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Guyanese live in a polarised society. There are divisions along ethnic, cultural, religious, and importantly, political lines. One inevitable consequence of political division is the fact that we are bombarded with conflicting information and ideas about what is best for the people of Guyana.
For example, the ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP) created and supported the Natural Resource Fund bill, while the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) opposed it. In fact, the opposition APNU+AFC opposed the bill so strenuously that some of its members of parliament (MPs) were accused of unbecoming conduct and were suspended by the Speaker of the National Assembly. The questions are many: which side was right; was the bill — now an Act of law — good for the people or not; was the Speaker right or wrong in suspending the MPs?
The foregoing example is but one of many questions that may arise in the minds of thinking Guyanese on any average day. Many similar questions may come up: is the oil and gas contract good or bad for Guyana, is a particular politician honest or corrupt, is he or she racist?
Whenever we hear a politician support or oppose a policy position we may automatically agree or disagree. This is because we may already either support or oppose that politician’s party. On the other hand, we may agree with the politician because we do not know enough about the issue, and the politician is able to convince us that his or her idea is correct. How can we come to the correct conclusion; how may we decide what or whom to believe?
The answer may be in a three-part process. First, we must be aware if we are biased. We must ask ourselves if we accept what the politician says because it is true or just because we support that party. Do we like politicians because of their race? If we can recognise our biases, we obviously are more likely to arrive at a correct conclusion about whether a thing is good or bad for the country.
Second, if we don’t know enough about an issue, we are more likely to be fooled by sweet talking politicians. The way to overcome that is to gain more knowledge about the matter.
Combining those two points, we should educate ourselves about issues that affect us, and we should be aware of our own political and other biases. If we do those two things, we will be better able to discern if an idea is good or bad.
Third, what if the person telling us about their position is not a politician? In that case, we should find out whether that person — the information source — may be biased. Is the person working for a particular political administration? What is that person’s history? Who may be paying him or her? Having the answers to those questions will help us to decide what to believe.
But, one may ask, why is it important for Guyanese to know what is good or bad for us? The answer is, because we get to choose our leaders, and we must choose wisely for our own good as well as for the benefit of our children.
It is unfortunate that this article — and similar advice — will likely not be heeded; sadly, most Guyanese simply cannot see past our political, racial, and other biases. The fact is, though, that regardless of which political party we may support, not all our party’s ideas will be good and not all the other party’s ideas will be bad. As such, it would be beneficial to us and our society if we can, in our minds, separate ideas from political personalities and parties.
Perhaps, someday, we may become mature enough to be able to think for ourselves and Guyana may make some progress. Or maybe, we will hold onto our prejudices, continue to wallow in ignorance of the issues that affect us, allow politicians to think for us, and remain stagnant. What road we choose to take is left to be seen