EYEWITNESS: Signifying…



How does your Eyewitness deal with Emancipation Day, when the nation is still grappling with two prison breakouts – not to mention one from the youth facility at Onderneeming – in which the escapees are obviously seeking to become “free”. Now, you dear reader, may say that the two types of ‘freedom” are not in any way related. But aren’t they?

The question, of course, is why is it the descendants of that slaves, who were emancipated in 1834, are such an overwhelming majority of our prison population? In fact, every one of the 17 escapees from Camp St and Lusignan were from this demographic. Now a basic rule of sociology is that if members of any one particular group in a society is overrepresented in a particular behaviourial pattern – the reason is not sought only at the individual level – but also at the societal level.

In fact, the field of sociology was founded when one fella discovered that Catholics in Germany committed suicide at a much lesser rate rather than their Protestant fellow citizens. While one can argue about the connection between the individual conditions and the macro ones – one cannot escape in these times, the need to look at the broader societal structures if one wants to deal with the societal problems holistically.

Take, for instance, being jailed for “substance abuse”. In Guyana alcohol abuse is more prevalent among the Indian Guyanese populace than African Guyanese. Ganja or marijuana is the latter’s “abusive” substance of choice – especially among Rastas. However, no one is jailed for possession of alcohol – but just a couple ounces of ganja will earn you jail time in a cell at Lusignan (until camp St is rebuilt?). There is, of course, the irony that in the beginning, it was the Indians who brought ganja (a Hindi word) to the Caribbean and introduced it to Jamaica. Decriminalising ganja or criminalising alcohol will give a whole new complexion to our prison population!

But there’s an even deeper historical linkage. At Emancipation, the planters ensured the village movement remained at a subsistence level through any number of stratagems. What they wanted – and achieved – was a strata of lumpen elements in the towns – especially in Georgetown – who’d be available for the occasional temporary jobs in such locales. Like porters and stevedores etc. By the time Critchlow organised some of them, the invidious structural patterns of the “marginal” life were already inculcated.

The point, dear readers, is there will always be bad guys in any human collectivity. But if all things are equal, they should be evenly distributed.

Emancipation is empty, if “all things aren’t equal”!

…Constitutional change

The Carter Center just emphasised they have no axes to grind in promoting Constitutional reform here, just because they’re an American organisation. Your Eyewitness wouldn’t break a lance over that.. But, their grant from the US Embassy for the EITI initiative does suggest a nexus with oil interests that would be furthered if there is less political tension in our dear, old mudland, wouldn’t it? Your Eyewitness must admit the Carter Centre’s moved away from their 1990’s stance that ethnic identity wasn’t such a big deal and that the standard toolkit for “conflict resolution” would suffice. Dialogue and suchlike. So they shouldn’t be so bashful about what it was that made them change their tune. Our politicians here seem to want to hang on to the older shibboleths and maybe their confession might provide them with the much-needed epiphany!

But why not go the whole hog and suggest what might be the constitutional arrangement that would solve our problems.

Consociationalism, anyone?


Our younger generation’s picked up the tattoo craze from the US. There, research suggests tattoos don’t just express identity. They help define it for a generation that’s been totally alienated by their consumer society. So, our youths are ALREADY willing to commodify their bodies: And oil hasn’t even started flowing?



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