Wednesday, September 01, 2010

History is written by the victors

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 01 September 2010)

There is ongoing talk of how this party or that party is rewriting Guyana’s history. I did not study Guyanese history in school, so what I learn is from what I research on my own. In doing this research, I am always careful to consider the source as I determine the degree of credibility I should assign to the information I digest.

This method is essential for dissecting any “historical fact” presented on any information about any group of people at any given point in history. In attempting to determine fact from fiction, it is best to gather information from several sources – and even then, one is not guaranteed to know every side of the issue on the topic.

I had a fascination with Joan of Arc about a decade ago and studied every piece of information I could get on her. Yet when I had exhausted my chosen study instruments, I knew I still did not have all the information. Even if I had lived during the time of Joan of Arc, even if I had stayed by her side throughout her short life, I would still not have all the information necessary to write a comprehensive history on her. I would still need to know the views of those with whom she came in contact and those whose lives she had an immediate impact.

As such, what is one to believe about Guyana’s history? The PPP has its version of history and the PNCR has its version. There are probably an infinite amount of versions from the people of the country that lie somewhere between the PPP’s version and the PNCR’s version. The good news is that in today’s world there are many ways for humans to share their own versions of history. The bad news is that all versions are influenced by the innate biases of those humans.

Political sustainment and advancement are strong incentives for governments to produce versions of history that portray their leaders as fair, just, compassionate and proactive. If a government is adept at producing versions of history that a majority of the population can swallow, it is likely that version will become the standing version – whether it is fact or fiction.

Which brings us to recent history in Guyana. I am quite interested in the fact that Guyana’s president, after years of being in office, chose to visit Buxton (presumably) on his way out of office. Some think this is because the President wants to run for a third term. I wonder if this is just a way for the ruling party to rewrite history. Whatever the reason, and trust me, though we may not know what it is, there is most certainly a reason – history is being tinkered with.

All of a sudden, the PPP is the party championing in a unified Guyana. Despite what may be known as the PPP’s history up to this point in time, skilful storytellers are still shaping that history and you can bet your bottom dollar that President Jagdeo’s benevolent visit to Buxton will be a part of that historical account.

Everything has changed in a matter of a few days. Out of absolutely nowhere, the President visits Buxton, and then Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon makes a statement like this: “The PPP/C Government is not going to accept the permanence of divides among the Guyanese people.” It’s not that I do not take the man at his word, it’s just that this is such a quick turnaround that my head has to stop spinning before I can get a grip on the statement.

Here is another recent statement from Luncheon, “To those who would want to rail against our efforts to demolish, remove, undermine these divides, we can say to them ‘they got a whole lot of railing to do’ because we can promise them that what is happening in the geographic Buxtons of today is being replicated across the length and breadth of this Guyana.” What an about face!

More importantly, how can one tell if the government is even serious? Put it to a test. The truth is that instead of getting upset about the PPP finding its heart (if it does indeed have one), the opposition leaders should be jumping at the chance to finally get the help they have been begging for to advance villages like Buxton.
It is just silly for the opposition leaders to throw a tantrum because the ruling party is finally doing exactly what they have asked it to do. If the government is serious, and not just playing political games, then good things can come from this. If it is not serious, the only way to know is to tell the PPP to put up or shut up.

If opposition leaders continue to make fools of themselves by acting belligerent and hostile to this new, generous-spirited PPP, it will end up looking like the bad guys in historical accounts. On the other hand, if the opposition leaders resolve to work with the government for the good of their constituents and the government doesn’t come through, another version of history will be recorded.

I am not being naïve about the many possible intentions of the ruling party. I’m just saying that if the offer of hope presents itself, do not get mad and run from it. Instead, test it.

The old adage says, “History is written by the victors.” If this is so, let Guyana be the victor. I do hope opposition leaders are not too proud to allow the PPP to be the one to “officially” initiate unity in Guyana. In my opinion, it does not matter how history documents the start of a unified Guyana. It only matters that a unified Guyana starts.

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