by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 26 August 2007)
As I was listening to one of my favourite radio news shows this week, a clip from a show called, “The Time is Now” was played and instantly my sensibilities were touched and I knew I was listening to a treasure. The interviewee was noted scholar Noam Chomsky and the subject was dissent.
The interviewer began the segment with Chomsky by insisting that a prophet is one who speaks truth to power regardless of the consequences – someone who loves his or her country but will not shy away from pointing out the nation’s shortcomings so as to encourage the nation to live up to the better angels of their nature.
I had no idea Chomsky was about to be a guest on the show, but as captivated as I was by this introduction, I had no choice but to continue listening. It is refreshing to see segments of the American media finally break free from the nonsensical notion that to dissent against the wrongs of the nation’s leaders is akin to supporting terrorist activity.
I had never heard Chomsky speak before and was intrigued as to what he would have to offer on the subject at hand. I was not the least disappointed. He briefly touched on the fact that a dissident fringe has always existed throughout history – sometimes to their own peril depending on the state at the time – and how today’s governments have public relations machines that manufacture consent to keep the masses inactive.
Chomsky mentioned the affect commercials have on people. This made me think of Guyana’s Government Information Agency (GINA). When a person watches any commercial, one does not expect to be informed. The expectation is to be diluted.
However, with an endless bombardment of government engineered news and information, is it any wonder why the people are so compliant and inactive – even in the midst of crime, flooding and the introduction of VAT taxes? The aim is to keep the people marginalised and living in ignorance because, as Chomsky maintained, “Power always regards the population as a danger.”
The short interview was very enlightening. Although it seems I shared the same sentiment as Chomsky on topics such as government engineered consent and the dire need for dissent in every democracy, it was encouraging to hear these topics discussed in such an eloquent manner.
As the interviewer closed the discussion he added one last thought as he thank Chomsky for his efforts in trying to awake the people from their inactivity. Then saying he was a spiritual man, he went on to acknowledge that “without a serious understanding of the currents in my own nation and the way we impact the world, there will be a hollowness to that spirituality.”
This statement applies to so many people in Guyana. As a nation of very spiritual people, it is near to impossible to pretend to be blind to the government’s actions (and inactions) without making a serious indictment on your own spirituality. The pretences make that spirituality hollow and worthless.
In other words, the government is accountable to the people. What the government does, it does as if the people were doing it because the government is simply a group of representatives of the people. Therefore, when government officials practice racial politics, it is as if the people themselves were committing the act.
When the judicial system fails to convict rapists – over and over and over again – it is the people of the nation who are responsible. When crime runs rampant, when children are left in abusive homes, when schools become dilapidated, when food cost more than many families can afford – it all comes back to the people.
A person can claim to be spiritual all day long, but if that person wears a blindfold so as not to have the conscience seared by the horror all around or be forced to care about others – that spirituality means nothing. To wear ones religion on the sleeve is useless if compassion is not on the other sleeve.
In a country where the government tells the people what they should think about almost everything through the radio, television and newspapers, can it be more evident that the people need to take back control of their lives – and their minds?
I return to the thought that a prophet is someone who will speak the truth to power in spite of the consequences. Guyana needs more brave prophets who love their country but also clearly see the shortcomings and will persuade the nation to raise the standard of expectations from government representatives.
It is time to remove the blindfolds.