(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 18 July 2010)
A few months back I was disenchanted with the way the American political system was working. The two-party system incessantly fighting against each other and the well being of the people being lost in the fray – was fraying my nerves.
Come to find out, there were others who were tired of all the bickering and partisanship, too. I discovered a grassroots group called the “Coffee Party” that is calling for a dramatic change in the way politics is practiced. The ideas from this group inspired me and reminded me of how much potential we all have as humans.
The thinking of this group is actually very close to my own personal political philosophy. Not my voting philosophy, but my philosophy on how I believe politics should be practiced. I have spoken on pieces of my political philosophy numerous times in this column, such as the importance of the dissenting voice, the dire need for good leaders and the assertion that government representatives are hired by the people and are, therefore, accountable to the people.
Something that truly grabbed my attention about this group was a petition they are sending around to politicians called “The Declaration of Unity.” It asks candidates, incumbents and party leaders to “please find a way of campaigning without deliberately triggering anger, hatred and fear.” It asks them to avoid contributing to the disuniting of the country because we have more important things with which to deal.
It continues, “We will hold accountable those who engage in the politics of division. We will support those who offer facts, civility and solutions.” And concludes by stating, “We choose to be united as a People and refuse to be divided. We hereby Declare Our Unity.”
Doesn’t that inspire you? Doesn’t it make you feel there is hope? It truly inspired me because it was for these types of sentiments that I studied Political Science and still struggle against hope to believe there is yet a better way to govern a country.
Of course, I instantly thought of how this Declaration of Unity can be applied to Guyana politics. In the course of the next year, there will be mudslinging, fear-mongering and polarizing rhetoric coming fast and furious. Worst of all, there will be racist remarks intent on dividing the country.
It makes me cringe every time I see a racist remark from a political leader because in choosing to promote one race in any shape, form or fashion in Guyana, that leader has alienated all other races. This type of leader is only representing a portion of Guyanese. Guyana needs leaders who will represent all Guyanese. When the people of the other races see that remark in support of one race, they instantly distrust that politician because the impression is that only that stated race matters to the said leader.
Such activity is counter-productive for any leader in Guyana. It does not promote unity. It promotes disunity. It promotes anger, hatred and fear. If a leader truly wants to be the leader of all Guyanese – of all races – then race must not be a factor at all in a campaign, unless it is to call the various races of Guyana together in unity to stand together for a better future.
The fastest route for Guyana to get to the point of being a prosperous country is to find a leader who rejects disunity in all its forms (racism, sexism, classism, etc.) and embraces the diversity of this beautiful country. Ask yourself this; are you loyal to your country or to your party? Do you want a functioning government or do you want to win fights?
Rejecting division will not be an easy task for any leader. The past is thrown into the face of anyone who says the time to change is now and I can lead the way to unity. It will take someone with deep convictions and a staunch will. But if such leaders can be found, the people should flood to them with all the support there is to offer.
In this coming election, refuse to be divided. Reject anger, hate and fear politics. Reject campaign tactics that divide the people and put them against one another. Every one already knows of the injustices of the past. The problem has been stated and restated again and again to keep the fear alive and the people divided.
Embrace unity. Embrace civility, dialogues and practical national solutions. The campaign to watch for in the upcoming election is the one that presents a solution to the problem.
Make your own personal declaration of unity and support only candidates who adhere to your affirmation of union. The people are not limited to the candidates proposed by those already in power. The determination of who leads the country is in the hands of the people, not those who have yet to bring unity.
Do not let power players divide and rule Guyana any longer. Choose to be united as a people and refuse to be divided. Take a stand with that old saying from an Aesop fable, “united we stand, divided we fall.” It’s a superb motto, but not as good as “One People, One Nation, One Destiny.”