The 'brandy culture' impact

Guyana Chronicle
September 14, 1999

THE headline on our page one yesterday was like an unwelcome splash of cold water - `Girl, 12, hangs herself over school boots' [please note: link provided by LOSP web site].

Sometimes it takes a tragedy to jolt awareness in a society of a subtle social problem although the signs are all around. At first glance, this tragedy may seem to be about shoes. But it is not.

It is about an attitude.

In the affluent North America, the `brandy culture' is well known. Students need to have brand name footwear and clothes or suffer the consequences from their peers who ridicule and molest them mercilessly.

In Guyana, the attitude has become all too familiar to most parents. Many parents can testify that their children seem to have adopted American standards of `coolness' versus `squareness'.

Here, the terms may vary but every child knows what it means to be `in' or `out'. Many do not have the strength of character to withstand the enormous peer pressure to fit in.

The penalties for being out of fashion are severe. So severe, that at least one child seems to have thought that death was preferable.

There may be many reasons why Guyana's youths have adopted this attitude. One widely held theory is that it springs from the insidious influence of American television programmes which depict a more affluent lifestyle.

Cultural anthropologists have long been wary of the pervasive and sometimes intrusive influence of television programmes. They are especially concerned when the programmes emanate from the `developed world' and are received in developing nations.

Given their daily foreign television diet, it is not surprising that many Guyanese youths adopt first world expectations way beyond the capacity of their parents' third world incomes.

Relatives and friends who long ago detached themselves from Guyana to embrace the developed world, contribute to this by adopting and celebrating the first world lifestyle.

Remember the barrel frenzy? Many underprivileged Guyanese got their first taste of these so called brand name products from these relief packages.

Youngsters today are the first generation of Guyanese who have had television from a very early age. They have been bombarded with broadcast messages spawned by an affluent culture.

Immature minds seem to have been conditioned to crave indulgences and expect immediate gratification and it is not surprising that this often leads them to excesses.

Perhaps there is a message in the fact that the brand name phase is an apparently urban phenomenon in Guyana. Do school children in the interior crave these products?

It seems that where television sets occur, the desire for these products abounds as well.

Parents seem to have been seduced by the glamour of these products. Why else would they incur unnecessary expenses to provide them for their children?

It may be time for a national campaign to encourage parents to restrict youngsters television access.

The national broadcasting regulations should also be tightened to reflect the direction in which the nation wants to channel its children's lives.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples