By The Piper
Not a day goes by without our politicians, intellectuals and elites in general calling for development. More often than not they mean economic modernization expressed in more sophisticated infrastructure, higher incomes and more mass consumption.
Other elements include better education, healthcare and security. All of that is fine, but we still have a problem because notwithstanding the social components associated with a larger economy, development has become an end in itself. Development has become an ideology, that is, a system of thinking where all questions are posed and answered. Culture is treated as an afterthought, something best left to unfurl through its own historical and often contradictory logics. The ideology of development has no place for state resources dedicated to cultural production. All the major political parties in Guyana – the PNC, PPP, AFC, and WPA have bought into this form of intellectual domination.
What is wrong with development you may rightfully ask? What is wrong with better roads, bridges, more cars, foodstuff, better healthcare and higher levels of education? The answer is surprisingly simple, at least for this writer. Economic development has become an obsession with the state and everything, absolutely everything is sacrificed to get to measurable targets, themselves defined by developmentalist ideology. Let us take a look at what is sacrificed.
Firstly, in my view, Guyanese have given up sovereignty of the imagination. Almost everything is assessed in comparison to America, Canada and Britain. What is the ultimate justification for closing bars and restaurants at 2:00 a.m.? Well in the words of a letter writer, it is right because that is what they do in New Jersey! Colonization may be too strong a term, but the ABC countries have become the raison ď etre in the Guyanese mind.
Secondly, issues that are fundamental to the well being and happiness are left to the process of competition among political parties. Many of the conflicts in Guyana are lazily reduced to race. Yet even if that issue is more real than imagined, it is allowed to fester because development ideology has no room for such intangible problems. The elites who were at the Providence Stadium and saw Guyanese mix with such ease do not know what to do with that kind of national solidarity. Spontaneous camaraderie such as at our cricket matches is dismissed as a kind of low class excess.
Thirdly, because our developmetal elites in Guyana are trying to model the society on overseasness, rather than indigenity, young Guyanese grow up with an outward looking perspective. Local things are objects of ridicule. They attract the attention of the state when they actually become objects of the colonizing gaze of development experts. The existential quality of the local comes into form when recognized by the foreign experts, or quite amusingly at times, by visiting Guyanese from the ABC.
Bishop Randolph George once called on the Guyanese people to recover its sense of national dignity by standing up for what is right. The time has come again to issue that challenge. I commend these ideas to the Minister of Education, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine.