Thursday, September 08, 2005

Your energy is best spent on the good fight, not the petty one Freddie

This letter is written in response to Freddie Kissoon’s column from Tuesday, 6th of September.

Okay Freddie, you have my attention. Now what? I suppose you want me to delineate on the evils of journalism to nurse your hurt little feelings. Dear sweet Freddie, I warned you about how harsh Guyanese politics could be for someone as delicate and sensitive as yourself. Alas, you didn’t heed my warning and in the process your good sense is now being called into question.

I will graciously refrain from the “I told you so” retort, which itches to jump off the edge of my tongue even at this very moment, to get to the heart of the matter – ethical journalism. To be sure, this subject is not one to be taken lightly, so I will attempt to address your concerns as best as possible so as to lighten the burden you carry of what you view as an unjust assault on your character and mental capacity.

I continue to stand by my assertion that freedom of speech is a foundational right deserving the utmost protection and reverence in any democracy. Conversely, I also emphatically believe the press should have clean hands when it comes to the delivery of news and information.

It goes without saying that every newspaper should hold itself to the highest of standards regarding ethical journalism. Anything less is counter-productive because the people will not trust a paper that displays any type of partiality, bias or unsavoury behaviour – and rightfully so. Unethical journalism is a hindrance to freedom of speech, not a facilitator as it is designed and expected to be.

Ethical journalism is even more important in a country where lawlessness abounds. When government officials are shady, criminals are ruthless and the people live in fear, a newspaper should be the beacon of hope - not another avenue for victimisation.

Journalism is one profession that, when implemented properly, perseveres as a guardian of democracy. So I understand your frustration and resentment concerning the spiteful comments you mentioned in your column Tuesday.

However, I do not think it is necessary to take these comments about you to heart – or to court. I understand how difficult it must be for a university instructor to have his/her intellectual capacity questioned. However, you accused me of losing my groove. What if my groove were just as important to my life as your intellectual prowess is to yours? Would that mean that I could then sue you for libel?

Nah, I just took it in stride and had fun with it, which is what you should do as well. You do not have to prove your intelligence to anyone, it has been on proud display for quite a long time for all to see and enjoy.

If you lowered yourself to a battle of wits with the rest of us peons, I would lose a great amount of respect for you. I expect a man of your status to rise above petty little comments and remain focused on the real issues at hand that are far more important than an insult tossed about for reactionary purposes.

Frankly, I cannot possibly see how anyone could ever call your mental capacity into question, as it is very obvious to all that you are one of the more brilliant minds in Guyana today. That said -you are also a very public figure, due in large part to your column, and that makes you a target for the type of insults to which you have been subjected of late.

If we toss in your no-nonsense approach, which I can truly appreciate, it should be no surprise when others to take you to task. In other words, you cannot and should not expect everyone to agree with you or to remain silent when they disagree. As an academic, I would expect you already know that anyone who proposes a thought a particular topic should be able to defend their position, and if need be, digress when your theory has been chewed to pieces.

That is not to say that you have lost the war, just one battle. The war wages on and if you find yourself feeling especially vulnerable, it is no shame to retreat ever so slightly to regroup and return with an even more effective strategy to win the war.

This is how intellectuals wage war. We do not fear those with swords because we know the pen is sharper than the sword. Throughout history the pen has dealt fatal blows to even the keenest of dictators. Freddie, my advice to you is to not allow accusations or innuendo to ruffle your feathers so. Your single voice is far more influential than the voices of dozens of other Guyanese combined.

Which brings to light another important journalism code, to give a voice to those who have no voice. That is what you do and what you should continue to do. Don’t let these sideshows steal your attention away from the important issues of the country – like who will be serving as the next Vice-Chancellor of UG. That is a noble fight requiring your full attention.

Though we may not see eye to eye on every issue, we are definitely fighting on the same side. If you find yourself being challenged, as in the last few weeks, view it as simply a test to see if any part of your position has weaknesses. If you find weak points, strengthen your position by shoring up those vulnerable areas for the next battle.

This country tends to lose its focus so easily. Oft times the people are caught away in a torrent of emotional fury and in the process the primary objectives are lost in the fray. As an academic, I expect more from you. Don’t allow the strategic diversions like this one to steal your attention or wear you down. Your energy is best spent on the good fight, not the petty one.

- Stella Ramsaroop

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