Opinion and Letters.
How can a nation be moral when democratic expression is guided by ethnicity and not issues?
I have been meaning to respond to GHK Lall’s letter titled ‘Guyanese no longer have it in their moral fibre to be angry at continuing PPP vulgarities’ (SN, October 7, 2013) and kept putting it off. It is time for hard-hitting commentaries on the Guyanese condition and Mr Lall has done a wonderful job of it. This issue of political morality, or morality in general for that matter, is a vital one for Guyana. It must start with understanding if our society had or has morality to begin with. A moral core in any society must be generally rooted in a fair, competent and just rule of law. That rule of law along with strong institutions, a powerful civic tradition, sound education and economic well-being will generally generate a largely moral society.
All of these cogs have been missing from the Guyana societal wheel since Independence. But immorality as a Guyanese condition has deeper roots in our pre-Independence history of slavery, indentureship, subjugation and dehumanization. When the racial contest for political power engulfed Guyana in the fifties and onwards, that immorality was intensified because racial politics represents and breeds an inherent immorality in its practitioners. It is difficult to attain a moral society going from slave plantocracy to indentured society to colonialism to independence with continuing racial conflict, gross mismanagement and endemic corruption. So, any society with that oppressive past and repressive present that is still fuelled on an enduring racial and class contest for survival, power and domination, and forced by poverty and deprivation to make fundamentally immoral decisions really does not have a moral core, meaning the majority in that society do not possess the moral core to formulate the building blocks of that society.
Those locked in an eternal fight for self and group at the expense of nation, society and country cannot act morally. When the majority of any nation accepts and condones immorality in the name of racial-political power, that country has no worthy moral tradition or a chance of it.
Morality is not religiosity. Many attend churches, mandirs and mosques in Guyana but they still make immoral political choices, which incidentally have the greatest negative consequence on their lives because of the dominance of the political sphere in this small country. Morality is more than just right and wrong although right and wrong are central tenets. It is duty, responsibility and obligation beyond self to others and the wider community. An example is the saga of the Region 10 delegates who turned around and accepted the same leadership that they alleged electorally denied them. That is a classic case of the immorality which exists in Guyana.
Their actions have emboldened dictatorship that now has dangerous consequences for the party itself and the nation at large if the party gains power. These individuals cannot claim they had no choice. There is a multiracial political option available.
How could any nation advance to morality when democratic expression is guided not by issues but by ethnicity, and when group power is viewed as more important than collective national advancement? For 48 years since Independence, predominantly Indians and Africans who are two-thirds of Guyana’s population have voted for their own economic oppression and misery.
The question is whether this immoral self-destructiveness can be stopped. Frankly, I think it is impossible. Racial politics is here to stay unless there is a dramatic demographic shift. That shift will not come soon, for it is likely to be another 30 years at the present rate of decline before the Indian and African populations become a minority.
Some would argue that Guyana is beyond saving and they may be right. Others have asserted Guyanese deserve their fate. They are certainly right. The truth is the majority of Guyanese have never really possessed the moral fibre to be angry at vulgarities and venalities. There is grave hypocrisy in this country. The divide-and-rule plantation is still very much alive.
There is no acceptable solution. Race parties have no incentive to become multiracial when they command large constituencies. The claimed multiracial party (AFC) has not appealed to the Amerindians and Mixed Races who left the political playing field and have not returned. I suspect the Mixed Races and Amerindians will vote for a Mixed/Amerindian party led by Mixed and Amerindian leaders with no historical PPP and PNC baggage, which is what the AFC has.
What will likely happen in the future is that ethno-politics will expand with Amerindians and Mixed Races forming their own party or a single party when they are at a critical mass. While this creates a potential deepening of ethno-politics, it will radically alter the political outcomes, meaning no more majority governments and tight electoral contests just for pluralities. This will force political compromise, consensus and inclusivity. It will enlarge the leadership pool and likely start a revolution of internal party democracy. The PNC and PPP may merge or cooperate. Parties will have to reform to become more multiracial just to get a plurality. This is probably the only avenue that will work in the near to intermediate future to trigger change. Will this alter the moral direction of the people of this country? It is hard to tell but it could improve it.