GUYANA: Think on that -The poorest of us – By Mosa Telford

By December 4, 2021

There are those of us who will never dance for our supper at the cost of our dignity.

We will not allow ourselves to be controlled like marionettes by puppeteers who wish to destroy us. We know who we are and are proud of our heritage. We know that the bones and biscuits handed out by those who keep the meat and wheat to make bread for themselves is not worth us selling our souls.

The psychological warfare to dehumanize us and the attempts to erase our history and destroy our present and future does not divert our path of freedom of thought, freedom of speech and the freedom to be honest.           

We can study those who dance for their supper and those who allow themselves to be controlled by their puppet masters and think them prosperous. The appearance of them having a large cut of the meat and wheat could delude us into thinking that they are thriving and have found the secret to happiness. But we know that the measure of a person is not based on how much money they have or their possessions. We know that once one is muzzled and possesses no knowledge of self, that one’s life is often unfulfilled and unhappy.

We must protect our energies and not allow every display of arrogance and ignorance to consume us. It can hurt and lead us down a path of questioning and doubting ourselves.  But Guyana is exhausting and everyday there is some occurrence that disturbs or angers us. In this land of minerals and oil where the shadows of imperialism darken our path, the wisest thing we can do is unite.

There was a recent incident where the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport said in an interview that the African Guyanese communities need examples of success. As a proud Buxtonian who is a descendant of former enslaved Africans who pooled their resources to purchase Buxton and put measures in place for their generations to not only inherit the land but to progress, the attempts to distort history and create a narrative that Guyanese of African descent are in the trenches with no or little examples of excellence disturbs me. We are not short of role models. Our presence and contributions to the Guyanese society is evident in every sector.

In every group of Guyanese there are young people who need guidance. There are role models in every group but still we grapple with social issues such as alcohol and drug abuse, gender-based violence, sexual abuse, and suicide. Murder, rape, and robberies affect every group in this country. Let us not pretend that children being left behind are not in every group because our education system is flawed and therefore their futures are in jeopardy.

It is misleading to measure success based on how much money any group has, especially when one is basing that success on a fraction of the group. Most Guyanese are poor, and we know that some of the richest did not earn their wealth honestly. We know about the drug trade. We know that there are Guyanese who entered politics as poor or middleclass citizens and emerged as wealthy because they stole from the country. Do we consider those involved in organized crime role models?

Let us desist from foolishness and be honest about the reality in Guyana and what has led to the disadvantages that have suppressed many citizens. Is there not discrimination in the banking sector, for example? Earlier this year businessman Terrence Campbell accused the banks of discriminating against African Guyanese by charging them higher interest rates. I know people who applied for loans to build their homes and were given the minimum while others based on their names or appearance were given double and less hassle. Are these not instances that make the road to success more difficult for certain groups? That is institutional racism.

Were communities not neglected and criminalized because they did not support a particular government? There was a time when applying for a job one could not put their Buxton address because often, they would not even be called for an interview. I do not know that much has changed.

The racism in Guyana and the stupidity of the people who engage in attacking each other based on race and politics, weakens us. How long are we going to write and talk before we fix our problems and create a space where all Guyanese are seen and treated as equals?

Where are we heading as a country? Why can’t some politicians be responsible and not divisive? Why do we continue to elect people who are not concerned about uniting Guyana, the best interests of all Guyanese or eliminating poverty? Whether one is a supporter of government or opposition the government is supposed to be for and serve all the people.

I grew up in a community which is predominantly African and from childhood I saw people working to develop themselves and the community. They were educated, they had job skills, they worked the land, they were entrepreneurs, and homemakers, and community leaders and generally outstanding citizens who took care of their families. They were happy and satisfied. While some wore suits and ties, many did not have to measure their worth, success or to be deemed a role model based on any Eurocentric dress code. Most of them owned the land on which their homes stood because their ancestors made sure they left that legacy. And while there is no perfect community, the majority were decent hardworking people nurturing the next generation.

Poor governance has led us to where most Guyanese are still poor. Do we really care about eliminating poverty when all we will give public servants is a 7% increase in two years when the cost of living has significantly increased? The minimum wage in the private sector especially is a joke. $44200! Really?

They will blame the people for being poor but refuse to pay them living wages because only they should acquire all the wealth and live the good life. Is poverty going to be solved by handing out cash grants? What is the comprehensive plan to empower and ensure that all Guyanese can rise above poverty and not necessarily by illegal means?

Many seem to forget that no matter how much we fight or how much wealth we acquire, the final chapter for all of us is death. Anyone who spends their life being hateful, racist, dishonest, and generally hostile, is the poorest of us.
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