OPINION: Guyanese Poor: Eating from an empty bowl – By Mosa Telford 

In every nation, there are starving people. Whether the hunger is for sustenance, a fair share of the pie, knowledge or respect, that which sustains us is not equally distributed or guaranteed to all.

This week I heard the story of a woman who removed an empty bowl from her bag. She tried to hide that there was no food in the bowl and pretended to eat. When the person who saw her approached her with love, she confessed that she had nothing to eat. But she was at her place of employment. This was not an unemployed woman who many would not pity because she was too lazy to work. This was not a woman who chose to beg who many would rebuke and tell to seek employment. This is a woman who sought honest employment and yet was starving in this land of plenty. But her plight is the plight of many Guyanese. 

In a nation where food is abundant, no one should starve. With vast lands to cultivate and rear cattle and poultry, and great rivers to fish, how are citizens still starving? But we know the truth. Not only are some of our people pretending to eat because of poverty, but even those whose cups are filled and running over are also often eating from empty bowls. But it is nourishment like compassion, joy, virtue, love, confidence and peace for which they starve.

In a land where there are vast resources, every citizen should prosper. We dreamers, who imagine a world where the wealth is equitably distributed, our voices are muffled. We were born into a world where small groups hold the biggest pieces of the pie, while the rest of us battle for crumbs. In Guyana, the lines are not blurred between the rich and the poor. The disparities are becoming even more evident. For so long we have struggled and fought each other and our rights have been trampled that perhaps we think we are not deserving of much more.

It is one thing to starve in this country for food, but many Guyanese do not even possess a piece of this country to call their own. They are hungry for the respect owed to them as citizens. How can people be without land in their country? It was only recently we saw how the Success squatters were treated like animals. Our citizens have become so accustomed to having their human rights trampled, that the revolution seems to have been permanently postponed. Many Guyanese apply for land and some must wait decades; some have even died without ever receiving their plot, but foreigners are given their share expeditiously.

What is the current scale on which we are measuring progress in Guyana? Are we supposed to get excited when we hear announcements about new hotels being built by foreigners? The majority of the citizens of this country will not be able to be guests at those hotels. The majority of our citizens cannot even afford to dine at some of the hotels we have now. But maybe they are not being built for us.

Are new gated communities and oceanfront properties supposed to be signs of progress and excite us when they are only for the wealthy? I am not going to applaud these ventures and pretend that new fancy structures mean we are making progress that will benefit all our citizens. How can the gated community and the slums stand side by side and we think all our citizens are satisfied? How can the five-star hotel and the ghetto be on the same plot of land and we ignore those in the ghetto? Can we be surprised when the have-nots watch and plot?

We are seeing the transformation of Guyana; the only problem is that this transformation is not for the benefit of all Guyanese. It will leave many of the poorest people poorer than they were before because they are disregarded and their rights are trampled. The cost of living in Guyana is eliminating the possibility of the poor to live comfortably here. I do not know when last the poorest people have lived comfortably here. Living is not only being able to feed one’s self, but affordable housing, education, living wages, security and, of course, spiritual enlightenment.

We are seeing how ridiculously expensive it has become to live in our capital city for example. With no regulation on rent, landlords are increasingly catering for the rich and foreigners. I will not be surprised if in years to come Georgetown will be populated mostly by immigrants. Gentrification is slowly happening. Venezuelans, Brazilians, Cubans, Americans, Africans, Europeans all are coming and quietly taking their place. However, it seems the only foreigners those who issue deportation orders have an issue with are the Haitians. Where is CARICOM when it concerns the plight of Haitians? Is CARICOM satisfied with Haitians being treated like the step-child of the community?

The citizens of this country are constantly being thrown the bones of the fish, while only a few eat the flesh. Small donations to the people like the G$25000 COVID relief (about $100 US), which many have still not received and probably will not receive, are supposed to appease the people. But this is what we accept from the big cats we have given permission to watch our milk.

Guyanese are still leaving these shores to find greener pastures in other countries. Even the myth about oil finally fixing all our issues is not keeping many Guyanese here. But what do the droves of foreigners coming know that we don’t know? What are the advantages that they have that the ordinary Guyanese does not have? Who really owns this country?

What will happen when the poor people who have nothing – no land, no home, no food, no money, no oil, no respect – stand on the sidelines watching those driving the fanciest cars, the owners of the hotels, the owners of the mansions, oceanfront properties, the citizens of the gated communities who have shares in oil, those with private planes and an army of servants? Will the have-nots only work for them but still have to hide and pretend to eat from empty bowls? Or will this infuriate them, sparking a rise in crime and other disturbances?

Every Guyanese will not be rich. However, the least every Guyanese deserves is a plot of land to call their own, affordable housing, education and living wages; whether they are a Chief Executive Officer or a Janitor, it is the least that should be expected. When this becomes a reality, perhaps then we can look at the fancy structures and applaud. Perhaps then, those who worked hard for their wealth would not have to worry about the plots of the have-nots and all our bowls will remain full.

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  • Dennis Albert  On 12/08/2020 at 1:05 am

    But what do the droves of foreigners coming know that we don’t know?

    They are coming here like the Dutch, French and British—to exploit, profit and treat Guyana like a colony while the PPP supporters kiss the feet of the exploiters due to the colourism and self-hatred of their identities.

  • Jane Whitehead  On 12/08/2020 at 5:21 am

    The government is complicit in giving their cronies other people property or giving away state land to their supporters only.

  • Sher  On 12/08/2020 at 5:25 am

    Well written essay, informative.
    thank you

  • Kman  On 12/08/2020 at 9:05 am

    It all boils down to opportunity and the willingness to work hard. In every country there is extreme poverty and ‘homelessness’. Just look at the so called richest country in the world, USA.

    Governments are supposed to assist in creating meaningful opportunities for employment, and citizens should not stand by waiting for a handout.

    However, governments are by and large, look out for their own, whether it be Guyana, China,USA,Russia,etc.

  • Royston  On 12/08/2020 at 11:05 am

    They should demand “their” deserved handout. Every Guyanese born citizen must get a “handout” of the pie. It is theirs.

  • the only  On 12/09/2020 at 8:03 pm

    All this article is doing is spreading lies and sowing division among the people of GUYANA.

    • Dennis Albert  On 12/10/2020 at 6:45 am

      The cocaine to Belgium already sowing division because cocaine money buying up Guyanese Critic to post anti-Black videos on Facebook. If God is watching he should flood up Pradoville and give back the land to the marine and aquatic life. Nothing good comes from oil and cocaine.

      • the only  On 12/10/2020 at 2:23 pm

        Thanks for the S O S

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