(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 29 Sept 2005)
It seems almost improbable that I would ever find myself in the precarious and unpleasant position of defending Freddie’s worth in Guyana, yet here I am. In Tuesday’s paper a scathing letter was printed from Chief Magistrate Juliet Holder-Allen that reduced sweet and sensitive Freddie to nothing more than a raving lunatic.
Though I do this with great apprehension because I know of varied opinions held of this particular columnist and do not wish to be associated with the likes of some of the more volatile judgements, at the same time, I feel a certain obligation to advocate a free marketplace of ideas – even if it is Freddie’s. In reality, I suppose I’m not really defending Freddie as much as I am Guyana’s openness to intellectual discourse.
I will not respond to the personal insults flung at Freddie since he is a grown man and will have to deal with those in his own way. However, my desire is to speak to one specific point made in this letter when the Chief Magistrate said, “A proper society that is well-ordered would have no place for the likes of Freddie Kissoon.” I take exception to this statement and will now proceed to explain the rationale behind why I find this statement objectionable.
The press in Guyana is like none other that I have ever encountered. Indeed, in the states where I received my journalism training, the practice of an ongoing discourse between letter writers and columnists is frowned upon. However, I find it immensely refreshing to have a truly open marketplace for every type of idea. Do I agree with all of the idea being expressed? Of course not, but I do enjoy reading each one of ideologies and after applying the relevant background and social implications, I enjoy analysing and exploring these thoughts to better understand the respective writer.
Freddie Kissoon is one character I find especially interesting. Though he is far too passionate about his cause of the day, which causes him to lose his objectivity, and though he does not seem to have the ability to back down on an issue even if he has been proven to be errant, his writings hold in them the promise of a free and open society.
Do I think Freddie oversteps the boundaries of social norms in his attempts at saving Guyana from itself? Most definitely; however, I would be amiss if I did not confess to the very same transgression. In fact, every one of us - at one time or another - have gone overboard in a passionate frenzy to convey a zealous point. So it is best to show understanding in these types of circumstances rather than to write off an otherwise plausible argument.
I believe Freddie, with all of his murk and quirk, to be one of the best things to happen to Guyana. His need to fight the system and to defend Guyana from whatever foe is assailing her borders of common decency that day is a commendable one. In fact, more countries need a Freddie Kissoon. Right or wrong, I believe his fight is well intentioned and well reasoned. Again, as I’ve shown with my constant sparring with him, I don’t always agree with his reasoning – but I do respect him for at least being ready to defend his position.
To stymie any thought simply because that thought is not widely held as orthodox or is offensive to others makes for an intellectually stunted society that is incapable of forming or processing new and original thought. If anything, Guyana enjoys a wellspring of idea exchange. In fact, I would say this nation is far more advanced in this practise than most of the otherwise technologically and economically superior countries.
Attaining knowledge is the foremost goal of any intellectual. Sometimes we are lucky enough to be able to attend a university or other advanced learning institution to further evolve our knowledge base. Sometimes life does not afford us such a grand opportunity, but we gain wisdom each day through lessons learnt and problems overcome.
In fact, a friend of mine relayed a story to me about a recent visit to a rum shop and how he felt that listening to the older men as they sipped rum was more profitable than reading a newspaper. Should we discount the wisdom of these older men because of lack of education? Certainly not, in fact we would all do well to pay frequent visits to such venues.
In the end, we all have relevant knowledge and information to share with the world; therefore, no one – not even Freddie (especially not Freddie) – should be excluded from voicing their ideas and sharing their wisdom. If there were anything missing in Guyana’s wonderful exchange of open ideas, it would be the need for even more. Surely we do not need fewer Freddie’s in Guyana – if anything we should seek to find others who are capable of further diversifying our intellectual landscape.
Perhaps a “proper society that is well-ordered” would have no place for Freddie, but a society that is thriving in intellectual stimulation and encourages a healthy exchange of ideas and philosophies would be lost without him.