The Gated Community – By Ron Persaud

The Gated Community

 By Ron Persaud

It was September 1954; and it was my first day at St. Stanislaus College. Mr. Marques (Marko!) was conducting our introduction to a college career.

During a break I got talking with John (Michael, Lawrence and Eastman  were his other names) Forte and we got off on a friendship that would last some 20 years directly – and indirectly through his dad (Laurie Forte) and his cousin Gordon Forte. Sylvia, Gordon’s wife, turned out to be a long time friend of my own wife, Rita.

But on that memorable September day, the most important feature of our conversation was that John lived at Uitvlugt Estate.

I knew Uitvlugt Estate! My auntie, Prab, lived at Uitvlugt Estate and I often spent time with them during school holidays. Naturally I asked John where exactly did he live. Even when he diagrammed the location I was still puzzled.           

 His home was located on a trench!

I did not pursue the matter any further but I mentally decided to visit him the next time I went to Uitvlugt Estate.

That happened in December; and for the first time in my life, the Senior Staff Compound  of a sugar estate impinged upon my conscious self. Up to that time I would walk from the railway station to the logie where my mother’s sister and her family lived; I would walk past the gated and guarded entrance to the “compound” but I had mentally blotted it out from the landscape.

Behind the hibiscus hedges, beyond the ‘bahama grass’ lawns and inside the bungalows of colonial architecture lived a totally different people – white people!

Before I left Uitvlugt Estate that December, I dared to visit my friend John. I had to leave my ‘grip’ at the guard-hut and was escorted by a watchman to the bungalow where the Fortes lived. John was quite pleasantly surprised to see me and his mom made tea and jam sandwiches which she expected to be eaten up; at which we obliged. I began to realize that the almost hallowed compound was not all that special after all.

In due course I left school and started to work at Uitvlugt Estate as a Lab. Assistant. My uncle Polo (William Dukhu) was by this time  a Field Foreman, Laurie Forte was to become the Field Manager and the Senior Staff Compound had become Company Housing to a very diverse community.

Guyanization  was well underway but it was not uncommon to meet natives of Nigeria, Pakistan, Liberia etc who were on contract or married to Guyanese.

I like to think that the Senior Staff Compound was first laid out to accommodate the managerial and technical personnel who came to B.G. from overseas and who would return to their homeland at the end of their contract. Some were sent home before their contract. I was told that Mr. Palmer, at LBI Estate repatriated 87 overseers in one year!

But over time the compound somehow evolved into a class symbol. To live in the Senior Staff compound was the goal of every ambitious employee – myself included. Whatever the motivations or circumstances, I firmly believe that all Senior Staff were grateful for the protection and comparative safety which the compound afforded – especially in times of industrial unrest or political disturbances. This is no exaggeration because despite all the gates and guards, the school bus (a perk to the Senior Staff) was bombed and Godfrey Texeira, the young son of a Senior Staff  member at Enmore, tragically lost his life. My uncle Manbahal used to drive that school bus and I think that he was driving when the bus was bombed.

In due course I became a Senior Staff myself  and life on the Senior Staff Compound can be the subject of a book by itself.

Let me say that it was something like the First Lady’s description of life in the White House ” No, there are prison elements to it.  (Laughter.)  But it’s a really nice prison, so –

So we (and our wives) were like “Neighborhood Watch” “Condo Commandos” and “My brother’s Keeper” all rolled into one. Over the 12 years that I was a Senior Staff  and the 4 estate Senior Staff  compounds on which I lived, there were perhaps half a dozen characters whom I would bar from entering the Senior Staff Compound.

But there were many more whom I felt should be so barred. Did I profile these people? I have to admit to doing so. The way a person walked, the way he was dressed and other visuals like that.

And then I came to the USA.

I cannot prove that one of my early attempts to rent a duplex was unsuccessful because of the way I look; but a knowledgeable American co-worker (and friend), who was studying for his Real Estate license thought so. After they had come to know me well my coworkers at my first place of work (Ace Hardware) confessed to being “a little on edge too”. They knew nothing about me at first and I have to acknowledge that others are entitled to feel “edgy” about me!

My work takes me into gated communities and Mobile Home Parks. I am always careful to maintain a businesslike approach (I stride rather than stroll). I always stand away from the entrance, especially if there is a door viewer or ‘peep-scope’ embedded in the front door. And things like that.

Because people like me after they get to know me.

I want to give them every opportunity to do so. But every so often there is someone like this guy.

I had to wait while my truck was getting an oil change. My pet dog, Codi was with me and I decided to take him for a walk. There was an inviting ditch bank on the edge of a Mobile Home Park and Codi and I were contentedly strolling along it when a voice hollered, “GET OFF MY PROPERTY!!! I almost hurt my neck as I jerked my head around … to see an older white male holding a gun pointed in my direction. I tightened my hold on Codi’s leash and said in the calmest tone I could muster, “OK; I’m sorry. I am leaving right now”. And with great trepidation I turned my back on him and walked away.

Reading about how death met Trayvon Martin, I thank God for my own deliverance that day and humbly acknowledge, “There, but for the grace of God, go I”.

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Comments

  • Thinker  On 07/15/2013 at 4:49 am

    Property is sacred in the US. Even if the land in front of a pavement is not fenced, don’t ever think of taking or allow your children to take any sort of short-cut on anyone’s property.

    A decade ago there was a Japanese exchange student who was shot in a driveway because he looked “threatening”. Don’t give any crazy gun owner an excuse to use you as target practice, folks.

  • de castro  On 07/15/2013 at 9:19 am

    Thinker
    Dem gun laws has kept me away from America for most of my life….
    FREEDOM TO BEAR ARMS

    THE CONSTITUTION OF USA has to change before I visit the present OBAMAland..
    Let’s see how this one develops….or OBAMA will be remembered more for what he did not do
    his legacy…

    Kamptan

  • travelconnexxions  On 07/15/2013 at 3:24 pm

    Uitvlugt Estate is where I started my career in the Sugar Industry as well, Ron.
    I knew the Fortes as well.
    Good reflections.

  • de castro  On 07/15/2013 at 10:34 pm

    Nostalgic story telling “feeds the soul” indeed…..
    In 1962 on arrival in London before my 18th birthday
    I was looking for accommodation….a white Irish woman
    answered the door only to slam it in my face with the words
    “sorry no coloureds”!
    Today she would be prosecuted for “racism” !
    Classism is more an issue today than racism….rich/poor devide !
    India an example of how “class” is used as measure in society…
    UK its is also ever present but considered “snobbish” or “unfashionable”

    Diana princess of Wales an example…..William and Harry her legacy.

    Life unfolds
    Kamptan

  • de castro  On 07/16/2013 at 8:27 am

    America s history is all about greed and Tax evasion/avoidance…
    Hence the gun culture..a culture of death…sad by real….
    However America is not a
    lone as capitalism teaches about wealth
    accumulation…rich gets richer !
    In communism the “state” and their greedy rulers gets richer.
    Socialism the compromise…..OBAMAland is heading this way
    as its middle class dwindles….but how and when this utopia is achieved
    is anyone’s guess….certainly not in ObamaS reign….
    HRH QE2 now pays taxes….HRH successor to the kingdom is being
    investigated for tax purposes….political correctness….
    Charles s great great grandfather CHARLES 1st claimed his power
    came from GOD (above the law) and parliament
    CROMWELL claimed his power came from the people….taxpayers….
    The poor king lost his head “literally” for blasphemy….
    Cromwell never recovered from signing the kings death warrant….
    He became a recluse from public life…..
    Both american and British history are so intertwined that is is
    often referred to as “special relationship” ! language the major
    influence…
    History teaches fools ….only fools forgetabout
    We can but learn from the mistakes by not repeating them.

    Lesson over
    Kamptan

  • Deen  On 07/17/2013 at 8:41 pm

    Ron, as you know, America is “land of the free and home of the brave.” Those who live bravely, will always be free.
    Like you, I’ve been a victim of discrimination on quite a few occasions, but I’ve never let that set me back from going forward.
    I believe discrimination exists in every country, and ethnic hangups are presents even in religious institutions where it should not.
    I guess discrimination discreetly resides with hypocrisy.
    Unfortunately, we have all learned this….. even as children in Guyana.

  • Ron. Persaud  On 07/19/2013 at 10:11 pm

    “Property is sacred in the US.”
    The “Territorial Imperative” (Source: http://www.enotes.com/ardreys-territorial-imperative-argues-that-humans-reference/ardreys-territorial-imperative-argues-that-humans“) proposes that, ‘the urge to acquire and defend a specific area of space is an ineradicable genetically based drive reflecting a biological need for identity, security, and stimulation.”
    Geographical location is irrelevant.

    • Thinker  On 07/20/2013 at 4:20 am

      “Geographical location is irrelevant”. Obviously. What I should have said is that the sense of “trespass” is very highly developed in the US.

  • Ron. Persaud  On 07/20/2013 at 2:00 am

    “Dem gun laws has kept me away from America for most of my life”
    Under which ‘Regime’ would you rather live?
    The one that has “the right to bear arms” enshrined in its Constitution?
    OR
    The one that prevents any opposition from obtaining arms?
    And before you answer, let me say that my uncle was killed by a bullet from an army issued firearm which was used in a home invasion in Guyana.

  • de castro  On 07/20/2013 at 5:40 am

    Ron
    I share your sentiments and your sympathy but not your suggestions…
    on the right to bear arms….
    If I have a gun I would be expected to use it..and I will…
    I prefer not to carry one….guess that makes me a pacifist…

    As an ex military man myself I must confess I was also a
    consciencious objector.
    I am also an anti war supporter…
    Today I cite Syria dilemma….
    Some leaders feel that the rebels should be armed…others do not.

    David Cameron is on the pro-arming lobby
    Comrade Putin is on the anti-arming lobby

    Both gentlemen have hidden agendas…they sell arms….

    What remains after arming both sides…look no further than
    Egypt….the Arabs have “black gold” (oil) and Petro dollars
    buys weapons ….
    Conflicts in middle east can all be resolved with political
    solutions ….without outside interference…
    But one must look and point fingers in the direction of the
    UN for its inaction more than its “mistake” …in backing the
    wrong side…are we now returning to another “cold war” situation
    or east west détente !
    The UN (LEAGUE OF NATIONS) was set up in order to prevent
    another WW …WW3 but it is the nuclear deterant that has prevented
    such an occurance so far….not the UN….
    The UN should be looking for “political” solutions to resolving
    conflicts not by military intervention….or become obsolete to requirement.
    It must change its approach to resolving disputes..the military one not
    an option…..
    My convictions are strong on the issue of “right to bear arms”
    although I do support the “right to self defence” in murder.
    Zimmerman a case study scenario…..the jury is still out on this one….
    A retrial the solution.

    I thank you in advance for your contribution above a and I respect
    your opinion also hoping that we can continue the dialogue even if
    on opposite sides ….we learn more in disagreement than we can ever Lear
    in agreeable silence…
    My sympathy to you for the loss of a family member…
    Kind regards
    Kamptan.
    Kamptan

  • de castro  On 07/20/2013 at 7:44 pm

    Ron
    To answer your question non politically (directly) and in a word……

    Neither

    Many have sacrificed their lives in the name of freedom
    Freedom from mental slavery …..freedom to think say do
    what we consider to be right and just….
    However as we are not all “equal” “sheep” some will lead
    others follow.
    Ghandi Mandella both freedom fighters….followed by Che Castro
    Marley and others.

    Some will take to arms others peacefully ….
    Unlike Jesus I will not turn the other cheek…
    I also believe to murder in self defence is permissible in law
    but when jurors are not selected fairly the law becomes the
    ass….it is the judge that has the final power to dismiss
    the jury and a retrial

  • Ron. Persaud  On 07/21/2013 at 10:51 am

    I do believe that individual and group survival depends heavily on physical strength.
    Man, or more broadly the order of Primates, learned to use tools; which augmented the strength of the individual and greatly improved the chances of survival of both the individual and the group.
    It takes very little imagination to see how a tool can become a weapon.
    Indeed the cutlass has been the most versatile tool in Guyana. We have used the term “cutlass carpenter” as both positive and negative description of skill. And those of my age group might recall Dr. Jagan’s unfortunate comparison of cutlass and typewriter.
    This most versatile item in the tool box of the Guyanese evolved into his common weapon for inflicting grievous bodily harm and death. I humbly suggest that this has been a development since biblical times. Whatever weapon Cain used to kill his brother, was something he had previously used as a tool. I remember Dispenser Ahmad (the ‘Doc. of DeKindren) relating the story of a woman brought to the Casualty Dept. with “two hundred and something” skin deep cuts over her entire body. When the trainee Dispenser asked the attending Medical Officer where to start stitching, the latter replied, “Anywhere!” because she was going to die anyway.
    The wounds had been inflicted by her husband, using a tool of his trade – the shoemaker’s lasting knife.
    National symbols like the bulldog, eagle, lion and tiger inspire the fighting force and frighten the enemy.
    Real drones or imagined WMD serve very much the same two purposes – not always simultaneously.
    So many people remember Mahatma Gandhi as an architect of the non violence concept that you might consider me ungentlemanly for reproducing the following quote:
    “I do believe that where there is a choice only between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence. Thus when my eldest son asked me what he should have done had he been present when I was almost fatally assaulted in 1908 [by an Indian extremist opposed to Gandhi’s agreement with Smuts], whether he should have run away and seen me killed or whether he should have used his physical force which he could and wanted to use, and defend me, I told him it was his duty to defend me even by using violence. Hence it was that I took part in the Boer War, the so-called Zulu Rebellion and [World War I]. Hence also do I advocate training in arms for those who believe in the method of violence. I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honor than that she should in a cowardly manner become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonor. — Mohandas K. Gandhi, Young India, August 11, 1920 from Fischer, Louis ed.,The Essential Gandhi, 1962”

  • de castro  On 07/24/2013 at 1:50 pm

    Agree wholeheartedly…if no other option available….
    Those who live by the sword will die by the sword….
    The pen is mightier than the sword in today’s world…
    with the technology available !
    Ghandi ..s world has changed and we must change
    we have the weapon of change the technology so let’s
    use it…we are doing so now. !
    Kamptan

  • Guysuco  On 07/29/2013 at 9:25 pm

    Hi

    An interesting book about Guysuco I believe the author lived in Uitvlugt compound for a short while.

    Title …As A Remigrant: Working for the Guyana Sugar Corporation and its implications.

    Attached is a link to the book on Amazon to give you some background information

    http://www.amazon.com/As-Remigrant-Working-Corporation-implications/dp/1490990631/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1375060449&sr=1-1&keywords=As+a+remigrant

  • RL  On 08/01/2013 at 6:23 pm

    Gated communities are a threat to Guyana.

    By physically separating residents from the city or town in which they live, gated communities reduce the residents’ civic involvement and disrupt the social contracts that cities and towns are built on.

    In conventional city neighborhoods, more powerful, well-organized groups use their resources to improve city life for everyone. If crime is an issue, groups will bring their concerns to the police department, city officials, and public forums. Changes that arise benefit the entire community.

    However, the privatization of a neighborhood that occurs in a gated community disrupts this ideal. From the residents’ perspective, problems and issues exist either ‘in here’ or ‘out there’. Residents may become isolated and alienated from the city, and when they worry about their neighborhood, they are only worrying about themselves. The gate itself is a response to urban crime, but a response that only benefits the residents of the development.

    This would not be an issue if everyone in our society wielded equal power. The problem is that residents of these gated communities tend to be the more affluent, more influential members of a society. When they feel that they have solved the crime problem with a gate, when they are comfortable that their own family is safe, they can put the matter to rest in their minds. The reality, however, is that the rest of the citizens, particularly the ones who are least empowered, cannot.

    This isn’t to say that residents of gated communities aren’t just as caring, concerned and socially active as the rest of us. In some ways, they’re even more active than most people. They took a step to deal with a social problem, and it’s a perfectly understandable step to take. The problem arises when residents become citizens of their private community and forget that they are also citizens of a wider community, one that can’t solve its problems with a gate.
    Of course, individuals and developers are free to build and live in gated communities and individual gated communities have only limited effects on a city. However, the real danger is that gated communities will become common and fragment our city. As well-to-do families and individuals move into gated communities, traditional neighborhoods weaken, and more affluent families feel that the only way to maintain their standard of living is to move into a gated community themselves. Additionally, developers are more likely to build developments with gates and add gates to existing developments if they think gates make their developments more attractive. Even the presence of one gated community can make other developers feel that they are at a competitive disadvantage without a gate. This effect ‘snowballs’ and the impact on the city can be dramatic.

    Gated communities are also a significant threat to urban development and may undermine current goals and initiatives. Gating implies that there is a significant crime problem in Guyana which, for the most part, is the case. Guyana is not a safe, open city and this is a significant distraction for prospective residents and businesses. Furthermore, proliferation of gated communities could act as a self-fulfilling prophecy that drives crime rates up as traditional neighborhoods deteriorate. Look at South Africa as an example.

    Public officials and private citizens alike should carefully consider these issues when existing developments propose gating or new developments plan to build gates. Gated communities threaten that citizen involvement. This, in turn, threatens Guyana’s future.

  • Thinker  On 08/02/2013 at 2:10 pm

    http://www.nindy.com/chw/oppose.htm
    Please compare the argument made for G/t and that made for Worcester. Gated communities can’t be avoided in several parts of Guyana because of the problem of criminality.

  • RL  On 08/02/2013 at 5:40 pm

    It is the same article, just replace Worcester with Guyana and you have a worse case of WORSECESTER. A case of Worsitis.

    This is a beautiful example of adaptation to make a point.

    What is your take, thinker?

  • Thinker  On 08/02/2013 at 8:51 pm

    The people in Worcester are claiming that they don’t have a problem of criminality in the first place so the gates communities are unnecessary. Is anyone making the same claim for Guyana????

  • RL  On 08/05/2013 at 2:50 pm

    Ok forget about Worcester.

    What is the security conditions in Guyana and level of criminality?

    I don’t live in Guyana so I don’t know.

  • Thinker  On 08/05/2013 at 3:15 pm

    Level of criminality high. General security poor. Read the Guyanese online newspapers for a better understanding.

  • RL  On 08/05/2013 at 4:46 pm

    So you think one method of trying to solve the high criminality and poor security is to develop gated communities in Guyana?

  • Thinker  On 08/06/2013 at 2:14 pm

    People with money or political influence everywhere will seek ways to protect themselves. They don’t necessarily seek to solve criminality but to improve their personal security. Let’s not be naïve.

  • RL  On 08/06/2013 at 3:55 pm

    There appears to be a lot of people with money and political influence (nouveau riche) in Guyana now, hence the marketing of Gated communities, which is a relatively new phenomenon in Guyana. Is this a result of wealth obtained in Guyana or overseas based Guyanese investing in Guyana?

    The only gated communities before were those set up during colonial times by the whites on the sugar estates.

    Maybe you can enlighten me, I’m a bit dim and naive of all things Guyana. I suffer from cognitive dissonance when it comes to Guyana, things don’t add up.

  • Thinker  On 08/06/2013 at 6:26 pm

    Let’s put it discreetly, much of it is “source unknown”, in addition to the two categories mentioned.

  • RL  On 08/06/2013 at 7:45 pm

    Discreetly speaking – “Source Unknown” equals Drugs, Remittances or selling Plantain Chips on the street corner?

  • Thinker  On 08/06/2013 at 7:57 pm

    Good luck with plantain chips and remittances.

  • RL  On 08/08/2013 at 12:37 pm

    I see a plane load of deportees from the US arrived in Guyana, they might be looking for a gated community to live in.

    I wonder if the PPP government will count these as tourist arrivals or re-migrants?

    Also the aircraft that brought these folks was a rented MD83, this is probably the justification the PPP geniuses are using to justify the expansion of Timehri Airport to accommodate eight aircraft at eight jetways.

  • RL  On 08/12/2013 at 5:08 pm

    The movie ELSIUM

    The year is 2154 and Elsium is the new Gated Community located in space for the wealthy 1% with access to all the best in health care and secure living. Earth has since become a diseased, polluted and an insecure place to live.

    That does not stop the earthlings from trying to illegally gain access to Elsium. This is a great movie with a great socioeconomic theme set in the future but relates to the present. Elsium’s director of homeland security can best be described as a futuristic Dick Cheney in woman’s clothing. Surprisingly the President of Elsium is an Indian by the name of Mr. Patel. It is ironic that even though the movie is set in Los Angeles it is actually filmed in Mexico and uses South African mercenaries as hidden embedded assets to carry out the orders of the wealthy 1% – this reads like modern day CIA embedded assets around the world with Elsium being America. Also it could be the Arizona fence/border patrol trying to keep the Mexicans out of America.

    Elsium can also be present day America with Guyanese and other potential immigrants looking for ways to buy in to Elsium and being facilitated by the likes of Thomas Caroll and other coyotes.

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