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What on earth is going on here? This is the question I have been asking myself over the last two weeks as savage vitriol has spewed out of the mainstream print and broadcast media in Guyana, about the calamity that the USA experienced on September 11, 2001 when Osama bin Laden's terrorists struck in New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania. In excess of six thousand persons were killed. For some yet unclear and still unanswered reasons, our mainstream media have found it necessary, delightfully so, to kick the USA repeatedly when the superpower is now vulnerable and in its most severely traumatic period of mourning in decades.
The sunshine in my heart rises and sympathizes with the Americans. At the same time, however, my original question has become harsher, more stentorian in pitch: WHAT THE FOUL WORD IS AFOOT WITH THESE CRITICISMS? Why is it that so many letter writers and others who continue to benefit greatly from America, directly or through connections, have felt it necessary gleefully to sting the superpower so venomously with a Shakespearean serpent's tooth? Well, a few hours ago, I read Frank Rich's column, "The End of the Beginning," in the New York Times of Saturday, September 29, 2001, and now believe I have an answer.
Said Rich, "Terrorists can't alter the fundamental human equation. People are still capable of being both angels and pigs." In Guyanese parlance, unflatteringly, this means that the reasons for this level of stupidly currently on exhibit in the homeland lie in the "never see, come fuh see" attitudes of malcontents who are heavily intoxicated with their unaccustomed newness to democratic freedom. We might be an embryonic, still infirm democracy but to the embarrassment of the government and, from reports, most Guyanese at home and abroad, we are still far and away an uncivilised society where assumed friends and beneficiaries mutate into horrific enemies that kick you when you are down and need help! Expressed differently, we might have democratic forms and structures but a real democratic culture and requisite democratic values are still missing.
Stranger still is the fact that many of those who scribble their psuedo-intellectual bunkum about the USA's culpability (and I choose not to repeat any of it for fear of giving these cowardly rantings any wider reach) are Guyanese who live in the USA. Directly, they reap significant economic largesse from good jobs. They derive other benefits such as fundamental freedoms, advanced education, heightened social status and superior health care, and yet they dare exhibit pusillanimous, traitorous behaviour with impunity. Some of them who so recklessly bite the hand that feeds them have, I am reliably informed, visa problems to which the US government, in typical generosity, has turned a blind eye for years. In a must soon-to-come reassessment of its friends and enemies, and especially the grounds upon which visas are granted, the Americans will be justified in paying more scrutinous attention to individual ingrates who apply or re-apply for visas to "visit." They should be called to account for their treason.
But people are only exercising their right to free speech, you say? I think not. It is more a case of abuse of freedom of expression - just as takes place in Guyana; especially on what passes for talk shows. With freedom comes responsibility and consequences! It is a lesson that hard-headed Guyanese need to learn since we constantly fail to do so at home regarding the right to strike, right to work, right to assemble, etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseam. We focus near exclusively on individual rights as if these mean anything without stable community and wider national environment.
More than that, the intemperateness and illogic of the criticisms place Guyana's multi-faceted interests in jeopardy while compromising the overall national interest as well. For example, our interconnectedness with the USA is so valuable that the government is sending Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, as its representative to a memorial service this weekend in New York for the twenty-four Guyanese known so far to have perished in the terrorist attacks.
The so-called radicals who support so-called revolutionary, more "humanitarian responses" - in effect, transparent sanctimony - must know that their posture is far and away antithetical to their own self-interests, and that they risk a marginalisation of Guyana in the international arena. In fact, their stupidity has perhaps already caused the slippery slide of our nation down the totem pole of priority for deserved foreign aid and for attractiveness as a country hospitable to foreign investment.
And talk about the pot calling the kettle black! We cannot even solve our own bloody, divisive racialism problem that has vexed us for decades in bin Laden-style violence upon one another; and yet we feel qualified morally to pontificate about America being a terrorist state that is reaping its so-called just desserts. It is a stance by some that is as hypocritical as our policy once was towards then apartheid South Africa. We vented extremely bitter spleen about that country's policies when, for all intents and purposes, our record and policies on race relations were just as foul!
We need to remember certain facts that impact our daily lives back in the homeland. For example, approximately one out of every five Guyanese has a relative in the USA who supports them and the Guyanese economy by means of hefty remittances. Many overseas-based Guyanese try on a year round basis to collect charitable donations to causes in the homeland. Guyana's diplomats also strive to promote investment opportunities and a wonderful image of our country - necessary things in service of our national interest. The US government is our generous provider of wheaten flour. It is the same US government that has pursued policies since 1992 to allow Guyana continued access to International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank assistance even though our qualifications for such were not always altogether "up-to-speed," so to speak.
Want more? How about the fact that most of those in government and opposition leadership circles and in the private sector as well, seek and receive excellent medical treatment in the United States - often freely or at dramatically reduced costs? It was the US which also waged that tremendously valiant effort to save the life of late president, Dr. Cheddi Jagan. US medical help has been provided former Burnham executives and family members here free of cost. It was good American benefactors who supplied medical training to workers and also medicines for children and adults on a weekly basis to the Brotherson Asthma Clinic at Davis Hospital. Some still contribute medicines on an ad hoc basis. It is from American benefactors that Guyana Medical Relief (GMR) in California and similar organizations across the landscape of the USA have been able to provide medicines and treatment for thousands more ailing Guyanese in the homeland. Very many Guyanese over here are also American citizens trying to bring suffering relatives to these shores.
And, it was former US president Jimmy Carter who expended selfless energy to help Guyana return to democracy in 1992. It was he again who helped monitor the violently divisive general elections of March 2001. Taken altogether, one can be begin to appreciate how misguided are the ideological assaults being waged upon the USA which is to a very significant extent our very bread and butter and the main country that helps advance our efforts toward better quality of life.
There also appears to be a strange lack of understanding by the glib attackers of the USA about the nature power and the rationale of its exercise. The nature of power is such that when one has it, one always exercises it in one's self-interest. Of all the empires in human history, the exercise of power by the USA has been the most responsible. I dare anyone to challenge this assertion. By power, I mean simply the awesome ability to achieve nearly completely an intended effect. The levers of power include ones that are economic, military, intellectual, charismatic, religious, etc. Most Guyanese over here are glad that such tremendous power lies in American hands and not in those of Mr. Osama Bin Laden, his cohorts and other narrow-minded sympathizers. I am also personally happy that this power is in not in the hands of certain Third World regimes that complain so bitterly about it. And I am especially grateful that this sort of enormous power is not within reach of those Guyanese malcontents who now delight in belittling America and, in so doing, in belittling themselves. I am convinced that, given the vicissitudes of fate, the peculiarity of human nature and the record of history, Guyanese complainers would not only do exactly what the USA does but, more horrendously, would easily abuse such power to unacceptable degrees based on the mindset they currently showcase.
And here's a confession. Despite Frank Rich's acerbic explanation, I remain shocked that people, my people, can coolly look evil in the eye and not castigate it; but let loose insults to generous benefactors. Ugh! Disgusting!
"VINCET AMOR PATRIAE" (LOVE OF COUNTRY WILL PREVAIL)
"VINCET AMOR PATRIAE" (LOVE OF COUNTRY WILL PREVAIL)
is a Guyanese professor of political science and corporate risk-assessment
consultant who resides in the USA.
Dr. Brotherson is a Guyanese professor of political science and corporate risk-assessment consultant who resides in the USA.