Guyana: Explosive book warns of Black rage – Jamaica Gleaner Review

Dr Glenville Ashby, Reviewer
Dr Glenville Ashby, Reviewer (right)

Title: Sitting on a Racial Volcano (Guyana Uncensored)

Author: G.H.K. Lall, 2013. Publisher: GHK Lall

In the field of psychopathology, “Black Rage” is a veridical mental disorder, a seething psychic wound that festers, then erupts with savagery at its perceived oppression. The term has also been deftly used by defense lawyers to humanise perpetrators hauled before an unforgiving penal system.

G.H.K. Lall is neither therapist nor attorney, but in this shoot-from-thracye-hip, emotively unrelenting and daring undertaking, he has assumed both these titles, and more. Lall’s signature pen stirs controversy. He will have it no other way. His earlier work, Cesspool impugned Guyana’s choking bureaucracy.      

In his latest offering, Sitting on a Racial Volcano, Lall biblically rips into the racial and sectarian demons that stalk, possess, and mold the South American nation into a haunting skeleton. The author wears the mantle of prophet, but unlike St John’s Revelations, his warnings are hardly shrouded in the cryptic and the esoteric. He is as literal and daunting as The Book of Mormon’s Nephi and the Torah’s Moses and Ezekiel. And like a saint engulfed in the dark night of the soul, Lall’s writing bears marks of an existential crisis – his angst and disgust at Guyanese society slowly devouring him.

He presents a unique and terrifying social tableau. Sure, it lacks the academic leaning and historicity of Stephen Spencer’s A Dream Deferred, preferring not to dwell on the seeds of Guyana’s racial crisis, but it proves equally, if not more, impactful. Lall is frighteningly unapologetic and strident. His message is singular and pointed. His foot is planted, never slipping. The black man in Guyana, he argues, is marginalised, exploited, dismissed, humiliated, even summarily executed – victims of an inveterate Indian cabal – calculatingly political, tribal, racist and self-serving. Unbridled charges of tsunami-like proportions!

RAGE AGAINST THE SYSTEM

Lall rails against a corrupt system that profits well-connected Indians who prey on blacks like vultures.

This tribal, racist oligarchy has betrayed the founding fathers and the once-noble ideals of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), he contends. Vengeance is costly, and the stalwarts of this unabashed Indian party well know the ABCs of exacting retribution. They employ intimidation, fear, threats, and appeal to identity, racial consciousness – Indianness. He questions the validity of commissions of inquiries, and repeatedly reminds readers of the spectre and lack of accountability in the Linden killings. After all, what is a black life worth?

Lall periodically and derisively injects island argot into this clinical exposé.

Seemingly comedic to the outsider, these racist mantras are no laughing matter; “Ayuh playin wit trouble … Ayuh want fuh see dem Black man geh bak in power? Like ayuh fuget wha used to happen … .”

Lall then offers his diagnosis in an enviable display of prosaic brilliance. He writes: “These are a snapshot of the blunt verbal hatchet blows delivered in person by party veterans and emissaries, who wrap themselves in seriousness that is intended to induce panic and fear.”

In Volcano, no one is spared from Lall’s searing lens. There are black sell-outs – the Masters’ pet – the House Negroes who seek recognition and a piece of the Indian pie. They are Guyana’s quisling. Lall lays bare the stench of his nation’s racial intolerance. He discusses the ostracism of those who buck tradition and copulate. In Indian families, in particular, parental retaliation is swifter, harsher.

The People’s National Congress (PNC) is also in Lall’s cross hairs. Decades removed from the reins of power, it is politically anaemic, moribund,` and incapable of mounting a robust response to the PPP’s excesses.

As if whipping a dying horse to perform, Lall counsels, excoriates, and implores its disjointed leadership that is also guilty of dabbling in racial politics. The opposition, he posits, must reach out meaningfully to the Indian community despite the “historical patterns” and predictability of the Indian Guyanese at the polling stations. “Real outreach that incorporates determined and focused ground-breaking, frank discussions, hard give and take, and the beginnings of understanding,” he writes, could lay the groundwork for some semblance of change. Here, Lall is axiomatic: nothing ventured, nothing gained. But he is short on optimism.

He questions the effectiveness of The Alliance for Change (AFC), a competing political party. “… the AFC’s failure to make a significant impact and its resultant stagnation is traceable to the powerful influence and stranglehold that the PPP and PNC have on their respective ethnic bases.” Further, “it contented itself with being armchair activists and media generals.”

But it is race that is the overarching factor that carries near archetypical properties, bending Guyana to its will.

For sure, racial accommodation appears illusory. Perceptions are entrenched, immovable. Stereotypes of Black and Indian Guyanese are embraced and spewed effortlessly, and not only by hardcore extremists. This is what makes Lall’s prognosis for change so daunting. That the majority of Blacks and Indians are bedevilled, exploited, and pauperised by a scheming few, yet resort to verbally attacking and distrusting each other, may just be the most insightful observation of Volcano.

Fortuitously, though, the racial volcano has yet to erupt, because, as Lall puts it: “There is little by the way of mental preparedness to take the first step, that long punishing crawl,” and “there is the huge sucking vacuum of migration and anticipation of relief from everyday woes through remittances and hopes of escape through flight … .” Lall also makes mention of the underground economy where narcotics and money laundering that enrich some Blacks, “compliments of an Indian-dominated trade.”

A PLEA TO THE BRAVE

Interestingly, Lall gives little credence to inter-faith dialogue, a timeless response to healing wounds in chasmic societies, yet he offers substantive and practical solutions to a nation on the brink. He beckons the few to stand ground and respond to a racist and kleptocratic system. They are the patriotic, the brave “individuals who seek no favour from anyone, who take no money, especially the dirty kind, who owe no one: who need no prestige jobs, or status symbols such as opulent homes in reserved areas off limits to regular citizens”. He warns, though, that “there is a price attached to resistance and involvement”. But Guyana is sorely in need of progressive thinkers – “new faces” and new ideas.

Lall’s work, brewed in Guyana’s social laboratory has wider regional implications. In countries such as Trinidad and Tobago with shared historical and cultural experiences, political rumblings are often underpinned with racial invective. Fortunately, no political leader has dared to open that Pandora’s Box. Sitting on a Racial Volcano is a reminder of the evil that lies within … a grave warning to leaders of plural societies who are bent on undermining the will and destiny of nations entrusted in their care.

Rating: Highly Recommended

Send feedback to glenvilleashby@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter@glenvilleashby

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Comments

  • de castro  On 06/10/2013 at 5:34 am

    Mr Ashby
    Enjoyed your synopsis but will comment although I have not read
    “Sitting on a racial volcano” by Mr mall.
    First thought “wonderful review” with insight….
    You must be Guyanese born “alien” educated. USA?

    However I beg to differ on the issue of race ….being neither black
    or white, Indian or african , more “person of colour”…
    Racism not unlike religion has only been with us for a
    few years while “religion” has existed for 2000+ years.
    On the other side of the coin “classism” has only showed
    its “ugliness” in wealth creation/accumulation a few years
    ago….at least in modern societies…UK USA et all….

    Guyana and Guyanese were divided “racially” by its Indian and African
    leaders Cheddi and Forbes Linden Sampson Burnham.
    Their legacy for whatever reasons but politically motivated.
    Culturally Guyana is a racist society as a result of those two
    leaders political ideology. Communist V Socialist instigated
    and imposed by USA influence on UK at the time of Guyana
    flight to “freedom” from its colonial powers.
    Hey this is only 50 years ago….
    Blacks and Indians have won their freedom from mental slavery
    less than 100 years ago in Africa and India.
    Their history the white colonisers of the time…..empire builders.
    The world has changed hopefully for the better as peoples become more
    informed.
    UGANDA under AMIN an example of how colonisers have divided
    our beautiful planet….UK forced into accepting 50.000 Asian Indians
    into Britain at the time….today those Asian Indians are very much
    accepted in British society even though they are but a minority.
    And so are west Indians (mostly of African decent).
    Multi cultural societies is the way forward but religiously
    the change is a necessary evil…..as per the “reformation” of the
    Church a mere 500 years ago….
    To conclude Guyana is changing
    Guyana must change.
    Guyana will change as change it must or die in its ignorance…
    hopefully peacefully in her sleep.
    Am forever the everlasting optimist for the country of my birth.
    My first love it will be my last.
    Kamptan

  • ndtewarie  On 06/10/2013 at 11:30 am

    HAVE WE LOST THE GOOD TIMES FOREVER

    A foreigner would have no clue Looking at me and yes you too For our very beautiful land would mesmerize them But reaching Georgetown they would see a problem Should they not ever go to Georgetown And think we still worship the Crown Guyana would be in their good books Still steeped in hospitality and good looks And visiting the villages in the country side Or walking on the seawall by the waterside They would hear the happy banter of Guyanese With both major races trying to live with ease Kids of all races playing together At school in foul and fair weather People planting reaping and some sowing Neighbours quarreling then back to loving Chatting in patwa and musical cacophony With an admixture of country and chatney There is no fighting as stated in the newspaper What is all the fuss about everything is kosher And the little man said to the foreigner quietly Mister Come  Election time then you will see And there lies the problem with good old Guyana The once sought after El Dorado of South America The only country rich in the English language Between Brazil and Venezuela like a sandwich Even Sir Walter Raleigh visited Guyana Searching for the Golden city of Manoa Jagan and Burnham gave us Independence The cold war politics kept us in suspense Then came Jagdeo whom we thought was good man He turned out to be an opportunist not a good fan Enter President Ramoutar to right the wrongs But we are still hearing the same old songs In between the two parties the Guyanese are caught It become worse when one side shoutsapanjahaat As our leaders trying  to keep a sane balance Refusing to cooperate for shared governance So far the darn two party system have failed Left us in awe when bad facts are unveiled Can’t produce a cohesive society Then they ran away like banshee They start out with good intentions Listened to the peoples’ contentions But got weak in the knees succumbed And their little brains got benumbed Their main produce being nepotism and corruption Stashing away millions and wasting many a billion The freedom being independent is a disappointment Leaders with no decorum suffering from an ailment We threw off the colonial shackle Instead of building a strong tackle To call our bleddy own brand We bury our heads in the sand As the littleman  is now an aimless man Knowing not where to turn even if he can Whom to trust or who is hiding the truths Left with a land of unemployed lost youths Being pulled into a quagmire Making him feel like a pismire The real Guyanese is now a man very lost He just wanted to live in peace at any cost And he gazes above and wonder Cease being a blamer now a boozer Lord how much more can I stand my friend And he wondered loudly when would it end If perchance you go by the eroding seawall He is there looking out wondering with a pal And the foreigner passed by asking What’s wrong with these Guyanese people No husbandry for such a beautiful country?

    NDTEWARIE. GIVE PEACE AND LOVE A CHANCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ________________________________

  • Cyril balkaran  On 06/11/2013 at 7:12 am

    Its Fifty years now since our Political Independence from our Colonial Masters. Its also a history of 50 years of Outward migration to the shores of the USA, U.K Canada and elsewhere including the Caribbean! This migration will not stop and the fact that there is now available Dual Citizenship available to those who qualify for it, promotes the idea of more Migration. Why have the successive governments of Guyana from 1966 to 2013 could not encourage those migrants to remain home and join the struggle for a better Guyana. Is it because of the Governance of the country good or bad? Is it because we have lost respect for our political and cultural and religious leaders? The Times in the USA reported in May,s issue that NY city has 140,000 people of Guyanese ancestry and that is the 5th Largest single grouping of Nationals from one country. Is it we crave for a better and descent standard of living at a time when we can afford it. The lack of political stability at home and the lack of Good Governance coupled with Massive Corruption that fails to be addressed and leadership that displays callous regards for the populace are factors in the Race equation that has a man like Granger and those in the AFU dumb founded. Life is about living and spreading Love and Joy and making others Happy also if it is within your power to do so! Guyanese in the Caribbean and elsewhere in the International Diaspora still believe that the Good will prevail in the land of many waters. that Peace and Love will become the vehicle for change in the land of plenty. that people who keep coming and going to and from Guyana will one day come to stay together again. But 50 years of life has elapsed since our Political Independence and yet we do not see the signs of change on the Horizons of TIME. Our generation is passing on, Our children and their children have not inherited the spoils of our labour, and if they cannot in their life time become happy by the legacy left to them by their parents and grand parents.then the question that must be asked when and who will provide that legacy of good Governance. The change that may be coming I pray and hope that it will be a Peaceful one. God Bless our Nation! We love you, Guyana!

    • Zenobia Williams  On 06/11/2013 at 10:47 pm

      Mr. Balkaran, there is not much that I can add. You have made a synopsis that reflects with hurt despondency that I share, 50 years of a generation who are now aged and weary and with the passage of time many have passed on. Passed on with broken hearts and helplessness that their beloved Guyana never got the wings to soar to it’s full natural potential of honest and ethical governance. A beautiful culture of people of class and distinction, drawing every breath waiting, hoping, praying to return HOME where they belong. A country of spectacular magnificence in all it’s splendour and glory, and we were banished from it because of deceit and selfish power. Betrayal and hopelessness still exists today for all of us. Are we a resilient people? We talk among ourselves, we write with true and hurtful expressions but when is the million day march to set the record straight and put the dinosaur two political parties in the dust bin to be replaced with young fresh intelligent minds. That is the only change I see. I surmise the second and rising third generation will never know the love of our beautiful Guyana as our era.

  • de castro  On 06/12/2013 at 8:28 am

    Emotive words that expresses a love that goes beyond words…
    Guyana was my first love
    Guyana will be my last.

    Long live Guyana and the Guyanese people all over the planet.

    Emotively
    Kamptan

  • n. Augustus  On 06/17/2013 at 6:13 pm

    The real problem is the racial face put on power and poverty. Indians fear a return to the days of Burnham and too many africans belive that there are being marginalized by an Indian government. Unless, both see a face in the Presidencyl ike theirs, it makes it harder to separate the face from the policies whether good or bad. Politicians use this to their advantage. Interesting, it is likely most Guyanese are not as racist as many like to claim, simply led to be suspicious of each other too often. Better opposition tactics could have brought a much better governance and less corruption in the country. Oppositions need to bargain, compromise whereever possible, support or amend or offer sound reasonable alternatives that get public support. Some times it takes a little longer to get everything one wants, so get as much every time possible. Still hopeful that more independent supporters of these parties will demand more flexible and fair policies from all. A old mudhead hope and prayer this is sooner than later.

  • de castro  On 06/23/2013 at 4:08 pm

    sorry took so long to respond….was busy travelling …
    sometimes it is more a “prejudice” issue than a racial one….
    guyanese must remain proud to be guyanese first and everything else after….
    race religion culture heritage background upbringing etc etc
    I am KAMPTAN first and everything else after.
    you are augustus first and everything else after.

    we are all humans with feelings and emotions that is best not expressed
    in a discriminatory way….if we give/show love am sure well receive it in return.
    KARMA…what goes arround comes arround.
    when politicians use “nationalism” to win votes it is “sad” ….lets hope the “voters” relect this on polling day….vote them out.

    kamptan

  • sirenagx  On 06/24/2013 at 6:32 pm

    I agree with the statement that we are who whe are firsr and what we decide must come later. As a multi-ethniic, I start as ian individual and think independently of both self described leaders and blind or dedicated followers. From overseas, I can only hope that leaders and their followers would realize so many old truths – it is not the politics, but the policies that count. The so called half a loaf is better than none, escapes too ordinary Guyanese. Better governance and leaders can make Guyana one of the 50 best places to live, if the best use is made of existing resources and fair and progress progrms are implemented, much less if more investments are found. Make do is no longer good, not if some leaders promises to make one’s life like america if elected.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/27/2013 at 9:46 am

    I declare that I try to stay away from matters pertaining to “race” and “politics” as it relates to Guyana; but this time is an exception – only because I have never heard nor read anyone voice an opinion that is quite to my way of thinking.

    My disclaimer that I try to stay away from “race” and “politics” in Guyana would ring hollow with those familiar with my comments and opinions in this blog. Therefore, if you checked, you will discover that I find it more comforting to say my piece on this subject matter relating to other countries and communities rather than, say, Guyana.

    I say with conviction that I have no interest in obtaining or reading a copy of the book, “Sitting on a Racial Volcano” by GHK Lall. Given the review, I am of the opinion that it is missing the mark by a wide margin. So, here is my take:

    I believe if we had kept the Honourable Peter D’Aguiar on-board as a Minister in the government of Guyana in the formative years of our newly independent country, Guyana would have been light-years ahead of where it is today – economically, at least.

    Every white person [backra man], which includes the Portuguese, that I have spoken to over the years, have declared that they could not stand the racial stigma and disrespect which flowed from being a part of the Guyanese community during those early years. So the solution was to make a quick exit at the borders of Guyana – with that, they took away a neutralizing factor within the borders, in my opinion.

    It was a radical change in our cultural and psychological make-up, in general – a culture-shock during our formative years as a country! In other words, it was a major change from seeing the backra man who benefitted from our status as a colony, suddenly exiting the Guyana borders en masse and non-whites suddenly in charge – I may add, with no mentors in place to groom the new leaders to manage real power and control of the economy; including the cultural morass, which resulted in domestically polarizing the non-whites, or at least, exacerbating the racial tensions between them that were planted by the backra man using the divide-and-rule strategy while we were a colony.

    Some 47-years later, we appear to be digging ourselves out of a mismanaged economy, mismanaged culture, racial intolerance and so on. I believe in some ways we went backwards after independence – almost to the point of self-destruction, in my opinion. But, as I look around at the rebuilding of the infrastructure and improvements in the economy and improvements in cultural and race relations, I believe that there is a better future in the offing for Guyana!! Oh! And that neutralizing factor is coming back!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s