Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Stella versus Roy - Freddie Kissoon

Here's Freddie's column from today's KN:
I didn't step outside my home for the holidays so there is nothing to report on. I didn't see anything unusual. I didn't hear about any wrong-doing. But many things just before Christmas aroused both my interest and curiosity. Tomorrow I will select more of these events but for today, I will begin with what was a little unnoticed disagreement between two of Kaieteur columnists, [Stella and Roy Paul].

It wasn't blown up but it involved an important principle. Roy's point (KN Sat, Dec 19, 05) is that it is difficult for someone to write about Guyana and live outside the territory. Roy pontificates on the adjectives, concepts, descriptions and analyses these overseas-based writers use when discoursing about their country. He has a point. But Stella Ramsaroop doesn't feel so. I think the recourse to science can determine who is right and who is wrong. But first let's outline Stella's rejection of Roy's thesis.

This is how she puts it (KN Dec 20, 05): “In today's international community, these types of cross country columns have become standard practice….” Really, Stella, I read a lot of newspapers and I cannot see and I don't see any cross country columnist. Can you tell me which paper has a cross-country columnist? And aren't we referring to the really worthy types of papers like the mainstream ones in Europe, India, US, Caribbean etc.

Here at home in the Caribbean, the cross-country columnist I know is Rickey Singh who does a weekly corner for the Chronicle in our country but he seldom writes on Guyanese politics about which he knows nothing and comes across as a jejune propagandist for the PPP. When he does write, he normally is way off target. In fact, I believe Singh supports this lawless government here in Georgetown out of ethnic solidarity. Almost two years now, he has stayed away from evaluation of politicians and political situations and normally confines himself to Caribbean developments.

I would be happy if Stella can cite a few cross-country columns for me with dates and names of newspapers. But there is nothing wrong with cross-country columnists. It is just I am not aware of their existence. We now have Stella herself. This means Guyana is the only CARICOM country that has a cross-border political commentator. Stella has made a favourable impact on Guyana. People like her columns. She offers fresh ideas because she is an independent mind. But my dear Stella, transatlantic commentary has severe limitations.

Surely Stella, nothing can replace closeness to the event. We are not writing history where some distance may be necessary in order to arrive at objectivity. In analysing social phenomena as they unfold, there can be no substitute for physical closeness. In rebuttal to Roy's belief, Stella wrote, “I read all three daily newspapers almost every day to keep up with what is going on….” But my dear Stella, that is only half of the picture of what is going on. The other half is that one must be there when the stars flash across your eyes. When you talk to the stars they talk back. It is called living inside the event.

When you search the net on Guyana, you can put your own interpretation to the judgements, evaluations and analyses of others. But there is a danger there. What happens if all these assessments are subject? Then you are analysing subjective outputs. The vital nuance in social analysis is that you must be there to relate to people, places and events. The interaction can launch a thousand ships. But more than this, special dimensions are cognized when you are part of the unfolding of history. You are better able to understand the moment. This is irreplaceable. No global village, no internet, no television screen can substitute for this. That is why media houses from across the world put their own people on the scene to report.

You know Stella, you sound a bit (not a lot) like the pen-name columnist, Peeping Tom. He wears a mask when he attacks public figures and actually defends it. When asked why do you do that, he says, “hey, are you crazy? People who know who I am will attack me.” So he attacks them because he knows them. But he never considers that if there wasn't a Frederick Kissoon or a Robert Corbin or a Khemraj Ramjattan, then the reason for his column would not exist.

In as much as I think you have an absorbing page, Stella, I believe the height of your brilliance will glow over Guyana if you can access the people and the places you write about here in GT. It is through special, secret and enduring contacts, you get to know the actors of a society better, and you understand their intestinal minds and torturous souls. Some of them you come to admire. From what I learnt from my clandestine relationships as a media functionary, I fear for the future of this country if left only to the PPP and PNC. But Stella, it is when you learn about those you think have a good heart, then you realise that life is an illusion.

Roy Paul of course embarrassed himself badly in that column to which he referred to you though he did not name you. He lamented how columnists write disparagingly about issues in Guyana so as to make the government and people look bad. He thinks that such writers let their imaginations run wild. The other side of the coin is that there are columnists who deny real events and issues in Guyana so as not to make the government look bad. One can say they do not use their imagination at all. So instead of it running, it doesn't move at all. I guess another title of this essay could have been “immobilized imagination.” That's the problem we have in this country. Someone tells you that you write against the PPP or the PNC. And when you examine where they are coming from, they don't impress you at all. Like a fan of Peter Ramsaroop by the name of Keith Williams. More of him tomorrow.

Keep writing Stella. In me you have a fan and an admirer.

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