by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 19 March 2006)
I recently wrote a column encouraging everyone to follow the advice of Home Affairs Minister Gail Teixeira to boycott the businesses (and shops) of the drug lords. In response, I received an e-mail from a friend who tried to explain to me how things really worked in Guyana .
My friend said in this e-mail, "They [the drug lords] set up these businesses to have a legitimate front, they do not need the money. For example, they buy goods at $1.00 and sell it at 50 cents so legitimate businesses can't compete. Because of our poverty, people buy the 50 cents goods because that's all they can afford."
This statement got me good. I understand first hand what it is to live in poverty, so of course I know the need to get life's necessities at the lowest possible price. However, I also understand how important it is to take a STRONG stand against immorality whenever possible.
I mentioned before that I grew up in an abusive home. My mother was physically, verbally and mentally abusive to me almost every single day of my life until I got married - and I have the scars to prove it. The anger that lived in me even after I was out of my mother's reach is something that still scares me even today, but I refused to let it rule my life.
Then one day a couple years later, I was babysitting a little girl and a toddler for a lady from the church I attended. The toddler was a cute little boy who was being absolutely adorable as he wobbled across the room to his sister. The adorable factor that should have melted my heart instead made me furious. I had an uncontrollable desire to pick the child up and throw him against the wall.
Instead, I immediately called my husband sobbing. Since he was well aware of the abuse I had been subjected to as a child, he suggested that I get home as soon as possible and not baby sit those children anymore.
That solved the immediate problem, but a bigger one loomed over my head like a dark cloud since I was very pregnant with my first child at the time.
I have heard people question time and again why someone who has been abused would turn around and do the same thing to their children. Unless you have grown up with abuse, it is difficult to understand. Hitting and yelling is all you know, so it is within that type of environment that an abused person is comfortable.
When that environment is gone, for one reason or another, the abused victim often seeks to recreate it again so he/she can operate within a setting that is familiar. Also, there is the anger factor I spoke of earlier. There is usually so much bottled-up anger in an abused victim that he/she needs to let out and the only avenue by which he/she knows it can be done is the one he/she learned as a victim.
I have said all of this to get to this point. I knew that I did not want my children to grow up with the constant fear and anger I had to live with even into my adult years. Therefore, I did everything possible to fight off a behaviour that seemed natural to me – even though it was of course immoral to most of the normal world.
I broke the abuse cycle (I found out my mother's mother was abusive as well) and my children grew up in a loving home. This adjustment was one of the most difficult feats I have ever had to carry out, but it was worth every ounce of effort. I paid the price and did what was right – even though it would have been much easier for me to fall back into that old comfort zone of abusive behaviour.
Now, back to Guyana . This is a country of very religious people who strive to live moral lives. My friend is no exception; he too is a religious man. This is why it disturbs me to know that Guyanese are being forced to violate their consciences because of poverty.
My friend said, "My change to agreeing to some of these things that I do now will be a shock to you and it is because of the injustice of the system…"
When I hear about this type of stuff, it just infuriates me. This is the very reason why I take such a strong stance against any government that gets into bed with the very criminals who are forcing the people to live in a decadent environment.
When the people of a country start becoming acclimated to murder, bribes, drugs and governmental corruption, when they start accepting their plight and give in to an encroaching depravity, when they start feeling like something that is immoral is actually natural – this is when that nation can be called a failed state.
Much like how I grew up in an abusive environment and became accustomed to the setting even though I despised it at the same time, this is where Guyana is right now. Please understand that unless Guyanese stave off these wolves in sheep's clothing – the nation will be struggling with the immoral behaviour these criminals have brought with them for decades to come, much like I struggled with my own abusive tendencies even after my abuser was out of my life.
These current drug lords, with their dirty businesses and wicked agenda, will leave a legacy for Guyana long after they have been gunned down by another wanna-be criminal. That legacy will be the adaptation of an upright and good people to injustice, murder and corruption.
It might be hard and it may not make much sense at the time, but trust me when I say that if Guyanese do not boycott the businesses (and shops) of the drug lords now, they (and their children) will one day become the very things they now despise.
Regardless if these drug lords need the money from these businesses or not, the people of Guyana should avoid any sort of association with the criminals who are dragging the nation into a cesspool of immorality. These criminals should be treated like the scourge they are to the land and be avoided at all costs.
Today Guyana is faced with a situation like I had with that toddler so many years ago. Do you give into what seems like a natural instinct (like lower prices in the face of poverty) or do you choose to take a stand and break the cycle? That decision could mean the difference between another generation of gunmen on the streets or a society of peace and justice.
When I look at my children today and know they grew up in a loving home without physical, verbal or mental abuse – I am glad I broke the cycle. Please, Guyana , don't give up yet. Take a stand against the evil that is pressuring you to violate your conscience. Your children will appreciate it one day and you will know you did the right thing.