If the events that followed the March 2 General and Regional Elections, coupled with the present COVID 19 outbreak, do not motivate us as Guyanese to pull together for what may be the very survival of our people and nation-state, then I think we can say that nothing will.
Real leaders, whose only aim is to further the interests of the people, will put aside their egos and narrow partisan interests at this crucial moment in our nation’s history. Real leaders will find inside themselves the political maturity and will to finally put Guyana first. If we could commit to this, then the final scene of the recent hideous and absurd spectacle that has now unfortunately been observed by the entire world, could afford us the opportunity to regain our dignity and credibility as a viable nation-state. A nation-state that is fit to take its rightful place as an influential member of CARICOM and the global community of nations.
After decades of independence and republican status, this most recent debacle has exposed what can only be described as the infantile behaviour of our leaders and our mal-development as a nation-state. Those who seek to lead Guyana must equip themselves. They must understand what US sociologist and economic historian, Immanuel Wallerstein, refers to as ‘the modern world system’, so that they are actually able to manage the affairs of our country in a way that ensures the wellbeing and survival of all Guyanese.
Political elites of both major parties in Guyana, and those worldwide, that are trapped in the crisis ridden liberal-democratic arrangement and neo-liberal economics are responsible for bringing the world to its current tipping point. They have allowed the market to be the decisive factor in determining all aspects of human existence, and in so doing, have inarguably created a world where all balance and harmony with our natural environment has been destroyed. Our very food-chain is in the hands of ruthless transnational corporations that produce food that is now more harmful than nutritious. Our healthcare is in the hands of Big Pharma, where the pursuit of profit rather than any concept of healing is the priority. We now live in a world where the accumulation of private wealth has become more important than any other single concern, including the primacy, dignity and even survival of the human person. We are living in the era of capitalism in its most avaricious and debauched form.
If there is anything positive that can be garnered from the COVID 19 outbreak, it will be its ability to make every thinking person worldwide finally come to the realisation that we, the people, the global mass of citizens, must be the conscious agents of change because our very survival now demands nothing less. Each of us must take urgent and decisive action. We must stop cruising malls, mindlessly engaging in crass consumerism and repel the insatiable desire that capitalism has deliberately created in us, causing us to want what we do not need. We must stop filling our minds with the lies and trivia being deliberately pumped out to us every day by the global corporate media. We must stop being consumed en masse by a superficial engagement with social media that has created a voyeuristic and narcissistic culture, feeding off our craving for approval, status and likes. We must instead engage in courageous and meaningful conversations in order to arrive at the truth, thereby utilising social media as a tool for real change. In the words of the radical theologian, Harvey Cox, we can no longer afford to “leave it to the snake”.
Democracy has always been a contested term and concept, despite the fact that West European hegemony has led many of us to believe that the West invented democracy, and that their form of democracy is the only form and therefore must be universally implemented. The COVID-19 crisis has also put this into perspective for many. As the world watched Cuban doctors and nurses arrive to a standing ovation in Italy, I hope that every thinking person for a split second thought, maybe I have been fed the wrong story on democracy. It is hard not to notice how fraudulent and flawed the Western concept of democracy is, as it became glaringly obvious that just maybe, if you are homeless or left to die without a hospital bed in New York, you are not in a democracy, no matter how many times they push the word and idea down our throats. Just maybe, what they like to call “the world’s largest democracy”, India, is not so democratic when, upon a national lockdown, thousands of homeless Indians may die of starvation before they contract the virus.
Here in Guyana, those who left us with the Western Parliamentary system of so-called democracy knew only too well that it would not work, especially in such a racially polarized society. In fact, it was implemented as a means of control – to divide and rule in order to perpetuate dependency and neo-colonialism. However, this does not stop former colonizers from pretending that it should work, and when it fails, to deliver, their usual condescending scolding, such as we have recently seen from the ABC/EU countries. Let us be clear: these countries have neither a moral nor historical right to lecture us on the virtues of democracy, human rights and justice. There are those of us who have been actively resisting Guyana’s recolonization ever since Desmond Hoyte took office and started to unravel the gains we made towards true independence. We continued to resist throughout the rule of both the PPP/C and APNU+AFC, as they followed the same tragic path. Those who are only now shouting about “recolonization” when the game they played so willingly for so long has backfired, should be ashamed.
Given the serious times, we are now faced with, and believe me COVID 19 is only the beginning of what is to come, it is imperative that we in Guyana move beyond the existing arrangement that has us locked into a Western parliamentary system that has shown us time and time again that it does not and cannot work for us. We must establish a new system of governance, based on the authority of the people. Governance that is inclusive and transparent. Governance that will prioritize the needs of all Guyanese and can offer effective protection in these perilous times. Our very survival depends on this.
This new system of governance must be established by us Guyanese, without external interference. Who better than us to understand what is needed? In fact, a number of international publications have contacted me over the past few weeks for an article on what is happening in Guyana. It is only when you attempt to explain the situation to a foreign audience that you fully comprehend the complexities and specificities of Guyana’s political architecture and circumstance. It would literally take a book and even then, unless one is Guyanese, an understanding of our circumstance may still elude the reader. Only we Guyanese can unravel and fix the mess we find ourselves in. This new form of governance must be shaped by our own historical specificities and peculiar circumstances.
This new system can only be generated by a demand from the people that the political forces, large and small, sit around a table and literally hammer out a framework for a government of national unity, where all the people feel truly represented and secure. Now is not the time to frame one party as having done wrong and the other one having abided by the rules. Political maturity necessitates that both the PPP/C and APNU+AFC acknowledge their role and responsibility in bringing Guyana to this critical point. Many years ago, Forbes Burnham pleaded for unity between the Africans and Indians in Guyana, famously declaring that we would either “live together or die together”. I doubt that he knew how prophetic those words would become.
Gerald A. Perreira
Organization for the Victory of the People (OVP)