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I wish to address in brief, comments made by a woman at a Working People’s Alliance rally at Buxton on March 9 and the responses that cause me to reflect on experiences.
I recall some ugly remarks made about the 1763 Monument, those who felt aligned to its artistic appeal, and how hurtful these were to many. Now we have another set of remarks causing feelings to be hurt.
History records some groups from various lands arrived to their new lands to escape jail sentences, poverty and discrimination, some were sold as slaves. These persons had varied status in their homeland which history has recorded. Whereas some were lowly, from all lands, and some were of other characteristics considered morally disreputable, some were leaders where they came from.
Irrespective of history, our ancestors all arrived here and what is important is they were able to rise above their circumstances to build this beautiful country we now call home. We the descendants of that paid and unpaid labour force are no less proud of them as they would be of us.
We cannot succeed if we seek only to attack or destroy each other. It does not mean we go silent on the transgressions of others; it means that we engage with some basic understanding of the rules of engagement. We will have to set them because what ever existed before has been lost or is slowly being dismantled by the uncouth among us. Whatever little remains these are not always upheld and are many times thwarted by top ranks and others in all government offices, even in the highest decision-making forum of the land. Examples are countless.
In one case a government minister in the esteemed House made unwarranted sexual suggestions referencing a “dildo” to a young female opposition member.
In yet another instance, of never before witnessed parliamentary behaviour, a young female government minister and member of the distinguished legal profession during efforts by the Police to remove a member from the House in 2017 screamed, “rape! Rape! Rape!” What followed was overwhelming for the Speaker and House.
Trivialising and fictionalising the criminal act of rape is never acceptable, yet none of her colleagues saw it fitting to condemn that behaviour. Similarly, the same “rape” screaming minister of government at a diplomatic forum displayed conduct considered unbecoming but welcoming from her colleagues in the PPP/C. Such behaviour was found admirable and described as a “feral blast.”
Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo during his term as Leader of the Opposition encouraged supporters of the PPP/C to chase opposition politicians out of their villages, and most recently a group of young persons ordered school children out of a school, saying they did not “belong there” merely because of their race.
With the advent of social media where anyone can become an “influencer,” no longer is our media landscape a professional transfer of information. We in Guyana have now become subjects of crassness and media vulgarity in prime time. This is being used to fuel followers and is embraced by the government to spread political propaganda. One such person has become woven into the highest circles of society where the coarseness of his behaviour is now authenticated and acceptable.
Distasteful behaviours and mannerisms are no longer on the fringes of society.
Countless other examples of reckless, ugly speech and behaviours flood our society on a daily basis. Civilians take liberties now to fight, and abuse police on the streets and in the Police Station with some police seeming unsure of how to respond. These have become social media highlights at a frequency that should be of concern to all.
Teachers are no longer respected by parents and students alike, and gone are the days when a frown or ‘eye’ even from a strange adult on the road would check a child ‘behaving bad’ in their presence.
These behaviours all have impact, signalling moral decline and societal decay when left unsanctioned and without consequences sufficient to be a deterrent.
Notably, even as our national wealth rises our behaviours and relationships are becoming more strained due to inequities and inequalities in government distribution of our national patrimony, divisiveness and pitting of the races against each other, marginalisation and executive lawlessness. Our children are emulating these behaviours.
It is for leaders, be they religious, political (in or out of government), civil, cultural or otherwise, to be role models of social grace and set the right tone and examples for youth, emerging leaders and society. From the holder of the office of President, right down must be exemplary of these sorts of engagement.
Positive examples must be set and given due publicity as deserved and so far as they continue, we the people must declare war on incivility in public office and public platforms. We must relegate those who insist on incivility to the dustbins of social and political rejection, where it can be contained, before it is too late to avoid the dangers that such behaviors give rise to. We must equally commend those who speak out of genuine concerns for relations and not just those who do so to seek political advantage.
Guyana you can rise! Let us rise as One People, One Nation, One Destiny.