BY THE PIPER
Christmas is a special time of the year. We tend to get a little cushy and think of things in kinder and gentler ways. Then comes the New Year, and all of us get magnanimous. We embrace round-the-clock, give good greetings, and have the neighbours over for a drink. We dream; we dream big. I let the imagination run wild, and in what follows, I share some of the things that seem pretty impressive about our little land.
I thought that if Pope Francis came to Guyana he would be impressed. He might even say that some of what we have is actually what he wants for the rest of the world. Take religion for instance. For hundreds of years, people world-wide have been fighting over things directly, or otherwise religious.
Right now we have all-out-war between radicals of all stripes, sometimes even within the same religious faith. Even in the West where there is usually too much self-praise about religious freedom, the enduring bigotry of religious preference is raising its ugly head. France, for instance, which gave the world liberty, equality, and fraternity, banned head-scarves for Muslim women because it is a threat to Western-Christian civilization. Saudi Arabia just executed forty-seven Shiites because of their political activism with religious content. In North America, people now say “Season’s Greetings” instead of Merry Christmas. Guyana is mercifully spared the scourge of religious intolerance.
Racial divisiveness is apparently the biggest problem in our country, but upon closer examination, it is less so, much less so than the letter writers and bloggers would have us believe. You must keep in mind that people do not have to live in harmony in order to live in a democratic polity. They don’t even have to like each other. What they must do is respect and follow some cardinal principles of liberal-democratic conduct. I know we are no poster-child for democracy. At the same time, we are not the poster-child for political theft and violence. We do have a good deal of post-election equanimity.
Economic inequality and poverty are nasty things, not only for those who must endure the daily pain and humiliation, but also for the privileged ones who can’t sleep well at night. Guyana has its share of hunger and tears, much of it in full view of freshly minted millionaires with their oversized egos and pick-up trucks, to boot. Yet, the situation is not hopeless. The political parties are all committed to a liberal economic order with strong social-welfare provisions. Unlike the wild economic populism of Venezuela, or the ultra conservative social orders of Central America, our politicians are publicly committed to the upward social mobility of the poor. They must fix NIS.
Finally, we do eat together, a small but important indicator that there is a real basis for forward movement. Guyana is not a place of exclusive zones. Instead, we all tend to like soccer and soca, Phagwah and Christmas, Hooper and Chanderpaul. We all love education for children and security for our parents. We have learnt to live a reasonably good way of life, with rising expectations.