(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 04 July 2010)
On September 21, 2005, Freddie Kissoon penned a column to sort of welcome me to the Kaieteur News column pages. In this particular column, Freddie said, “Everybody in Guyana wants to hear an independent voice and read a mind that is not fed by PPP or PNC propaganda.”
Freddie then encouraged me, as he did in a more recent column on last June 25, to come to Guyana - something I long to do and plan to accomplish before year-end. But in his 2005 column Freddie said that during my visits I would discover the longing and desire of the people “to read a refreshing mind that does not pamper to the robotic repetitions with which the two major parties have poisoned this rich country.”
I do not know if Freddie now regrets his words of encouragement toward me in 2005. However, I do know that on certain occasions when I have reached beyond the cultural disposition that engulfs Guyana (and Freddie) because of its racial and political mire, Freddie tells me that I just do not understand.
I know full well that as a columnist I am at a disadvantage when it comes to completely knowing and understanding the bitterness and anger that stirs in Guyana because of the many racial and political indignations cast upon the people. However, I do care deeply about Guyana and have wrestled with those feelings of bitterness and anger myself in many columns with tirades towards the government.
In fact, I have to admit that before I quit this column in late 2007, I had forgotten Freddie’s words of wisdom. I got too caught up in the tide of Guyanese political culture and in the process I lost my independent voice.
When it was decided that I would start writing this column again, I began a search for direction. Since I am at a disadvantage, I needed to find my voice among the columnists. It was in those words of Freddie’s from 2005 that I found the direction I needed.
My voice is an independent voice. By the publisher’s design, I am here to offer an outsider’s viewpoint. A viewpoint that is able to be more objective and independent than if I was in the midst of the storm – as Freddie is. I am not touched by years of racial sparring, I am not scarred by the daily injustices, and I am not assaulted by visuals of Guyana’s poverty and governmental incompetence when I leave my doors.
Do I know of the racial sparring, daily injustices, poverty and governmental incompetence? Yes, of course, I do. Does it make my blood boil? Hell yes! But what good is the voice of a white woman married to a Guyanese in the Diaspora and living in Texas who rants about the same thing the rest of the columnists rant about? My value is found only in my independent voice.
In the past, I have been able to point out the absurdity of certain government activity when it might have been otherwise overlooked in a culture where absurd government activity is a norm.
For example, just recently a ferry inadvertently dropped a work truck full of cargo into the Essequibo River. A couple days later, on June 12, one of the top stories on “The Chronicle’s” Website was entitled, “Businessman has fruitful discussion with Minister Benn.” Is it now top news that a businessman can have a fruitful discussion with a government representative? Why is that news at all? It should happen on a daily basis.
The real story in that article is that nothing fruitful ever came of that “fruitful discussion.” Other than being told an “investigation would have to be conducted,” there were no other signs of fruitfulness. Do we know if there ever was an investigation? Was the businessman reimbursed for his losses? There were more questions left unanswered than were answered in that article about a “fruitful discussion.”
Using my independent voice, I wrote a column June 23 that talked about how silly it is for adults to call each other names. Freddie did not appreciate my independent voice in that regard because he wrote a column in response that basically said I just do not understand. Well, I do understand why he would want to call the government of Guyana all kinds of names – I can think of a few names to call them myself.
However, just because I want to call them names, does not mean I will. There is a level of decorum that should be present in all civil discourse and it does not include name calling. Freddie said they started it first and listed the names he had been called. But does that mean Freddie should lower himself to the same level?
When outsiders do look in on Guyana, isn’t it bad enough that they must see the head of state calling people names? Must they really see some of the best and brightest minds of the country behaving the same way?
If all the political parties behave like children, let them. But let the people be better than that. Let Freddie be better than that. It seems to me that Freddie takes these names he is called by others too seriously. He takes them personally and lets the words hurt him. He needs to let the words roll right off of him and move on.
Freddie does not have to take my opinion on this matter to heart. He is, of course, free to do whatever he likes. I am merely making an observation – an observation that may be shared by others. I am following his advice and using my independent voice. True, I may not understand everything about Guyana’s political and social issues, but isn’t that the point?
Yes, I have my voice back – my independent voice – and I will make good use of it.