In search of a nation Editorial
Stabroek News
April 23, 2002

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Editing the many letters received by this newspaper is itself a kind of education. In quite a few of these letters one can sense a deep yearning for peace and tranquillity, a belief in the brotherhood of all men and above all a searching for national identity. There is at the same time despair at the ongoing strife and anxiety as to why this seems to be inescapable.

The vast majority of the people of Guyana want peace and development, a chance to make a decent living, reasonable health facilities and a good education for their children. Yet they find themselves (or at least their political representatives) continually caught up in ethnic squabbling. They feel as if they are trapped, whether by history or politics they do not know. They want nothing more than to be fully human, well balanced and liberated but because of the profound insecurities inherited from colonial times and not surmounted by their leaders there is a sense of being crushed by ineluctable forces, as in a Greek tragedy.

There are real problems. It would be utopian to think otherwise. The two main ethnic groups have a different culture, to some extent a different attitude to life. But they have been living together, or at least in the same country, for more than 150 years, there has been a lengthy process of socialisation, they have gone to the same schools, speak the same language and share many other things. Yet there is so much misunderstanding, much of it due to prevalent myths and stereotypes and to grossly inaccurate information, circulated as fact. Also, many normal human failings or inadequacies are re-interpreted through the prism of ethnicity. Everything is given an ethnic spin.

Guyana seems stuck in the quicksands of ethnic politics, pulling it down. But so was South Africa before Mandela. There are younger politicians on both sides of the divide who are capable of transcending the problem, who can give the kind of dedicated, energetic and inspirational leadership that is required. One must hope that their voices will be increasingly heard, that they will begin to articulate their view of a nation that will be proud and free, that will not be blighted by hatred and prejudice or crippled by insecurity and that will look with hope to the future. So much is possible with courage and vision. One waits for those authentic voices to speak out, clearly and unequivocally.