Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Other Hate In Guyana

The other day I was waiting in a room and this lady looked at me and sneeringly told me about something a person of Asian descent had once done that was improper. She snarled her faced together and said, “It was the Chinese.”

The tone of her comment, her facial expression and the attitude that provoke this statement was nauseating. I walked away and asked my companion why people have to be that way. Racism is rampant in Guyana on all fronts, that much is true. However, there is another type of bias that is just as prevalent but gets very little attention – it is called misogyny.

Misogyny, or the hatred of women, is so embedded into our society that even most women have come to accept it as normal. But there is nothing “normal” about hate. Whether toward another race, another nationality or another gender – hate is always wrong.

Misogyny is evident even in our court system. The rape statistics recently released are atrocious alone. However, what is far more appalling is the number of convictions that DON’T put those thieves behind bars. I say thieves because these men steal something from women that can never be replaced – a woman’s peace of mind and her right to consent. It is a violation of the most heinous proportions.

These types of men should be removed from society for a good long time, but instead the courts have given them free reign to rape again and again. And be assured, they will rape again and next time it could be your daughter, wife or mother instead of a stranger.

Another example of misogyny in Guyana is obvious in how difficult it is for an abuse victim to find shelter, report violence and obtain protection. Every day there women all over the nation who shudder at the arrival of heavy footsteps belonging to her husband, lover or father. She knows those footsteps bring pain and more misery – and she knows there is nowhere to turn for help.

Some of these women even fear for their very lives. They remain stuck in a situation that could end in death, yet have no way to get out. She lives in constant torment at the hands of someone who is supposed to love her. If she has children, the hopeless situation increases exponentially. There are a few programs in place and some positive changes have recently been implemented to help these women, but the system is far from being sufficient.

There are also many forms of misogyny that may not be as drastic as these first two; however, they are just as poignant. This includes such facts as the low number of women in the corporate workplace, that women are under represented in politics and even that women are still expected to be the primary caregivers for the children instead of maintaining an equal role of childrearing to allow the mother an opportunity to pursue her own endeavours in life too.

Did anyone stop to think that she might want to do something else besides raise kids? Or does anyone care to know? The answer to both questions is usually, “No.” There is no doubt that women love their children and have developed, by necessity, a nurturing ability. However, it is shortsighted to assume that women have no dreams or aspirations to use their God-given intelligence in other areas as well.

Women are just as intelligent and capable as any man. In fact, I know women who can run rings around the IQ’s of many men. Where are these women? In their homes waiting for the children to grow up, which by then opportunity will have been long gone.

There are so many women who will never realize their full potential because of the chains placed on them by society. Likewise, society will never realize its full potential until it unchains the women. To block women from participation in every single aspect of society is to shoot ourselves in the foot.

When you put a hard-working woman in a place of leadership, you are all but guaranteed success. At least far more success than you would get from a lazy, self-absorbed man who is so busy catching a looking at the latest rear-end to walk by that he can’t get any substantial work done.

Drastic change needs to come to Guyana. It is time for the women of this country to stop hiding their beautiful intelligence in deference to an insecure man in their life. Ladies, arm yourselves with a solid education and step into a bright future. Take risks and open businesses, participate in politics and expect respect from those around you. Change will not be handed to us, we have to demand it and be willing to fight for it if necessary.

There will undoubtedly be women who read this letter and, because they are comfortable in their traditional chains, will get testy because I am pushing the boundaries of social norms. Dear Lady, it is for you that I write this letter. You may not understand or appreciate it today, but one day you will be glad that someone is standing up for your rights and the rights of your daughters.

Likewise, there will be some men who say, “I don’t hate my wife.” However, hate comes in many shades of colours. For example, when you came home from work yesterday, did you offer to help cook dinner or did you demand that your dinner be served immediately? The answer to this question will determine your level of hate.

And, Dear Sir, what will you do if you find hate in your heart? Will you excuse it as a cultural expectation, like that lady who snarled her face at the “Chinese”? Or will you love your wife and change? Will you ask her what she wants from life and help her find the answer that will make her happy?

If the men of Guyana would take these small baby steps, this country would see a revolution like never before. Who knows, maybe we could even start loving other races too.

- Stella Ramsaroop

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Socialism is great in theory, but not practical for Guyana

This week, the PPP announced their plan to continue with “business as usual” – as George Bush would say (see Stabroek News article PPP rolls out new Guyana programme-says it remains true to socialism for more information). The obvious feeling is that everything is just fine with the country and nothing needs to change. According to Guyana's leaders, we just need to “stay the course” - another ridiculous Bush euphemism.

I am no capitalist by any stretch of the imagination. However, I am very much a realist and the reality is that socialism is not working for Guyana. I am also an activist, and when I see something that is broken, my first instinct is to attempt to fix the problem, which is why I cannot understand why Guyana 's leaders will not even make the slightest attempt at changing a failing system.

I am a strong believer in the core ideals of socialism. Marx's famous axiom, “From each according to his ability and to each according to his need” is a value I hold dear to my heart, and try to demonstrate each day of my life.

I am a supporter of the foundational thought of socialism, in that it puts the need of the community before the need of the one.

There is so much good that comes from this ideology that it is hard to see why it does not work in even a small country. The answer to the $10 million question is implementation. The reason socialism does not work for Guyana (and for many other countries) is because mere humans implement it.

Humans have this nasty little tendency to lust after power and money. Even the best of us can get swept away when a heady power surge is plugged into our feeble system. It makes us feel immortal.

Some get addicted to power and seek the highest seat in even the most humbling of circumstances. The love of money, we know, is the root of all evil. Yet we cannot live without it and, therefore, are constantly driven to find more and more every single day.

In the implementation process of socialism, humans sometime decide to keep the power and money all for themselves. Therefore, people become mere pawns in their whimsical power struggle game and the lofty principles of socialism are trampled underfoot. The good of the many is forgotten in a fight for power. In the meantime, the country keeps trudging along in poverty.

Where do we draw the line? Where should we relinquish power and refuse money for the sake of our conscience? Some would say never. They are wrong – and probably a capitalist. So how does a good socialist find his way into office just to turn into a money grubbing, power-hungry politician? Like I said, we are all human.

I do not believe socialism in its full glory is the answer for Guyana's woes at this point in time. Despite the lofty values, socialism meets its end every time a human touches it. And such is the case with Guyana. It has not brought the desired results and the country is no better off economically than it was ten years ago.

For example, the PPP just announced that it wants to build a strong modern economy and strive for financial independence. How is this going to happen?

They are going to focus on encouraging investment in the productive sector of the economy, which is abundantly clear by the way they just recently chased off a substantial investor in this sector.

The focus will be on the sugar, rice and mining markets. However, this is where the focus has been for years and it has not brought about the desired results.

The system is broke. Is it not apparent to anyone in the PPP that to be competitive on the world stage today there needs to be a focus on technology? Rice and sugar alone will not make the country financially independent. If the PPP wants a modern economy, the most logical step is to begin modernising our thought process.

The PPP's attempt at hoping no one will notice the sad state of the country if they pretend it is economically sound is embarrassing.

Do they really think the people are so naïve that they can't look around and see just how bad things really are? Staying the course is not doing the job. Change is what the PPP should have given Guyana this week, not business as usual.

- Stella Ramsaroop

Monday, August 01, 2005

Beware of Stella, Freddie - Lloyd Marshall

This letter by Lloyd Marshall was published in the Kaieteur News.

Beware of Stella, Freddie

Dear Editor,

The letter entitled “My groove is fully intact Mr. Kissoon”, which was written by Stella Ramsaroop and appeared in your issue of Tuesday July 26, is a literary gem. It is rife with sardonic humour but at the same time compelling in substance.

Stella Ramsaroop's letter prompted me to locate and read the article by Freddie Kissoon which provoked this brilliant response. In the unlikely event that I should arrogate to myself the title of Social Commentator, I would be very cautious about engaging Ms. Ramsaroop in a literary exchange.

Incidentally Mr. Kissoon, the calypso about the Trinidadian Stella was sung by Lord Nelson and not the Mighty Duke.

Lloyd Marshall