Saturday, December 17, 2005

How can the diaspora write about our situation in this country? - Roy Paul

Here's a column printed in Kaieteur News today:
Getting Back on Track: The real truth is always somewhere between yours and your opponent's (Kaieteur News, 17 December, 2005)

It is always amazing to observe the tenor of the exchanges between letter writers and feature columnists of our daily newspapers, which nearly always reflect points of view that are diametrically opposed to one another. There is seldom any sign of acceptance of any opinion or line of argument put forward by the other person, nor even a willingness to compromise on some point.

Sometimes this even relates to facts that could be proven, but the reality of which cannot be bothered about, especially if it would disprove some original thesis that was built based on assumption and speculation.

Another salient feature of these exchanges is that most writers express themselves in extreme language, seemingly not bothered about the impact of their remarks on the average reader who would like to form opinions on the everyday issues based on facts, reason and proper judgement. This approach to public discussion of our problems, apart from removing the chances of helping to resolve the problematical issues of the day, must be encouraging an atmosphere of hostility and extremism among the ordinary people. Of course, the readership seems to relish this sort of radicalism, and this must indirectly feed this type of discourse.

Then we have the eternal problem of people taking sides according to their racial and political orientation, so that you get the impression that when reason and ‘facts' are applied, the aim is not to seek out the real truth, but to support some preconceived position. We all know of the regular letter writers, and we can nearly always guess what their line will be on any current topic, whether it be for or against the government, or for or against some issue like marginalisation, the economy, or elections.

What this may be proving is that people are not really interested in resolving situations by discoursing with other correspondents and arriving at what is the real truth in a compromising and open-minded attitude, but in getting their own and their group's interests advanced.

The continuous result then of what goes on in the newspapers is that the opposing camps do not even try to learn from one another, and more often than not harden their own positions to become worse than their original stance, thus effectively lessening the chances of people coming together with any unified opinion or judgement on any of our problems.

Another thing that amazes me is the manner in which both letter-writers and columnists who reside overseas can write about our situation in this country as if they have first-hand information about what is going on. And to add fuel to the fire, they make it a practice to use extreme language – corruption is rampant, the country is falling apart, most Guyanese are racists and vote with race as the only criterion (a gross insult to Guyanese intelligence that is perpetuated by Guyanese at home), the Government is totally corrupt and inefficient, our infrastructure is tumbling down. It is as if they get some info, and let their imagination run wild.

This is of course doing no one any good, except that it is benefiting them by getting their real purpose achieved – making the Government and of course our people look bad (as the saying goes, we deserve the government we get), making them popular with the opposing elements in the country, and even making them appear as if they are actually unbiased.

Maybe we could all learn from the method which salesmen are taught to overcome objections to their selling pitch, and encouraging the buyer to consider some selling point which might convince them of the validity of their product – “I can see that you have a point there, but I ask you to consider this ….”

I would further suggest that we consider the fact that no one is ever always wrong, just as none of us is ever always right. The position taken by any one person reflects the experiences, the interests, the point of view, the reasoning of that person, and must have some merit, and therefore must be taken into consideration if we are really and sincerely seeking out the truth in any situation. Also, we are preventing ourselves from learning from any other if we shut our minds and refuse to consider their point of view.

Anyone who wants to get at the truth in any situation can never do so from his perspective alone, but only if he considers all the options in the universal field.

I would therefore urge all our writers to allow the spirit of the season to pervade their writings and move forward with an attitude of compromise and appreciation of one another, so that we can together come up with real solutions which would be acceptable to the majority of our people.
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