September 23, 2016 By
September 16, 2016 By
After the Forum of African Guyanese by Cuffy 250, some Guyanese expressed alarm at the frank speech on expectations in an ethnically divided society. They insist that only “multiracial” politics can work for Guyana.
But what is a “multi-racial” party? Is it one in which the leaders are drawn from all or most of the various racial/ethnic blocs that constitute our polity? Is it one that has members drawn from all the various groups? Do the proportions have to roughly mirror the population or will any assorted agglomeration do like with APNU/AFC? Or does it mean that the interests of all the groups must be expressly articulated and represented? Should those interests be subsumed under some notion of a “national” interest? Who defines that “national” interest? And so on.
In Guyana, all of the parties before ROAR claimed that they were “multi-racial”. They took special pains to have individuals from all the major race groups in their executive and courted votes from across the spectrum. They constructed “national” manifestos. Yet when it came to elections, the majority of the people invariably voted for one of the two major parties, which were firmly identified with specific ethnic blocs – the PPP with Indians and the PNC with Africans. Some assert that the WPA was the only authentic multiracial party. This, of course, begs the question posed above as to what is an “authentic multi-racial” party.
The question harks back to the roots of what constitutes “representation” in our “representative democracy”. The favoured approach, from both the old Liberal and Marxist ideologies was the “representation of ideas”. That is, once the interests of the group are articulated, then anyone could “speak” for the group. By constructing “national” platforms in personnel and content, both the PPP and the PNC claimed to be capable of speaking for “all”. Yet, based on the results of election after election, it is obvious that there was some way the people were getting signals as to which party better represented their interests – which turned out to be racial/ethnic every time.
These ethnic signals were encapsulated in the ethnic identity of the top leader of the party and conveyed during the “bottom house” meetings and by the use of code words that the people understood. Our insertion into Guyanese politics occurred in the immediate pre-1992 years, by that time the Indians saw the PPP as capable of winning on its own in a “free and fair” election and the Africans had no faith that a possible vengeful PPP would protect their interests. Both sides returned to huddling under their own perceived tent. And here we have remained – with some cracks last year.
In 1992, as articulated in our 1990 paper, “For a New Political Culture”, we proposed “Shared Governance” and eventually, Federalism, to share power in the country equitably. Our theory predicted ethnic violence, which unfortunately came to pass, with its increased polarisation. So, how do we arrive at “multi-racial” politics that can involve all the groups to their satisfaction?
We thought it was self-evident that the parties that the various groups selected via their votes should come together and work on a programme that combined their several platforms. We still believe that this is the way to begin and then work towards a federal approach, which would need the trust engendered during a period of working together. But there remains the evident distaste by the major political parties to acknowledge that they are “ethnic” parties.
The greatest irony is that this acknowledgement, coupled with the acceptance to work together, would result in the formation of a “multi-racial” government, which, after all, is what the goal of all their politics is supposedly all about. The “multiracial” party was supposed to only be a way-station to the “multi-racial” government, wasn’t it?
But the distaste for acknowledging that one has an ethnic party goes deeper than mere opportunism in some. A multiracial/multi-ethnic party must explicitly articulate the interests of the several constituent groups it purports to represent. This is done, as in the Democratic Party in the US, by having specific “caucuses” for African and Hispanic voters. It is now conceded that in addition to the old “representation of ideas”, there is the need for “representation by presence” especially for those who have been excluded or have experienced unique situations.
September 9, 2016 By
I’ve written so many columns about suicide since 1997, I’ll just adapt one from 2011. We might as well be spitting in the wind to get official action.
“Tomorrow Guyana will observe World Suicide Prevention Day. Yes, suicide is a worldwide problem and we are Number 1. In 2011, the theme for the commemoration activities was “Preventing Suicide in Multicultural Societies” and in this innocuous statement there is much food for thought. When suicide is discussed by policy makers, they usually toss out figures on the national rates prevalent in their respective countries.
In Guyana with its 200 suicides annually, our rate comes in at 26 per hundred thousand (pht). But over the course of the last few decades as statistics were collected, it became apparent that within countries there were striking differences in suicide rates among different ethnic groups. For instance in the US, Blacks committed suicide at only half the rate of Whites and the suicide rate for the latter group is actually 17.6 pht. This is more in line with the global suicide rate of 16 pht.
This suggested that efforts to mitigate suicide rates had to be directed to the affected communities. In Guyana, working in the Indian community since my return to Guyana in 1988, I could not help being struck by the high incidence of suicide among Indians in general and Hindus in particular. In 1997, working along with Swami Aksharananda among Hindu youths, we organised a seminar on suicide at the Cove and John Ashram.
As part of that exercise, we conducted a pilot survey of suicide in several communities on the West Coast Demerara. It confirmed our anecdotal evidence of suicide occurring in epidemic proportions among Indians as specifically Hindus. From that time we began to make annual calls for a national suicide programme to be initiated.
The Ministry of Health (MoH), through its Minister, candidly acknowledged the existence of the Suicide problem in our country and (very) gradually the bureaucracy swung into action. But evidently impelled by their rules and tradition, their response was measured. The release of a study in 2001 commissioned by Dr Frank Beckles, a clinical and forensic psychiatrist, whose son – himself a doctor, had committed suicide – was salutary.
In addition to garnering publicity to highlight the suicide menace, it provided concrete data that could guide the policy makers. It confirmed the high suicide rate but just as significantly it confirmed our early findings of the ethnic specificity of the problem.
Three out of every four suicides were by Indian Guyanese and it was therefore not surprising that Regions 6 and 2, dominated by Indians suffered the highest suicide rates: Berbice alone had 52.7% of all cases. Another finding that jumped out was that eight out of ten suicides were committed by males – and young males at that. Two thirds of all persons that committed suicide in Guyana were also below the age of 35. When the numbers were disaggregated it suggested that the suicide rate for Indians was 41 pht and for Indian males, a staggering 66 pht.
I remember being at the launching of the Beckles study and the subsequent discussion that honed in on the ethnic specificity of the phenomenon. It was pointed out by one interlocutor that while there was a high correlation between Hindus and suicide in Guyana it could not be assume that Hinduism was a causative factor. The predominantly Hindu village in India that the Indians had left had an extremely low rate of 6.3 pht. High suicide rates were found in all of the Indian “diaspora” countries ever since the beginning of Indentureship and this suggested a line on inquiry.
Of the programmes introduced to deal with suicide, in my estimation the initiative that holds the greatest potential for reducing the incidence of suicide is the Gatekeepers Programme. Here, individuals from communities concerned about the scourge are trained by professionals so that suicidal persons will have culturally compatible persons to whom they can turn. All communities must become Gatekeepers.
Unfortunately most of these programmes have faded. And we simply wring our hands even as there has been renewed calls for action, especially by the CaribVoice.”
September 2, 2016 By
There is this movie starring Bill Murray. He’s up in Pennsylvania reporting on “Groundhog Day” and every morning he awakens to experience the exact events from the day before, in a seemingly infinite loop.
Ever so often I get this same feeling during the 28 years I’ve returned to Guyana. Take this claim just made by some in the run-up to Emancipation Day that Indian indentured labourers undercut the bargaining power of the freed slaves after 1838 and that is what pushed them off the plantations. “It’s like déjà vu all over again” as Yogi Berra was alleged to have quipped.
In vain, I’ve pointed out over the years that it’s futile to play the “blame game” when, in the development of capitalism, after constructing its base on the back of African chattel slave labour (following genocide on the indigenous peoples), it went on to appropriate the very form of unfree labour they had used before slavery – indentured labour (of Europeans). There is no question the planters did intend to undercut the bargaining power of the freed slaves after Emancipation – but the new 19th Century indentureds were also contributing to what Marx dismissed as “primitive accumulation” in the drive of capitalism to create what he ironically called “doubly free labour”: free to sell their labour-power to anyone they choose, and freed from any ownership over the means of production.
But I was just as unsuccessful in pointing out that the details of their claim were so blatantly incorrect, it suggested that more was at play than careless historiography. In 1998, I noted in my paper, “Aetiology of an ethnic riot”: “It was not Indian labour that broke the back of African attempts to wrest higher wages from the planters. Rather, if labour were to be “blamed”, it was more the Portuguese and, ironically, fellow Africans from both the WI and Africa, who played key roles.
The ex-slaves called the strike of 1847 at a point of financial crisis for the planters who, encouraged by the indentureship of 15,747 Portuguese, 12,897 Africans from the WI and 6957 Africans from Africa – a total of 35,601 – compared with only 8692 Indians, held off the demands for higher wages. After 1848, by when more than half of them had moved into villages and towns, the unskilled ex-slaves, by and large, decided to make their living off the plantations because, even though Indian indenture was suspended between 1838-1845 and then again in 1849-50, there was no movement back to the plantation by the Africans, nor was there any increase in the wage scale.” Available land was the pull factor for the move.
What is also overlooked is that eventually there were more indentured Africans arriving from the Caribbean (40,783) than the Portuguese (30,078) from Madeira and from Africa (13,355). In fact between 1835 and 1838 exactly 5000 ex-African slaves had been brought from the smaller islands into Guyana. Somehow, these African indentured servants – mostly from Barbados – have been forgotten. Ironically, there were several instances recorded of Indian indentureds protesting that the West Indian indentureds were undercutting their wages!
I wrote to one interlocutor in 2004, “The point I have been making is that we are going against the analyses of history made by eminent West Indian historians such as Williams and Rodney (among others) when we lay blame to the immigrants – whether Portuguese, Indian, Chinese, West Indians or Africans who were all indentured. It was the working of the systems imposed on us by the British, whether political (imperialism), economic (pre-capitalist) or cultural (cultural hegemony), that kept us all in thrall. Today, we are still busy blaming each other for our mess and not questioning whether those bequeathed systems are not still contributing to our problems. And that we should get busy, as a first step, in modifying them to assist in leading to greater equity and justice for all of us.”
Twelve years later, after capitalism’s latest globalised financialised phase has imploded, the travails of “doubly free” labour continues as Britain, Europe and the US blame immigrants who “took away their jobs”.
What will I wake up tomorrow to?
August 26, 2016 By
In Guyana, the question of an equitable distribution of economic goods has always loomed large in the minds of the populace. This should not be surprising in light of Guyana’s origin as a colony founded on slave and indentured labour.
As a non-settler European colony, the Guyanese economy was structured to produce primary products in agriculture and mining at the cheapest possible labour cost, for export to the metropolis countries. There, the goods would be manufactured for resale to the very same labourers in the colonies, at a huge profit by the designated agents of the Imperial power. In a word, we were “underdeveloped” – a structural condition – rather than undeveloped which suggests, at worst, a benign neglect.
The movement for the abolition of slavery and the agitation (in Guyana and in India) for humane working conditions for the indentured labourers left a legacy of sensitivity to the exploitation – economic and otherwise – of labour. In fact, the trade union movement, conceptualised to agitate for economic justice on behalf of workers was launched by Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow in Guyana as far back as 1919, long before political parties appeared on the scene.
The ethnic organisations formed not long after by mostly middle-class elements, were also concerned about the economic status and progress of their members. The nascent Indian middle-class had a greater number of members from the world of business than the more established African/Mulatto Middle-class that had sought improvement of their lot through education for jobs in government services and the professions.
The historical development of the colony, by and large, led to ethnic economic specialisation and this was to have far-reaching consequences. Within a decade of the abolition of slavery, the majority of Africans left the plantation and were channelled into becoming an urbanised workforce of lower civil service clerks, messengers, transport workers, dock workers, shop assistants, artisans, masons etc. The unbroken wave of internal migration, continuing to the present, soon created a large African urban underclass that could be used to depress urban wages. Many Africans went into the hinterland to prospect for gold and opened up a new industry. Those Africans who remained on the sugar plantations constituted the major of factory workers who were then locationally separated from the mostly Indian field workers.
When the bauxite industry was developed following WWI, the workers recruited were primarily Africans. The Portuguese and Chinese, small in numbers, also gravitated to the urban centres directly after serving their indenture contracts, with some remaining as shopkeepers in the newly formed villages. The majority of Indians, even after Indentureship, remained on the plantations or formed rural settlements near the plantations – focusing primarily on rice and vegetable cultivation and cattle rearing.
Economic competition was sustained with the rural-to-migration continuing as a constant feature of the colony’s development, since the towns were promoted as the centre of “civilised” life and higher standards of living. This rural African migration precipitated severe contradictions in Georgetown as the newer arrivals depressed wages – producing an African underclass that grew sharply as economic opportunities stagnated. The early success of the Portuguese migrants in business, which squeezed out many Coloured/African entrepreneurs, led to several African–Portuguese riots, notably in 1848, 1856 and 1888.
On the sugar plantations, the interminable flood of new immigrants depressed plantation wages. Contrary to what some ideologues in the present are preaching, there was no significant economic competition between Indians and Africans in the 19th Century.
It was the beginning of the movement of Indians into the elite, urban-centred occupations after the end of Indentureship in 1917 however, that precipitated the greatest stresses in the society – some of which are still to be resolved.
The Indians, building on their successes in rice, cattle rearing and petty retailing began to open businesses in Georgetown by the 1920s and also to enter the independent professions of medicine and law. These were very highly prized occupations in colonial society that helped to define status and when some Indians began to percolate into the Civil Service by the 1930s, the Coloured/African elite began to feel threatened.
August 19, 2016 By
Preparing to return to Guyana in the late 1980s, I literally stumbled over a text that was most seminal to my later interventions here: Donald Horowitz’ “Ethnic Groups in Conflict”. Long before then, I’d rejected the prevalent reductionist Marxism of the major local theorists and was looking around for some explanation that had a better fit for our political realities. Horowitz’ voluminous work comprehensively did that then and still does that today.
Ethnic politics, he proposed, begins with the various ethnic groups in plural societies comparing themselves to each other. Inextricably linked to the comparison process is an evaluative component. The psychologist Leon Festinger had postulated a “Social Comparison Process” as a human drive in individuals, to evaluate our abilities by comparing them with the abilities of others. When discrepancies are manifested by performance, efforts are made to reduce discrepancies by either improving performance or by controlling the superior performance of a competitor.
In these states we find that between groups the process of comparison is a constant and ever-present reality. This becomes a source of conflict as the comparisons are inevitably evaluated from the standpoint of the “inalienable right of equality” or from whatever standard each group decides is “just” – not just in reference to power. This is not to imply that questions of power differentials are obviated: the “worth” of a group is itself indicia of the group’s position on the power spectrum. Much of the heat in ethnic interactions is generated from questions of self-worth, which is inextricably tied up with group worth as was mentioned before.
In Guyana this comparison between the ethnic groups started from the founding of the colony in the 17th century. The Europeans evaluated themselves as infinitely superior culturally to the Amerindians and later to the African slaves they brought to work on the plantations. In fact there were serious debates amongst Europeans as to whether the Africans could be said to have possessed any culture or even “souls”: the conclusion by the white masters was that they did not and this conclusion, of course justified slavery, during which “culture” could be imparted and souls saved.
From the period of “seasoning” of the slaves as they were brought from Africa, to the end of their lives, the denigration of the native African culture was never to let up. Most of the slaves and moreso the Mulatto, accepted the idea of the superiority of European culture and all worked valiantly to master its forms, if not necessarily its substance. The conquest of the minds of the slave was an economically conscious enterprise since the hegemonised slave was more pliant and in fact begged for and treasured his mental chains.
This hegemonising process accelerated after the abolition of slavery in 1834 when schools were opened to “educate the Africans” and churches expanded their reach in tandem with the schools they ran. The Mulattos were mostly illegitimate offsprings of white males and African slave women and were treated favourably by their fathers and given their freedom. They were a schizophrenic group, defined as “Mixed”, rebuffed by white society but holding themselves above the Africans. They kept themselves aloof from Africans up to the anti-colonial struggles of the 1960s. Through education and occupation some full-blooded Africans were allowed to join their ranks. The Mulattos generally despised the black blood in themselves and made sure Africans knew it. The hybrid culture formed, where everything was evaluated with the white and his culture deemed to be the standard, was dubbed “Creole Culture”.
Thus when the other groups were introduced into the colony to replace the slaves, they were quickly evaluated by the latter through the values they had inculcated from the Europeans. The Portuguese and Chinese were derided mercilessly but as soon as they reached the towns, towards which they gravitated after their indenture, they quickly joined the rush to acculturate according to the standards of the White/Creole society. Even though the Portuguese kept their Roman Catholic practices, in all other ways they fitted in, as did the Chinese, who became staunch Protestants.
(To be continued)
August 12, 2016 By
With the Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Arrival of Indians as Indentureds coming up next March, I’ve been re-looking at some of what I had written about history in general and our one-sided history in particular. We can start with my agreeing with Hayden White that all historical writings are narratives with one of four types of emplotment – romance, satire, comedy, and tragedy.
Then there’s the question, “What are the uses of history?” I concluded it all has to do with the present in which we are forced to make choices every second of every day. And every choice ultimately is a moral choice. We have to begin from our Foucauldian “history of the present”, in which we interrogate intensely our “problem space” – the threats and opportunities that confront us at a sociohistorical conjuncture – that defined the context of an issue in the past.
The concept of “problem space” is from the historical theorist Reinhart Koselleck. Histories, he insists, are always written within a particular “space of experience” – the ways that the past is remembered in the present and a “horizon of expectation” – the anticipation of the non-yet-known future beyond the horizon.
In the tradition of RG Collingwood’s “Q&A” methodology, we have to engage in a rigorous practice of inquiry that demands us to formulate and present questions, assemble, evaluate, analyze, and interpret evidence, and to articulate and defend an argument based upon the relationship between the questions posed and the evidence gathered. In a word, we problematise the past.
The questions, we have to remind ourselves constantly, are from our own present and framed within our horizon of expectations. The question for us is, what choices are we trying to make TODAY (out of the cornucopia of infinite possibilities) in our present problem space and what are we trying to achieve? What traces of the past questions and answers linger in our present? And most importantly, how relevant are they in today’s problem space? It is not that some of the answers to questions posed in the past might be “wrong” but they just might be “irrelevant” in the present? It is only in this manner that exemplary history can help us deal with current problems rather than just beating up on old leaders or foes.
What then should be our “horizon of expectation”? Criticism is always strategic. What is it we want as a consequence of our criticisms, narratives, actions and exhortations? What is the “Good”? While there will never be – for the simple reason that it just cannot be – a single horizon of ends for all of us, I am pretty sure that among the various possibly competing ends that of a more harmonious society would be there in common in all formulations. With the privilege of hindsight, we should connect the past with the present in a broader narrative that is healing rather than destructive. We cannot change the past but we can certainly change the future.
Our horizon of expectation must generate strategies that speak to those normative ends rather than further dividing Guyana. So in the evaluation of our historical narratives, I would first of all ask whether the particular narrative or any narrative that seeks to connect our past to the present and envision a more positive future, fits the bill. As Nietzsche’s noted historical truth is effectively defined by fitness of purpose.
Crucial to the formulation of a constructive historical narrative would be what Hayden White labelled the “content of the form” of the narrative – particularly its plot to link past, present and future. Hegel’s famous interpretation of Antigone as the paradigmatic Greek tragedy might be particularly apt to our situation. In this narrative both “sides” are morally right: the conflict is not between good and evil but between “goods” on which each is making exclusive claim. Isn’t this the situation that our mutually exclusive narratives of victimhood with its facile binary oppositions have delivered us into?
Such an emplotment within a narrative, I am suggesting, should suggest compromise rather than a battle of one side overcoming. That would be a constructive narrative for our time, place and circumstances.
August 5, 2016 By
March 2017 will be one hundred years since the Indentureship scheme that brought 238,907 men, women and children to this land was brought to an end. Since the 1970s there have been commemorations of the arrival of the first batch that landed on May 5th, 1838. After a sustained campaign by the community around the turn of the millennium, a Public Holiday was declared in 2004 to mark the event.
As one of those who played a role in that campaign, the groups with which I was associated always stressed the need for reflection by the community on the holiday, as to whether they had actually “arrived” to where or what their foreparents had been seeking. Whatever might have occurred during the 79 years of Indentureship, just as the 50th year of our achieving independence forced all Guyanese to examine our present circumstances and what we might do to improve the lot of our country going forward, the same can be done by Indian Guyanese, come March 12-20, 2017.
“What is the state of the Indian Guyanese community today and what can they do to create a more harmonious and prosperous country?” might well be a broad theme to be addressed. There is the foremost, the question of “identity” that inevitably keeps popping up. No one would claim that there have not been radical changes in the conception of who is an “Indian Guyanese” over the years. Have we become part of a “Calloo Nation”? Creolised? Hybridised? Or part of a “Rhizomatic identity” that encapsulates “multiplicity”? If so, to what extent have there been reciprocity in the rest of society sharing in the “Indian” part of our identity?
When Indians were first “contracted”, brought and placed to work on the sugar plantations, they were on the “bottom of the economic ladder” by whatever measure the society was using at the time. Economically, the last Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) conducted at the turn of the millennium showed they were at the same dismal level economically as African Guyanese – the other large group in the society – and both were doing better than the Amerindians. Has anything changed since? Some analysts have claimed that with a PPP Government “favouring” Indian Guyanese that situation has changed? To what extent, if any, is this true?
Entering an already formed “Creole Culture”, Indian culture (with a small “c” or capital “C”) – and religion played a dominant role in defining their “cultural” responses and practices – Indians were derided as uncouth and card-carrying members of the great unwashed. Have their Cultural expressions – in song, dance, theatre, art, etc – been given an “equal place”? If not, why not? Is their everyday culture still seen as “backward country coolie”?
Politically – and this is the big enchilada in the room – Indians swung from just a handful qualifying for the franchise by the end of Indentureship – and consequently being out of the mainstream of politics – to becoming a majority by the middle of the twentieth century when Universal franchise arrived. Denied political office for the first quarter of a century after independence through rigged elections, and the legitimacy of their political vehicle challenged for the same period afterwards, Indian Guyanese have now seen their numbers amount to below 40% and shrinking. Exactly what form will their political participation take henceforth – and to what end?
Since the “end of Indian Indentureship” affected all the countries that received the “Girmityas” as they are called in Fiji – people of the “agreement” or “bound paper” – a central “Indian Diaspora Council” (IDC) is coordinating the “Commemoration of Centennial of Abolition of Indian Indentureship (CCAII)” in a host of countries – Fiji, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Jamaica, Malaysia, Martinique, Mauritius, South Africa, Suriname, and Trinidad and other West Indian islands.
A Guyana Chapter of the CCAII is being formed and we welcome the widest possible participation. At this time it is envisaged that there will be activities organised in all three counties to facilitate such participation.
July 29, 2016 By
A few years back, Dr David Hinds proposed and defended the thesis that African Guyanese were suffering from the effects of “marginalisation”. In the face of widespread opposition, this writer agreed with Dr Hinds and wrote several articles explaining his position.
One reason why the charges of “marginalisation” were contested was by and large its articulation had been disjunctured from its roots of racism and African slavery. What was being ignored was, as articulated by Cornell West, “the lingering effects of slavery and past discrimination in the continued attack on black humanity and racist stereotypes which are designed to destroy black self-image,” and in the process keep Africans on the “margins” of society.
In Guyana, the promise of emancipation was also subverted. In economic terms, of course, most famously was the undercutting of the bargaining power of the freed slaves to sell their labour when the sugar planters were authorised and facilitated by the state to import cheap labour from, in order, Madeira, West Indies/Africa, India and China.
As to whether the ex-slaves could have actually extracted greater wages in an environment of plummeting sugar prices is another issue but the fact remains that the agency of the freed Africans to struggle directly against their oppressive conditions was weakened. They were marginalised.
Laws were enacted to compel individuals who wanted to purchase land to do so in plots of at least one hundred acres. This was clearly intended to discourage Africans from purchasing land since it demanded a substantial capital investment that could only be met by persons pooling their resources together. In those instances where the challenge was met – and in several instances where even whole plantations were purchased – the viability of the endeavour was frequently challenged by the refusal of the authorities to integrate the drainage and irrigation system to that of the nascent village movement. Today, we all appreciate the imperative of a functioning D&I system for our survival. Steered into the resultant growing urban centre of Georgetown, the efforts of enterprising Africans and Coloureds to break into petty retailing by supplying vegetables and ground provisions to the urban population, was nipped in the bud when the authorities favoured the newly arrived Portuguese, who quickly decamped the plantations for the retail trade.
Africans who had “gone into the bush” to try their hand in gold mining remained as petty “pork knockers” since the onerous land rights question were not lifted until the 1890s when the Portuguese were in a position to take advantage of the newly discovered goldfields in the Essequibo.
In all urban centres of the 19th century, an underclass developed with its distinctly picaresque orientation – this was true of Dickens’s London as with Rodway’s Georgetown.
In Georgetown the lumpen element just happened to be African. In the countryside, refusing to be driven back to the sugar plantations (excepting for the well-paid artisans who never left), the Africans were driven into subsistence agriculture.
The economic marginalisation of Africans that was the hallmark of slavery was therefore transferred into the “emancipation” era. As I have tried to explain so often, once a pattern of activity is transferred into habit by the workings of the institutions (both formal and informal) the individual becomes socialised into accepting it as ‘the way the world is’ and it becomes extremely difficult to alter – especially if the habits have been transferred across generations as it has been in Guyana. Witness Indians and the Police Force.
Most Indians and other individuals including many Africans – and that’s another story – look at the present situation of Africans and assert, “Hey! My foreparents came here with nothing on their backs and worked hard, saved as did my parents and so we’re doing better. Why can’t “marginalised” Africans do the same?” They ignore the possible “lingering effects” of the economic system and its echo in the psyches of individuals which may affect their ability to compete within the present system.
As it necessarily addresses this marginalisation of African Guyanese, the government must be careful it does not marginalise other groups such as Indian-Guyanese, as was charged by the Opposition Leader.
July 22, 2016 By