear an opinion-maker who disagrees with the politics and the theories of another, or with a ruling politician that he doesn’t like, calling him, “ugly,” “ a donkey,” “a monkey,” “a thief, “he smells,” etc. What do the children learn from this?
And what do visitors to our country say when they see this outrage? But most of all, if we want to win hearts and minds, we can only do that by behaving as civilised people.