The recent debate on the No-Confidence vote in the National Assembly highlights how fractured we have become as a people. For years we were the first to say that “is only election time we have problem, but other than that we alright.” But is this actually true today? Recent discussions, video interactions, and especially social media (the place where everyone is an expert at everything) have highlighted these – frankly – nasty attitudes of some of our peoples.
This is a wealthy nation. Look at the geological map and you will see that we are blessed with a lot, and we have no need to beg for anything. Yet, increasingly, we are getting poorer with our morality and civility.
We are by no means the most troubled spot in Caricom in terms of our politics and our diversity and ethnic relations, but we have failed to capitalise on the decency of our common sense to iron out the creases in the national fabric.
Our sister state of Jamaica is known for political divisions which often affects individual towns through ‘gully politics’. The reports of this political confrontation at the local level is numerous as is the violence that can accompany it. Yet despite the intense personal rivalry of the JLP and PNP which often goes back generations, Jamaica consistently sees the peaceful transfer of power between the two parties after elections.
Take a look at the swearing in of a new Jamaican Prime Minister and you will see gathered; the outgoing Prime Minister and all of the living predecessors regardless of political affiliation. This at the bare minimum displays a respect for the system of Government, the Constitution and more importantly the will of all the people. When was the last time this minute act of symbolism was present in our country?
Trinidad and Tobago is possibly the Caricom state that closest resembles our diversity and recent colonial history. The pages of Trinidad and Tobago’s history contains the evidence of political agitation and the current disagreements between the PNM and the UNC often mirrors our own. Yet like Jamaica, in recent history Trinidad and Tobago have seen peaceful transfer of power from one political group to another and back again.
What is our problem? Are we so engrossed with political differences that we can no longer be civil as the bare minimum? We go overseas and deck our halls with our nationalism but at home we are ashamed of it, we disown it. How can we be part of a country when we see ourselves and our identities distinct from it?
We have forgotten that ours is a history of struggle, hard work, determination, and dynamism. The illustrious history of our culture is carried on the shoulders of all our peoples. Each group has contributed something to make this piece of land home. Today our ancestors must surely be ashamed of some of us and the hate we have for each other.
As a person in their 20’s I can say a part of this problem is the complacency of people my age. We need to spend time understanding our history – all of it – and how our constitutional systems work. You cannot change the system if you don’t know the system. The youth have to show that the old people saying “stay out of big people business” has no place today in our society.
Today we see people arguing among each other. We lack respect for each other. We judge each other by trivialities. We see each other as the enemy while our enemies circle us like vultures enjoying the self-destructive show we are carrying on.
We expect PPP/C, AFC, APNU, PNC, WPA, JFAP, and WXYZ to set our houses in order and we let political affiliation become a part of our core identity. Over 50 years independent, our mentality towards each other remains colonial and divisive.
The third stanza of our national anthem says:
Great land of Guyana, diverse though our strains,
We’re born of their sacrifice, heirs of their pains,
And ours is the glory their eyes did not see,
One land of six peoples, united and free.
We have a lot to be proud of, if only we recognise it all. No one is going to fix our house and our problems. That task falls to all of us. We have a lush agricultural land, massive potential in water, gold and mineral wealth, the endurance to strive and make our country better and the zeal and dynamism to see that it is a success. What are we waiting for?