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By GHK Lall
I extend congratulations to the PPP Government for rolling out a crafty strategy in this, its slick reaching across the nation’s racial divide. The Guyana Carnival Road Parade rolled into street bacchanal is, at its depths, PPP leaders working overtime with their imagination, and delivering momentary frenzy. This is what carnivals are intended to do, make people forget their troubles, and dance and drink away their worries. Targeting peripheral votes in this manner can be a mixed bag, especially when passions lurk below the surface. A few are won, most are lost. Regardless, I think that the PPP delivered its now regular song and dance routines to target some Guyanese, no matter how remote the odds looked in race-torn Guyana.
Going after potential crossover votes is always good politics. And a bustling street carnival is as good a way to check out how the territory measures up, what could be counted on, where this leaves everybody. It is why I commend the PPP Government for this carnival initiative of targeting certain Guyanese segments, if only to show that its leaders care. At the risk of being vilification, PPP schemers banked on the known love of the Guyanese population for having a good time, for going overboard and partying. From my perspective, the PPP Government is engaging in what I politely term the politics of entertainment. It is a sweetening moment, one designed to numb the senses, make citizens forget. Since the price is being paid in taxpayer dollars, gaining many votes, or none at all, really doesn’t matter, in the manner of thinking of PPP Government leadership. The bottom line is that carnival was given the old college try, and the costs didn’t come out of the party’s coffers; hence, there is room for some more of these social and racial experiments.
For the students in need of some brushing up with their history, I present the timely and relevant reminder of what the Romans of old used to love to trot out to keep citizens preoccupied. The Roman Emperors came up with a masterstroke, when they found themselves under stress, due to a restless and unhappy population struggling to cope with the pressures of daily living, and intensifying inflation, shortages, and tensions. It was called a circus, by these wily generals of battlefield lore and Field Marshals of Senate intrigues. Panem et circenses (bread and circuses) gave the people a show, and keep their minds off their hardships, the challenges of survival. One of the primary objectives was to distract them by providing excitement for them, and all it called for was some expensive (and cheap) entertainment. It was expensive for the emperor having to come out of pocket to sponsor the fun and games, but a relatively cheap undertaking, given how much it would actually cost to take care of the whole population of starving, wretched citizens. Again, and for emphasis, circuses of the Roman Republic then, and carnivals in the Republic of Guyana now, are one and the same in objective. Give the people a comforter and pacify them. At least, for the time being. Or, until such time that the next big, bold idea springs forth from some political conniver thinking how to grab a few votes on the side, through slick tricks like these. This is an added attraction in Guyana.
Trajan and Hadrian had circuses, while those vagabond leaders of yore, Emperors Nero and Caligula, are said to have participated in them. Now I take the liberty of paraphrasing His Excellency, President Ali, to mention that there were some folks who came up short in that they got the wrong end of the stick. They would be the gladiators and first century Christians. The former were forced to kill each other, while the latter were fed to the wild animals, deliberately starved to give them a gnawing stomach, and a greater lust for blood. Because of its cautious and underhanded divide and conquer strategy, the closest that our circuses (carnivals, cricket, and street parade in the expanding menu of citizen entertainment), compliments of the PPP Government come to those Roman bloodbaths is to leave a little blood in the eye of Guyanese beholders. Lots of bad feelings and hard sentiments.
There is marveling at people in the burning sun, guzzling some hotter beverages, and gyrating to hottest hits, and everybody forget about rising cost of living in the hazes of their momentary ecstasies and frenzies. It is the inexplicable madness of the crowds, and how easily some are made to overlook who their tormentors are, who are the people adding to their plights.
Another gift from the Guyanese political emperors of today is the appeal of gambling, and its addictions for the poorer ones who can least afford or overcome its strangleholds. There is gambling galore with lotto, casino and betting dens littering the landscape, plus spreading horse racing jamborees, and still more, through a steady trickle of foreign entertainers. Instead of Guyanese singing the Blues, they get to dance them away. Or gamble them away until the morning after. The withdrawal pains can be a bit of a bad sunrising.
Gathering all this under one roof, I think that the PPP Government would have done itself a little favor by halting to these transparently stopgap plasters to keep parts of the population quiet, under wraps. National leaders and their advisers need to get down with some comprehensive plans, count the costs, make broad-based moves, and do some hard, honest work. Just like how so much is invested in physical infrastructure, my simple and free advice is for something approaching the equivalent resources and efforts be set aside for our decayed and shaky social infrastructure. Carnivals are not going to do it. Cricket helps and then lapses, fades. And the latest Jamaican (or American) singing sensation falls flat when the hangover takes over. Give the people a real, helping hand, not a passing parade, a clever carnival, to congest their stomachs, corrupt their minds.