by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 23 April 2006)
This past week I was referred to a medical specialist because of a pain in my stomach. As the nurse performed her standard check-in procedure and repeated my last name, she asked in a West Indian accent whether my husband was Indian.
I told her yes and he is from Guyana, then I asked where she was from. Her eyes lit up and she chimed, “Trinidad!” From that point we talked a mile a minute as she took my blood pressure, asked if I was allergic to any drugs and created the chart for the doctor.
As she took my pulse, she noted the gold bracelet I was wearing and said, “Girl, you are even wearing your gold. Good for you!” There is a distinct difference between gold from Guyana and gold from the States. The quality of the gold from Guyana is so much higher that it can be seen in the colour alone.
In its arrogance, America often thinks it produces the best of everything, but this ignorance is never more obvious than in the sale of their sub-par gold. My new nurse friend from Trinidad was well aware of this fact and took note that my jewellery was clearly not from the States.
Our conversation then took an unexpected turn. After telling me about her own beautiful gold jewellery, she said, “Those Guyanese are rich, you know.” She then proceeded to tell me her opinion of rich Guyana as I surveyed the lady to see if I could determine how long she had been in the States.
She had yet to shift from her island mentality and reminisced of “home” with the same longing I see in the eyes of every single Diaspora I have ever met. What really struck me though was her high opinion of Guyanese. I tried to determine if she was only trying to appease my sensibilities since my family is Guyanese or if she was being sincere.
I decided she was sincere we continued our talk as we walked to the examination room. After she had prepped me to see the doctor, she hurried off to attend to the other waiting patients. As I waited for the doctor, I contemplated the high view my new friend held of Guyanese – a view most Guyanese do not even hold of themselves.
I had been pondering a recent article in Kaieteur News about new guidelines being set for sporting and entertainment events to keep them from getting out of hand. I have to say that I am impressed at Minister Teixeira’s tenacious spirit. Like so many other women leaders today, she is proving her worth as a leader.
However, as I read the reasons for the newly imposed rules, I couldn’t help but wonder how the average Guyanese woman would feel about the incidents that caused these new requirements to be imposed.
The article from April 20, said the events in question seemed to promote drug use and the degradation of women. The events were also suspected channels for money laundering and there even seemed to be guns shot into the air at one event. This information caused me to wonder how a female participant would feel at such an event.
Moreover, I could not help but wonder if this is how Guyanese now see themselves. Do these out-of-control events portray a smaller version of the country at large? Does Guyana have any respect left for herself? Does anyone in the country still share the same lofty view of Guyana with that of my Trinidadian nurse?
It seems to me that many people are giving up on Guyana. If this is so, I believe this year’s floods and Waddell’s murder set this sentiment in motion, but it was the Agricola massacre pushed many over the edge. On all three accounts, the government’s lack of action was akin to an abusive parent who treats his/her child with disrespect and disdain.
Last year, the government did not take the necessary steps to prevent repeat flooding, which sent a clear message to the people that their property and livelihoods did not matter. Then Waddell was gunned down and the callousness with which his violent death was handled once again reaffirmed the government’s disregard for the people.
However, the Agricola massacre topped it all. No police. No help. No justice. No excuses. The message could not have been clearer if someone had painted it red on the top floor of the Pegasus, the government did not care about the people who were murdered and terrorised. In the end, the people seem to have lost their will to fight for a better life.
Just like an abused child, I believe the people of Guyana are starting to believe that they are worthless and undeserving of anything good in life. It seems they are resigned to live in this abusive environment and have accepted the fact that their own leaders do not care about their welfare.
However, if Guyana gives up, then it will forever live under an uncaring government – whether it is the PPP or another party. Much like a little girl who simply accepts that she is worthless because an abusive parent has crushed her spirit, she will often expect the same type of behaviour from other relationships and accept more abuse without a fight.
Let me tell you from experience though - you have to fight back. The incessant murders, the rampant crime and the coarse behaviour at entertainment events are not what Guyana is really like deep down. It is almost as if the nation is having an identity crisis because the government has chose to neglect its responsibilities.
An abuse victim has to take back their life and decide they deserve something better than disrespect and abuse if they are ever going to function in a productive relationship. Likewise, Guyana has to take back the reigns of government and decide she deserves better than an abusive and neglectful government.
I wish every Guyanese could have heard my nurse as she praised them. Maybe then everyone could believe – even just a little - that they deserve a better life. Don’t give in to the feelings of hopelessness, Guyana. Don’t lose your fighting spirit – or you may well lose everything.