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The Month of May
Guyana Journal, May 2007

The month of May is especially important to Guyanese. This year marks the anniversary of Indian Arrival (169th) in Guyana from India. The Guyanese Indian population is approximately half the population. As such this Arrival should be recognized fully by ALL Guyanese as a significant record in Guyanese history. Most Guyanese, and particularly Indo-Guyanese, shamefully do not know their history because of a deliberate policy during colonial times and the inherent skewed education syllabus. Some impertinently treat the contention with derision.

The history of Indian Indentureship was hardly taught in schools, and still students and the general public are not yet adequately exposed to this segment of historiography, except to some extent at high school and university levels. People of my generation and prior, for example, were never made aware of the Gladstone Experiment with the “Hill Coolies” and the many voyages thereafter from Calcutta and Madras to the shores of Guyana; of the conditions of work on sugar estates thenceforth; and of the persevering, tenacious and indomitable struggle during that period. Only a few know of and had access to Henry Kirke’s, Peter Ruhoman’s and Dwarka Nath’s writings. Few knew of James Crosby except the fact that they “were going to ‘Krasby’s’ office”. Few yet ever heard of the prolific letter-writing immigrant, Bechu, except when he was minimally referenced by Tyran Ramnarine and later introduced by Clem Seecharan for general reading. Apart from a few academics, Guyanese did/do not know of Hugh Tinker, James Beaumont, William DesVoeux and Charles Freer Andrews – most, including many academics, still do not know!

History is integral to the overall culture of the people and the nation. The films by Rohit Jagessar and Shundell Prasad did in fact give glimpses of and tend to popularize the indentureship era.

This void is regrettable. Hence, there should be immediate remedial mechanisms to fill this gap.

The month of May is especially important to Guyanese because it was during May 1964 when there was the Wismar Massacre. Inter-racial animosity resulted in hundreds of innocent Indian men, women and children being wantonly abused in every way possible – violence, killing, rape, burning and looting of property – in the most brutal manner. It was an ignominious time of ethnic cleansing that resulted in mass migration of Indians from the predominantly African township of Wismar/Christianburg/Mackenzie area. Reading the Wismar Report should be sobering for all Guyanese. ( This Report was suppressed for many years in Guyana. But the stories were in the international press – New York Times: "East Indians flee race violence in British Guiana mining area." Wednesday, May 27th, 1964; New York Times: "Official accuse Police in British Guiana." Thursday, May 28th, 1964; Time Magazine: "British Guiana race war." June 5th, 1964; Newsweek Magazine: "Politics of violence." June 8th, 1964; Facts on File, Volume XXIV: "British Guiana." June 4, 1964 – to which only a few in Guyana had access.

The month of May is especially important to Guyanese because it is on May 26 1966 when Guyana became an independent nation. After all this time some Indo-Guyanese still feel strongly that the selection of May 26 lays bare insensitivity to many Guyanese, and is a brutal reminder of the internecine conflicts.

The nation must heal and find closure to the anomic periods of the past. For this there should be openness, truthfulness, and generosity of spirit. The truth must be known, for only the truth can make one free. After 41 years of independence there is sadly a lot still under the rug. When we individually and collectively develop this ability and mind-set to address all matters truthfully and fearlessly then our minds will be truly be free – to deal with independence and nationhood.

by Gary Girdhari

The Police and Violence
Guyana Journal, April 2007

Sixteen years ago – in 1991 – the world witnessed the graphic brutal beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles, California while he was handcuffed and lying on the ground.

Also in Riverside, California in 1999, Tyisha Miller, a black woman, sitting unconscious in her car, was shot dead by the police – about 27 shots were fired.

In Bronx, New York City, a 73-year old mentally disabled woman, Eleanor Bumpus, was shot by the NYPD because she resisted being evicted. Bumpus held a kitchen knife and the police blasted her, first her hand that held the knife, and then pointblank into her chest.

In Brooklyn, New York, a Haitian immigrant, Abner Louima, was tortured and brutally assaulted by police in a station house in 1997.

In Ozone Park, New York City, a Guyanese man was shot dead when the police responded to a domestic disturbance. The man reportedly had a kitchen knife in his hand when the police entered his home.

Antonio Rosario and Hilton Vega were shot by the police in New York City 23 to 28 times while in a prone position face down as commanded by police.

Amadou Diallo was shot 19 times in a barrage of 41 shots on February 4, 1999 because police officers’ mistaken identity.

Fast forward. In November 2006, Sean Bell, 23, was killed hours before his wedding as he and friends left a club; the police fired approximately 50 bullets at the men's car.

The list goes on…. An educated guess suggests that these awful occurrences are not just happenstance, and cannot, should not be explained simply as mistakes.

Of significance also, it is those at the bottom or the social ladder – black people, the poor, migrants, (and now Muslim communities) – who are generally the target of the force of the law.

Every society and community needs the police. Years ago I used to see the work of a police officer as most rewarding. Citizens proffer the utmost respect to the police, just as they would to the teacher and the church leader. Those days are disappearing fast. Officers are bogged down with the mere weight of weaponry! The old British Bobby-style police officer nodding his head and tipping his hat is a thing of the past. For some the police is seen not as a protector and friend, but as someone to be feared, the enemy. There is ample justification for the latter based on (historical) institutionalized prejudices that may permeate the institutions of law where, in addition, stereotypes cloud reasonable, clear and fair treatment of the others.

Police officers on the beat work in dangerous environments in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc. Scenarios are often precarious, scary and life threatening. The police therefore must always be prepared for the unexpected assault on their persons. They must also be positioned favorably and advantageously to ensure their own safety and that of others. They are even expected to use "reasonable force" in certain cases, the definition of "reasonable” conjuring up nebulous meanings, ambiguous to most and gratuitous at best to the police.

Extreme critics of police brutality usually paint all officers with a broad brush – a dirty brush! However, this is grossly unfair, as most officers do their job honorably and under very trying circumstances, and under pressures from above, usually politically tinged. Those who bend the rules unduly are described as “rogue cops”. The public is appeased by being told that these are the exceptions, a few bad apples. Such persons would better serve themselves and their communities in other vocations.

Because it goes against the basic norms of human dignity and decency, it is heart wrenching and revolting to observe the police punch and kick civilians, much less shoot someone point blank, especially when other methods are available. It is doubly so when there is evidence or perception of racism at play, for, without a doubt there is such a perception and belief, as evidenced by those being beaten and otherwise targeted. The laxity and arbitrariness of “reasonable force” have resulted in individual definition and determination of what is reasonable, and this presents tremendous leeway to the extent of extreme violence – the "approved techniques" may mean shoot to kill.

As bad as it may appear for some the situation is redeemable. There is all likelihood that there will always be some form of police brutality. What is hoped is that it does not escalate and become institutionalized. There must be immediate reforms, starting with recruitment from the diverse communities so the police can build good relationship with the community that they serve. The police is quite capable to police itself. There are already many rules and regulations, including auditing and review boards, that are in place. These must be adhered to without any “silence” or “atta boy” back patting. Training must be improved to also include sensitivity to different cultural norms. Respect, courtesy and accountability must be held high by all, for the officers serve the people who collectively pay them to so do.

How many more times must one be pained to observe the pain of mothers, fathers and siblings after losing a dear one in an untimely death!
Gary Girdhari

Losing the Endangered Species
Guyana Journal, March 2007

Charles Dickens (through Mr. Bumble) said the law is a ass in reference to some ridiculous situation. This utterance may equally apply to human behavior not necessarily related to ridiculous laws. One may say that Mr. Anderton is an ass.

Fishermen from New Zealand caught probably the largest colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) which was about 10m (33ft) long and weighed an estimated 450kg (990lb). Mr. Anderton, the Fisheries Minister of New Zealand, was at hand to break the news. “The squid was almost dead when it reached the surface,..” apparently tortured by harpooning. The squid was frozen in the ship's hull and taken to New Zealand for scientific examination. Apparently not many of these exist; and here goes another – in the interest of scientific inquiry!

The issue here is that people treat such (mis)adventure with casual disregard, hailing it as sport and an achievement.

The sad fact is that many species are dying out on land and in the oceans – species that have no chance of re-gaining their habitat. They are constantly under the threat of extinction. And certainly they are doomed if the inhumanity to the Earth is not reversed.

Deforestation pushes animals out of their normal habitat and denies them their regular sustainable food. Similarly, over-fishing and industrial toxic wastes are creating havoc in diverse oceanic, estuarine and riverain population, robbing them of their breeding grounds. In addition, global warming is having a disastrous effect on many species that cannot cope.

In Africa and India, elephants, hippos and rhinos, and the Bengal tiger have been hunted and slaughtered indiscriminately, to satisfy certain esoteric, exotic and weird European tastes. In America and elsewhere, many animals have been hunted for their skin, pelts and fur. Now there are protective laws in place that may slow down these species extinction.

Man’s greed and callous disregard have always taken precedence over what is environmentally and morally sound. Thus pollution, deforestation and over-hunting are resulting in many species becoming endangered; for example, Polar Bear, Snow Leopard, Panda, Tiger, Penguin, Gray Wolf, Blue Footed Booby, Orangutan, Pygmy Elephant, Gorilla, Dolphin, Giraffe, Sea Turtle, Seal, Cheetah, Tree Frog, Jaguar, Eagle, Black-Footed Ferret, Zebra, Lemur, Great White Shark, Whale, Bison, Hippo, Leopard, Horned Puffin, Rhino, Monarch Butterfly, Dugong, Manatee, Macaw, Anaconda, Sea Lion, Walrus, Tortoise, Octopus, Toucan, Iguana, Clown Fish, Crocodile, freshwater pearl mussels, water Voles, Dodo and other animals are on the endangered list. It is only a matter of time when they will be lost forever. The legacy that adult human activity is leaving for the children is likely to be museum specimens and drawings in books of these animals.

Similar disastrous effects are observed in the plant world.

Now with advanced technology scientists have been successful in breeding a few animals in captivity, which is rare. Sure, genetics and cell culture are important in the understanding of our world, and have resulted in measured success. Then the news is splashed in the media about the good job that is done using “refined” techniques, and “elegant” methodologies in “state of the art” laboratories! The glee is obvious. Grants are increased. The whole process, the charade, becomes self-fulfilling. And the scientific arcane entourage assume a palpable air of feigned piety, a mocking posture of self-indulging altruism. However, there is no real objectivity and rationality in these kinds of scientific pursuits because such pursuits are very narrow and restrictive, which precludes discussion and debates in a holistic fashion. The pragmatic meaningfulness hitherto is infinitesimal.

So here is the awkward and convoluted logic: we plunder the earth seeking fine minerals and gems for our adornment; we engage in extensive logging to give us fancy houses and furniture; we kill indiscriminately; we postpone child-bearing till after our careers are on solid grounds. Then we use our knowledge of genetics and cloning to reclaim the forest with seedlings after it was denuded of its trees; we do artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization because of infertility, and also to save an endangered species, all of which are very expensive to accomplish, with minimal outcomes in the greater scheme of the global health.

Mr. Anderton may be an ass, but so are we.

Gary Girdhari

Mark 8:36
Guyana Journal, February 2006

I really do think that the general message from this scriptural text is a good warning, an admonition and a guide for all humanity even if one is not a bible believing Christian. I wish very deeply that grandstanding politicians, CEOs and the major powerbrokers of the world heed this message – to seriously take the necessary and appropriate action – to tackle the looming destruction of our planet because of global warming. Looming? Yes, because it is not if or when anymore, but how soon!

There is unequivocal scientific evidence, not anecdotal, that global warming began decades ago, and, like population growth, it is now occurring geometrically. It has become probably the most critical dilemma facing our planet. Coastal flooding (tsunami included), frequency and intensity of tropical storms, and erratic temperatures (including arctic melting) are believed to be a consequence of this warming phenomenon. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that temperatures are likely to increase by 1.8 - 4 °C (3.2 - 7.2 °F) by the end of the century. Based on this, sea levels would probably rise by 28-43cm. The IPCC has provided evidence that categorically suggests that the climatic shifts are being caused by fossil fuel burning (coal, oil, natural gas), vehicular and industrial emission, and deforestation. Roughly 80 percent of the world's energy comes from fossil fuels which are responsible for the rise in global greenhouse gas emissions.

Life in the biome would be severely affected by rise in sea level, storms, floods and drought. Already there are some species extinction.

To obviate such adverse changes, governments, business and the public must take remedial action immediately. There needs to be a reorientation in our thinking – to wean our excessive energy appetites.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, aimed at controlling greenhouse gas emissions, was a step in the right direction, although apparently only symbolic in practical outcome. The Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. It is hoped that the two major powers, the U.S. and China, that refused to sign the protocol, would see the error of their ways and advocate brave new leadership.

In the current scenario there appears to be no effective way forward because of the intransigency among the power players. The developed world especially is addicted to a lifestyle that is obstinate to change.
Good news: 10 big U.S. companies (including General Electric and DuPont) have endorsed favorable regulations, which is an encouraging sign.

What is also required is to reduce the huge appetite for energy, in particular fossil-based, to move away from fossil fuels and ultimately replace these. This however is not pragmatic in the near future because of current "cap and trade" sneaky approach proposed by some (e.g. Washington lawyers, lobbyists and consultants) to negotiate curbing of global warming.

What is direly preferred is a unified approach, more research and development into cheaper and cleaner alternative energy sources, such as nuclear power (which accounts for about 20% of the world's electricity supply currently), hydropower, wind energy, biofuels ethanol and biodiesel from sugar and corn, biogas, solar power, and hydrogen Freedom Fuel. For example, if used properly the planet’s uranium can potentially supply an unlimited supply of clean energy.

How is it going to be done? Firstly, the facts, the import and the consequences of inaction must grip the masses. Because most big corporations and the rich are not going to compromise their huge profits and voracious appetites, the public must internalize into their psyche first, to see it as a life or death issue – for all – rich or poor.

If government and big corporations are reluctant to change then the people must take their business elsewhere… away from such businesses (e.g. certain financial institutions like Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup that are planning to finance the huge CO2 emissions TXU plants in Dallas.)

We must do the right thing because it is simply right. There is only one Earth, and we must each take a personal stake as caretakers – for ourselves, our children, grandchildren and their grandchildren, in perpetuo. Be assured: “It tolls for thee.”

Remember Mark 8:36: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

– Gary Girdhari

Euphemism for Casino Gambling is Gambling Prevention
GuyanaJournal, January 2007

The generals in Iraq, George Casey and General John Abizaid, did not support more troops for the “surge”. The American people overwhelmingly opposed it (>60% according to ABC poll). And the 2006 election clearly was a statement against Bush’s war doctrine and policy. Yet he persists, knowing the tremendous opposition! Why? Is it “arrogance”, “folly” or is to convey an “illusion of victory”?

The government of Guyana wants casino gambling in Guyana – a controversial bill, palatably presented in Parliament as Gambling Prevention (Amendment) Bill 2006; this, despite opposition by many church and civic groups.

Minister Rohee “…feels that casino gambling would contribute to the growth of the country's economy.” The PNC said that government is handling of the bill with “arrogance and contempt”. But Minister Rohee submitted: “This Bill must be seen as an attempt by the government to give impulse and impetus to the tourism industry in this country,”

Some thing seems amiss. The PPP which has historically stood for things that are right – against poverty, malnutrition and illiteracy, for rights of women and rights of the child – now embraces legalized gambling. Social Services worker Gokarran Sukhdeo wrote in a letter to Stabroek News: “Something is fishy; I smell a red herring, I smell shark, too.” Yes, there appears to be some really big fish with seductive lures. Are these big fish local or foreign?

Does Guyana need gambling as an “impulse” and “impetus”? Is it becoming de rigueur to blindly follow the pattern of others? Many of the usual nattering nabobs are quiet about this with insouciance; and others are making a political scene.

In the UK there is opposition to the current introduction of casino gambling there. Does Georgetown want to become another ‘sin city’? Las Vegas has more lights than all of the Caribbean put together, and more gambling, and more prostitution too. Is this the direction the country wants to go? Holland attracts millions of tourists, partly because of it laxity in drug availability and use. Does Guyana want to emulate this?

Organized legal gambling is known to have its association with other forms of criminality and antisocial behavior. Drug abuse and money laundering become big problems in a small country. These inevitably will divert the already limited police resources.

Gokarran Sukhdeo wrote with some authority “… gambling is glamorized as a recreational activity and an entertainment, and big winnings are highlighted. Nothing is said about the karma, the consequences, the reality, the truth. Two-thirds of the truth is actually hidden – which makes the advertisements more lies than truths.

“Gambling starts out as recreational activity, all right. But it almost always progresses into a compulsive behavior – an addiction. “With gambling comes prostitution and AIDS, deprivation of families of financial resources and child support, increase in remorse and suicides, homicides, stealing, robbery with violence, forgery, fraud, embezzlement, incarceration, job loss, debt, and bankruptcy. It is very ruinous to individuals, and definitely more ruinous to families and society. “Studies show that two out of every three gamblers are losers. This means only one-third of gamblers will break even or win. One will count his loss and cut out early before becoming totally hooked. The other heads straight to the path of destruction. One out of four loses his job. Two out of three compulsive gamblers resort to crime to feed their obsession. Studies further show that teens are three times more likely to become pathological gamblers than adults. Is that how we want to secure Guyana’s future?”

The question for Minister Rohee (and others with passive mental logorrhea) is whether the social cost would be worth the questionable economic gains. If the “government [wants] to give impulse and impetus to the tourism industry in this country”, then it should get other acts together. Clean up the ‘garden city’ and many other parts of the country. Improve the transportation network especially to the interior. Remove the menacing touts that lurk for the tourists. Work towards reducing violent crimes, which is one of the main disincentives for tourists. (Gambling is a close consort to crimes.)

Repeatedly this news magazine has called for an expansion of the export of agricultural products to places like New York, New Jersey, in Florida, Toronto, and the UK. New York alone can probably take all of Guyana’s fish and shrimp, vegetables, fruits, ground provision, hot peppers. I venture to say that less than 10 percent of these on the shelves of markets in New York City come from Guyana, and more than 90 percent of those who buy these products are Guyanese. What an economic boost for Guyana if this can be reversed! What an uplift this would give to the small farmers! The domino effect is multifold and potentially endless, and eventually would “give impulse and impetus to the tourism industry”.

Why then pursue something that goes against the grain of good solid moral (and economic) judgment? Is it “arrogance”, “folly” or is to convey an “illusion of victory”?

– Gary Girdhari

From Pax Romana to Pax Americana
Guyana Journal, December 2006

Knowledge in our world has grown exponentially especially during the last 500 years or so. In spite of this one can forcefully argue that the world has not really become better … because the increased knowledge in science and technology has increased speed and comfortable lifestyle only for relatively few. Behavior, conduct and relationship among humans and among nations have unfortunately deteriorated. One can further argue that the increased knowledge in science and technology has been diverted disproportionately to the furtherance of the instruments and tools of war and destruction while pitiable budgetary allocations go to global healthcare, education and other social services. The interests of humanity, environmental health and peace have never been more tensely threatened. There is a constancy of animosity and warmongering, volatility and edginess, and pervasive anomie on the world stage, especially during the last decade. What a sad and terrible commentary for the ‘civilized’ world!

Many world leaders have, over time, gorged in self-glorificati on to the extent of personalized deification. The transmogrification has infused in them a sense of holier-than-thou, and thus they are ‘fooled’ into a false and ambiguous comfort of being omnipotent, full of grace and benevolence, and above the law! Thus it has been with Emperors and Kings, Pharaohs and Caesars, Maharajahs, Czars, the oligarchs, dictators, and many modern-day “rulers”. L'état c'est moi! To the inquiring mind these people and their corrupt cohorts lived in excessive luxury and made laws that essentially were meant to subjugate the masses and not intended as prudent guidelines for better living. The soothing tranquility in the arcane and exquisite chambers of the Pharaohs, Maharajahs, Emperors and the Kings, and the celestial pleasantness of the classical music and dance could not muffle the shrieking cries of the peons, slaves and the lowly castes. Thus it was then; so it is now. The law and history must therefore be seen on the basis of res gestae.

What then is our end-of-year assessment? Here are four recent comments that grabbed my attention:

Veteran movie actor Kirk Douglas summarized it best: “THE WORLD IS IN A MESS and you are inheriting it. Generation Y [the young], you are on the cusp. You are the group facing many problems: abject poverty, global warming, genocide, AIDS, and suicide bombers, to name a few. These problems exist, and the world is silent. We have done very little to solve these problems. Now, we leave it to you. You have to fix it because the situation is intolerable.

You need to rebel, to speak up, write, vote, and care about people and the world you live in.” (my emphasis)

Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus told the Oslo audience, "We must address the root causes of terrorism to end it for all time. I believe putting resources into improving the lives of poor people is a better strategy than spending it on guns… To me, globalization is like a hundred-lane highway crisscrossing the world…. If it is a free-for-all highway, its lanes will be taken over by the giant trucks from powerful economies. Bangladeshi rickshaws will be thrown off the highway."

Kofi Annan during his final days of his term at the UN admonishes, cautions and advices: “…when we look at the murder, rape and starvation still being inflicted on the people…, …doctrines remain pure rhetoric unless those with the power to intervene effectively -- by exerting political, economic or, in the last resort, military muscle -- are prepared to take the lead. It also includes a responsibility to future generations to preserve resources that belong to them as well as to us. Every day that we do nothing, or too little, to prevent climate change imposes higher costs on our children.”

And Peter Beaumont writing in the Observer commented on: “…the British sense of the superiority of our values, a moral code we believe the world should bend to. It is an attitude shared in large part by many of our politicians, media figures and even public intellectuals. Its hallmark is a curiously uncritical set of double standards typically expressed in an affronted tone of self righteousness.

What is worrying, however, is that once again we are being seduced by gazing into a distorted mirror of ourselves and liking too much what we see. It is the narcissism of national obsession. And it blinds us to the reality of how we can really effect a difference in the world.”

The issues and problems are many, multi-dimensional and complex, but the solution is simple. “If you want to get rid of the mosquitoes, you have to first drain the swamps,” tersely put by Gore Vidal. There must be a radical readjustment of the state of mind, a fundamental internalization and conversion to remove the time-measured obsession and greed for power and control, conquer and conquest, the greed for self-aggrandized narcissism, and the greed for excessive wealth. Great wisdom and generosity of spirit – the religio – must challenge the traditional way. Some may not be able to revert to minimalism. Nevertheless, such wisdom must come (will have to come) from the heart of all, individually and collectively.

– Gary Girdhari

Chief Seattle Was Right
“Continue to contaminate your own bed, and you might suffocate in your own waste.”
Guyana Journal, November 2006

The other day I spoke with a colleague and the conversation led to the subject of what is happening to our environment. I lamented on my day to day observance of people – from all strata, ages, races and national origin – defacing and littering my surrounding (and theirs) as though it is the most natural thing to do. I wondered if they strew paper, empty cigarette packs, coffee cups, plastic bottles, cigarette butts, etc. in their front stoop, their yards and in their homes. Like the 12-year old school boy who threw a bottle on the sidewalk shattering it to pieces on to the sidewalk and street, about ten feet from me, just a few days ago. And when I asked who threw the bottle, he acknowledged, “Is me,” feeling elated and with a sense of defiance.

The sad fact is that it is not this kid only. This pattern of behavior is seen every day (including by some ‘respectable’ individuals and businesses that sneakily dispose of household and industrial garbage on other people’s property, not realizing that such disposal are easily traceable like fingerprints). These are examples of the growing deterioration in lifestyles in our communities. It seems to me that we all have to regain our civic pride, and this has to be instilled at an early age in the home and schools. If we can’t take care of the simplest things, how can we take care of the big things! If we don’t respect our own environment, how do we expect others to give us the respect that we crave! Indeed, others laugh at us and show their disdain for any of our demands – that if you live like pigs then you will be treated like pigs.

My colleague and I moved on to the bigger issue of the disrespect to the global environment. I tried to illustrate the damage due to technological civilization – emission, ozone depletion and global warming – that over the millennia the graph shows a gradual straight line curve, but that over a relatively shot period of decades, the graph shoots up rather sharply. The terms we used were ‘arithmetic progression’ for the early times and ‘geometric progression’ for the recent period. Our concern (and fear) was almost palpable. I showed my irritation and frustration for what we humans have done to our earth. I was not thinking about me in relation to the consequences of our collective deliberate neglect; but a foreboding filled my guts about the future for my grandchildren, and all children in the future. I felt a sickness for the fact that there is so much indifference to the obvious, to commonsense. My colleague, presumably in disgust and unjustifiable submission, weakly consoled that climate change is cyclical, elaborating that the earth is entering an intense hot and dry period, that life as we know it will be wiped out except for a few of the strongest that will survive. Then the earth will replenish itself and all things will start afresh!

His philosophical waning – a confused fusion of Darwin and the Apocalypse – did not even convince himself.

The overwhelming evidence shows clearly a trend of environmental doom in the current scheme of things. During the past week or two the press (in Europe but mainly the UK) has come out strongly to point out the seriousness of global warming, since the Stern Review surfaced on October 30, with scary headlines: Tackle climate change or face deep recession, world's leaders warned; Climate change 'hitting Africa'; Global warming 'threat to growth'; Climate change fight 'can't wait'; 'Only 50 years left' for sea fish; Greenhouse gases hit record high; World moves into ecological overdraft today, says study; Simple verdict after a complex inquiry: time is running out.” At the same time, the news in the U.S. seems almost devoid of this issue, being taken up with more immediate mundane matters of mid-term elections and high-profile sexual scandals.

Sir Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist with the World Bank, came out with a 700-page Report for Tony Blair’s government. The Stern Review emphasized that scientific evidence of global warming was "overwhelming" and its consequences "disastrous", and suggested global warming could shrink the global economy by 20% if action is not taken now. ( See also )

Ashok Sinha, director of Stop Climate Chaos, during a protest march in London, commented: "I think people have realised that climate change is a humanitarian, a peace and security issue, an economic issue as much as it is a green issue and that's why we have such a diverse range of voices here today.”

On Monday November 6, the United Nations Climate Change Conference takes place in Nairobi, Kenya, for two weeks to assess any progress since the Kyoto Protocol became effective on February 16, 2005, and deliberate on the Stern Review.

One will recall that the Kyoto Protocol requires industrial nations to cut their emissions, i.e., greenhouse gases that cause depletion of the ozone layer which in turn leads to global warming. The Kyoto Protocol is the first international agreement with a serious and deliberate mandate to tackle global warming. It was endorsed by 141 nations, including all of Europe and all developed industrial nations except the U.S. and Australia.

On June 11, 2001, President G.W. Bush rationalized the U.S. position: “Kyoto is, in many ways, unrealistic. Many countries cannot meet their Kyoto targets. The targets themselves were arbitrary and not based upon science. For America, complying with those mandates would have a negative economic impact, with layoffs of workers and price increases for consumers. And when you evaluate all these flaws, most reasonable people will understand that it's not sound public policy.”

Here is a classic case of denial of the obvious. It seems that the position adopted is rather myopic – penny wise and pounds foolish. Does it matter if there is a positive economic impact in the short term when all else is doomed to failure if the “ecological overdraft” is not limited? It’s like a greedy passenger clutching dearly to his heavy chest of gold while the ship is rapidly sinking!

It is not any more a conflict between mythos and logos. It is not between them and us. We cannot hide in our blinkered belief that we are safe when we dump pollutants and toxic wastes in our “neighbor’s backyard”. We cannot be smug to think that having a graveyard for retired ships on the distant beaches of Bangladesh absolves us from the effects of pollution. Even in Guyana the once glorified # 63 Beach and the Garden City have now shamefully lost their glamour and pristine appeal due to indiscriminate garbage disposal.

Our world has contracted immensely, and when the rain falls, it does so equally on all – whether it is sweet rain or acid rain.

Ponder upon the salience of Chief Seattle: “This we know – the Earth does not belong to man – man belongs to the Earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.”

Already there are harbingers. The tsunami and other floods and erratic weather patterns foreshadow a dystopian future. Does this sound like an alarmist or a doomsday prophet? Suffice to say: it is the unsavory truth. Let’s hope that insular parochialism gives way to reasoned thinking. The earth cannot be stretched beyond its capacity. One cannot/should not compromise on a life and death issue.

– Gary Girdhari

The Call of Our Time
Guyana Journal, October 2006

Here is a man who was “chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, [who] had introduced legislation in July to protect children from exploitation by adults over the Internet. He also sponsored other legislation designed to protect minors from abuse and neglect.” One would say that he was a good man doing a good job.

Here is the same man – a virtuous Republican Congressman – who sent e-mails to a former teenage male page, cajoling at one point: "You in your boxers, too? ... Well, strip down and get relaxed."

It calls attention to the question of Ethics and Morality vs. Legality: “Information on Foley's suspected transgressions was passed to Speaker Dennis Hastert, Congressman Rodney Alexander (R-La.) and others. Without personally conducting further investigations, they allowed Foley to retain his position as chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children and retain his seat in Congress. Their actions may have satisfied the legal requirements of Congress; they may have used proper channels and protocol; but were their actions (or lack thereof) ethically and morally acceptable?”

In a recent Chris Wallace Fox News TV interview former President Bill Clinton in anger blurted that he wanted to kill bin Laden… public and prime time words. This is a coarse and callous way of saying things – especially for the ears of the young! At the same time he professes that he “wants to save people’s lives”. Clinton, like his predecessors and his successor G.W. Bush, has failed to do anything real to meet this laudable goal. Indeed Clinton slept while Rwanda killed! Now G.W. prays while Iraq is damned into civil strife and daily slaughter! Probably some believe that there is righteous and virtuous killing presumably supported, strengthened, substantiated, and endorsed by Ecclesiastes 3:8... “a time to hate; a time of war....”

In Phnom Penh, Cambodia thousands of poor squatter settlers are forcibly evicted because it is “necessary for the development of the city”.

Pope Benedict XVI recently at the University of Regensburg found it necessary to recount old 14th-century history in order to make his point about Islam being ‘evil and inhuman’. With his brilliant background and his international prestige, is this man so full of naïveté, guile and insensitivity?

In Gwinnett County, Georgia there is a standoff to remove Spanish books from the library because they “didn't need to cater to illegal aliens."

And let us not forget Virginia Sen. George Allen (R) recent usage of the racial slur “macaca” pointing to a 20-year-old volunteer of Indian descent.

In the meantime, Congress, deliberating on “national defense, Iraq, terrorism and illegal immigration”, passed legislation ($34.8 billion budget) to build a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border: $1.2 billion for border fencing and vehicle barriers; 1,500 new Border Patrol agents; 6,700 more detention beds for undocumented immigrants; $5.2 billion for a high-tech "virtual fence" under a contract with Boeing.

Give me a break, please. What a laugh! Is this really going to make America safer and/or curb illegal immigration, or is it pandering to some and getting “jobs for the boys”?

These are but the few things that got into the news in the past few weeks. There are numerous similar cases and examples that suggest that these are not anomalies but rather a pattern of the show that is regularly and ostensibly postured for the gullible.

The Clintons, Bushes, Pope (and others like Bono and Bob Geldof) do not have any moral underpinning if one examines the reality of poverty, disease and backwardness that plague certain parts of the globe. These people are rich and powerful with ideological distancing that does not resonate with the poor. Such dissonance is at variance with the actuality, and the occasional personal contact and mouthing they may have is more than likely done with clinical detachment! And thus there is a problematic hiatus for translation of their mouthing into practical reality. Talk the talk is not the same as walking the walk.

In poor countries there is so much poverty – squalor, starvation, thirst, diseases, et cetera – that it is unimaginable to conceptualize; yet there are so many very, very, very rich, with all the surfeit and indulgences of modernity. Why is it that some are excessively rich while others remain excessively poor? This question (which is not rhetorical) must not only be debated and given esoteric analyses, but rather come up with practical meaningful solutions for just and sustainable development of people, and not piecemeal palliatives.

Have we not observed the huge profits of major corporations and the salaries (and hefty perquisites) of CEO’s, announced unabashedly and unashamedly – in hundreds of millions of dollars – while some others are barely able to live on $1 a day?

All religions and the great philosophers speak of loving thy neighbors, of the brotherhood of humankind, and the common good. Why the disconnect?

This then should be the call of our time – our civilized time – to find solutions for the injustices of the world and moral indecency that is spiraling downwards. You cannot paper over large cracks. We owe it to our God and to common decency to do the right thing.

Gary Girdhari

On Sinecures (and Moses Nagamootoo)
Guyana Journal, September 2006

It never ceases to amaze me how adept the PPP is in putting their foot in their mouth; in repeating blunders; and, to put it bluntly, in not doing the right thing, that can be advantageous, at the opportune time.

The PPP won the recent elections fair and square, and there is no question about this even from the diehard opposition. Bharrat Jagdeo promised changes pre and post election, and zeroed in on a promise of inclusive government.

In less than a week this president reneged – there aren’t any real positive changes and there is no evidence of inclusiveness in his cabinet.

His new cabinet has some of the old faces shuffled around – some good and some … let’s wait-and-see. There are several neophytes who have to be tested. It seems sure that one criterion for selection is the adage of “old faithfuls” and another is “baggage boys”. Then there is the impression of sinecures a la “minister within the ministry”, trying to outdo Burnham, and going against Jagan’s lean government. There is also the “square pegs in round holes” tendency that has been abounding over the years. Some of these may be well suited to do party work; but they are not fit for public office much less for ranked positions as ministers.

Certainly within the PPP cadres there are many better qualified, able, competent (and loyal) individuals who are more suited for some of the ministerial positions. This cabinet will probably be remembered best for its mediocre and lackluster assemblage. Jagdeo (and I am reminded that it is not he per se but the inner sanctum of the PPP) is most decidedly following Burnham’s PNC which had named Lord Canary and Roy Fredericks in ministerial positions!

One comment (Daren David) admonishes thus: “I don't think Jagdeo takes into consideration qualifications and talent in making the senior appointments. He has a leadership style which may be described as "ego-centric" – a style that wants attention to be placed on the leader and not on any of the subordinates. So if someone is seen as getting a lot of popular local or international attention, the leader shoves him to a post where he does not become too visible and thus is no longer too much in the public eye.”

This may or may not be true, which however leads to the invisibility of Moses Nagamootoo.

Already there are a few political/presidential advisers! As examples, what exactly are the job descriptions of Mr. K. Lall, Mr. F. Mohammed and Mr. Lumumba? What sterling advice have they been providing? And what positive and practical benefits to the nation and people of Guyana?

Moses Nagamootoo is being offered a position as presidential adviser. What contempt! What insult! Or he can serve as High Commissioner in Canada, “a post where he does not become too visible and thus is no longer too much in the public eye”, and I dare add not a threat to anyone.

Moses was quite in order to reject Jagdeo’s offer. “If [he] could be of service it has to be in an area in which [he] could help our people and could make a difference... [such as] Home Affairs or Foreign Affairs.”

The PPP has its beginnings as a grass-roots party; and Moses Nagamootoo is a grass-roots kind of savvy politician who has been in the PPP even before Jagdeo was born – and he has served this party, as indeed the nation, very well, often at great personal sacrifice. He is clean and remains one of the stalwarts in the political life of Guyana. To “sideline” him so callously also draws attention to the potential fears of “outsiders” who may contemplate joining or cooperating with this new government. What a severe blow to inclusiveness!

“There are a lot of "Moses haters" in the PPP leadership and … Jagdeo [did] side with them.”

One can only reflect with disappointment and amazement. I am non-plussed.

Any government or president likes to leave office with a good legacy – an enduring legacy, full of positive affirmations. Forbes Burnham left a legacy of all the negatives one can name (except if you think like the likes of Halim Majeed or Lorri Alexander); Desmond Hoyte started his presidency with a philosophy of amelioration and inclusiveness, and sadly left a legacy of “mo fiah”. Cheddi Jagan brought back morality, good governance, wisdom and a vision for the future. Janet Jagan, despite her valiant political contribution, bowed out with lots of confusion.

Politicians are a breed that quickly succumb to the sweet venom of power. Let us ponder on Lord Acton’s caution: “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Let us hope that better judgment (and not wait until the pressure of reality politics) will provoke a whirlwind brainstorming with a major re-shuffle, soon, that can engender meaningful positive changes for the general good.

Guyana needs the best and the brightest, the loyal and the competent, the honest and morally upright.

In this term it is only appropriate to ask: What will be the enduring legacy of Bharrat Jagdeo? As the saying goes: Moon ah run till daylight ketch am. In other words, you get wha yo pay fa. Hasta entonces.

by Gary Girdhari

The Case for Politeness, Good Manners, and Ethics
Guyana Journal, August 2006

Manners are of more importance than laws. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in. – Edmund Burke

This sage advice is good for all ages, at all times, and for all societies or persons. Who would want to dispute this? Yet in society, more so today’s, we observe a deterioration in basic good manners, respect and tolerance for others. Let us zero in on the Guyanese community anywhere. It would not be fair to broadbrush everyone, but generally one can observe a coarseness in all manner of behavior, including the way we dress, the way we drive, the pushiness in the supermarket, the excessive vulgarity in dances, and the coarseness in everyday language.

Let me state that I believe that most people do not indulge or subscribe to the above – they do not and would not behave in such uncouth manner. But there is a small element that seem to relish in obnoxious behavior – with some sort of depravity akin to sadism (maybe masochism).

Over the years I have observed the writings on two internet discussion boards – the GNI ( and, the latter now defunct. And while most of the contributors are intelligent and polite, there were/are some who are outright nasty, foul, vicious, and racist, tending towards degeneracy, and probably libelous. Yes, they may be intelligent, but undoubtedly degenerate. Their writings are not even done in righteous anger. Discussions, nay, attacks have also been personalized and dangerously so. The jaiag site has been closed, and the administrator of GNI has repeatedly warned the perpetrators of the vile behavior, in many cases resorting to banning some.

One of the nastiest periods among Guyanese in New York City was demonstrated during a recent City Council political campaign where supposedly respectable professional and business people were haranguing one another, gnashing teeth, cursing and threatening one another, to the extent that the police got involved and the court had to intervene. Indeed, it was most shameful. But such behavior continues, as some people appear to be impervious to rational criticism and admonishment.

I must agree with Frank Fyffe who commented: “There are rogue activists and leaders peddling misinformation, half-truths and outright lies, and refusing to deal with any matter based on pure principle and the truth. They do not care one hoot about integrity and pride. Some are prepared to become mere sycophants….” However, this occurs mostly at election time – they smell blood.

Why can’t we all grow up and act “civilized”, even civil, with mutual respect and due tolerance? Why can’t we have political discourse and friendly debates? In other words, why can’t we agree to disagree, amicably?

Debates and discourses are healthy, and necessary, to share knowledge although we may have divergent views. Two opposing parties can’t both win at the same time. It’s like cricket – it’s not whether you win or lose; it’s how you play the game. In the end we should be able to shake hands, smile, and accept defeat graciously.

Which brings me to those who know better and are expected to do better – like editors. What kind of gratification does one get by name-calling? I mean: is it appropriate to refer to another individual as a “prick” just because you take bilious umbrage with an opposing point of view? Eric Hoffer says it best: “Rudeness is a weak imitation of strength.”

If I had my way, and if I can convince my community, I would insist on an unqualified apology from Mr. Rohit Kanhai.

We can all learn from this time-tested admonishment: Good manners are the first mark of good breeding and reflect directly on a person’s upbringing. And further I say not.

by Gary Girdhari

Charity as a Means to End Poverty is Misguided
Guyana Journal, July 2006

It is my guess that all religions advocate charity as a deifying component in their purported belief system that contributes integrally to meaningful and purposeful religious life. The priest of any religion or denomination counsels on the importance of charity as central to being holy (as in faith, hope and charity, zakat and daan). This translates to mean that the ‘good’ is done as a quid pro quo – the motive – wanting to get to heaven, or promotion of one’s self or business.

Historically, this seemed to make sense because there was so much extreme poverty, squalor and disease, hunger and starvation. The divide between the classes was very wide and deep. Giving charity does two things essentially: it offers succor to the down and out, for the moment; it makes the giver feel good; and, in any case, the giver does not experience the loss because he has so much already.

But charity is more ostentatious at certain times such as religious holidays. Many religious leaders and professional telecasters use all the tricks of the advertising art to solicit money for their charity. Some sting operations have exposed many as hypocritical and crooks – who should be subjected to the truth in advertising regulation.

In recent times a few well-known and very, very rich individuals – Ted Turner, George Soros, Bill Gates and his wife Melissa, and the latest Sam Buffet (in addition to Live8/Bob Geldof and Bono) – presumably well intentioned, have made public their objective to donate considerable sums of money to fight poverty. Every drop of water helps, but does it quench the thirst…?

The praxis is delusional. Further, while such humanitarian efforts may bring some (miniscule) relief, other major corporations and businesses are doing the opposite by draining the natural resources of developing countries, and with unfair trade practices. It’s the system, stupid!

Sometimes, but not always, donating to charity is a good marketing strategy for business. Name recognition and links to company websites help advertising and popularity, which propels the business in a positive way to clients, and thus boost company sales or revenues. In other words such practice is not really doing good for a good cause.

What causes poverty in the modern world? Two of the prime culprits are the IMF and World Bank. They offer aid to developing countries with strings attached, i.e., conditional structural adjustment policies for loans and loan repayment. Stringent debt servicing seems unending, resulting in reduction in essential social services such as health and education. Unfair and one-sided rules of trade consequent on globalization (controlled by WTO and the G8 nations) maintain the status quo regarding poverty in poor countries. WTO and G8 (and Live8) have not even delivered on their pledges. Instead, the economic and inequitable system of human relationship are perpetuated in a downward spiral. So-called liberalized free trade is anything but free. In fact, it is imbued with age-old mercantilist practices by the rich and powerful nations. The overall benefit (if any) of charity is further negated by the ravages of war. (Remember the term ‘industrial military complex’!)

Over the millennia, charity has not solved the crisis plaguing the poor and destitute? Is there really less poverty in the world? Is the divide being bridged? Has anything “trickled down”? Are the “crumbs” dropping in larger portions? The reality is: about half the world’s people live on less than two dollars a day. About one-sixth of the world’s people are unable to read any document or sign their names. Between 10 and 15 million poor children die every year before the age of 5 because of hunger, lack of clean water, and no health services.

Charity does not solve world poverty. At most, it is a temporary very mild palliative that in many ways is perpetuating the problem.

The fact is people are hungry and sick not so much because of lack of food, or over-population, but because they are too poor to afford the food and medicines. Thus the fundamental causes of poverty must be addressed, if we are honest in doing good. Hunger, disease and backwardness will persist because the poor will not be able to purchase food and medicines.

Poverty is therefore not just an economic issue; it is more an issue of politics and true democracy. Therefore, the economic system and political relationship have to change so that there can be some permanent alleviation. Would it be revolutionary? Not likely. First, there has to be a moral conversion, to speak to the conscience of humanity. If most of the rich countries claim a Judaic-Christian morality, then the gates of heaven will not be open to them. Unless, of course, they are hypocritical, with a subtle astute façade, i.e., they don’t believe in any morality, and don’t care a damn.

However, it is doable. One small step is to adopt the Tobin Tax.

by Gary Girdhari

The WPA is now a pretend Party
Guyana Journal, June 2006

The WPA has lost its former lofty objective, the people’s public and moral mandate, and its original ideological sense of political direction. As we remember the central figure, Walter Rodney, in the early days of the WPA, after twenty-six years of his assassination, it is appropriate and pertinent that we reflect on the WPA.

In the early political development of Guyana, Cheddi Jagan and the PPP had a vision and a dream for a united people working towards political and economic freedom. That dream was shattered by manipulators causing a political rift and race politics in the mid-1950s, which was furthered in the 1960s. Since then the country has not recovered from the race dilemma.

The PPP, which has been deliberately placed in political doldrums (for 28 years) by foreign and local operatives, appeared, for all practical purposes, ineffective in removing the entrenched dictatorship of the PNC.

Then the WPA and Walter Rodney came on the scene and brought fresh vision and vigor. Walter Rodney, as the primary de facto functional leader, saw politics with a different eye. He addressed people as brother and sisters. He espoused "People's Power No Dictator!" He fought for change, to remove the dictatorship of Forbes Burnham – not for personal power. He had concluded that unlike the Midas touch, everything that Burnham touched turned to sh-t.

Rodney stated in one of his speeches: “A united working class is the base on which national unity is to be built. It is the working class (including housewives and the unemployed) who suffer most under the corrupt dictatorship. It is the working class which has sacrificed most in the struggle for bread and justice. A working class interpretation must win over the progressive elements of other classes and strata.”

The WPA indeed elevated the consciousness and debates, and changed the dynamics in the political landscape even at considerable sacrifice, including beatings, incarceration and killings of its members and supporters.

Sadly today some of the former WPA members have found another kind of vision and touch that are resulting in blood. Some have adopted recklessness in national debates. Others are engaged in grotesque dalliance with the PNC, which is seen as a “… betrayal of Walter Rodney's memory?”

Those few Rodneyites, who still believe in the WPA, delude themselves. Clement Rohee aptly summarizes the status quo: “… [the WPA] organization is virtually disintegrated with its key members absorbed in the realm of academia, or in the ranks of organizations such as ACDA, the PNC and NGOs, while others have simply vanished into the political wilderness.”

This spoilage and atrophy happened almost immediately after Walter Rodney was killed in 1980. And even the emergence of the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy (PPP/WPA/DLM) in 1985 showed its divergence from its initial intent when members of the WPA undermined progressive innovations of the PCD.

Many WPA members joined ACDA (including Clive Thomas and Tacuma Ogunseye) and engaged not only in cultural activities but also embraced the path of Black Nationalism (neo-PanAfricanism) that seems to be pervading the Caribbean. A one time brave WPA man, who shared the podium many times with Rodney and suffered jail term under the PNC, has nowadays become a close cohort with the same party that allegedly was responsible for the demise of Rodney, sharing another venue at the Square of the Revolution.

David Hinds and others (Rodneyites in my opinion, but also with the Black Nationalism philosophy) conduct an annual meeting in Binghamton, New York to commemorate Rodney’s memory.

Almost 100% of participants are black intellectuals. This annual conference, like others of its kind, is in contradiction to the teachings and politics of Walter Rodney (at least while he was in his homeland Guyana). The departure from the stated politics for all the people in Guyana, as opposed to the obvious polarizing stance, negates the “united working class” position that Rodney championed.

Rodney was obviously betrayed in Guyana soon after his death; clearly he is being betrayed now. Many WPA people have become racists. Ironically, Rodney’s name is manipulated and usurped to give legitimacy and credibility to people, organizations and causes.

Within a few years a significant lot has gone seriously wrong, and very quickly.

Because of the ethnic polarizing politics, Guyana is undergoing chaotic volatility in terms of violence. Tacuma Ogunseye, former WPA member turned Black Nationalist, openly advocates for the “armed African resistance fighters” and the “Freedom Fighters”; this in spite of progressive measures by the government and clear and transparent democracy. There are other issues involved but violence is eating the heart and soul of the nation as is currently seen also in the nation of East Timor.

Like Walter Rodney, Cheddi Jagan, many years before, pointed out: “In multi-ethnic societies like Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, it is necessary to fight against racist ideology and racial stereotypes which were created and fostered by the capitalist-colonialist ruling class, and later exploited by self-serving politicians. It must be recognized that whatever our racial origin, we have a common heritage. Our forefathers, regardless of ethnic, religious and cultural differences, watered the sugar cane with their blood, sweat and tears.”

What Guyana needs right now is objective introspection and a radical cathartic expectoration; to push-start a new debate on its historiography; to wake up from the slumber and to eradicate the metastasized malignancy.

This month marks two important moments in Guyana’s history – the Enmore Martyrs and the assassination of the great Walter Rodney. Guyanese need to re-kindle the red glowing spirits of the Martyrs and Walter. Guyanese must start believing in their future as a nation again, lest Guyana is catalogued as a failed state.

– by Gary Girdhari

Gassing up for highway robbery
Guyana Journal, May 2006

Everyone is feeling the crunch at the gas pumps. Those who use their vehicles on daily commute to their jobs or to school are especially hard hit. Small businesses (farmers, manufacturing and trucking) also are challenged with the escalating price for fuel. But here the high cost is sometimes passed on to the end-users – the consumers. There appears no end in sight in our heavily energy dependent culture.

The writing has been on the wall for a while now. And politicians who have not been listening to the pleas of their constituents are tone deaf to what is happening under their stuffed up noses. No wonder the public have such a stinking distaste for them!

Why such high price that are figuratively killing the consumers? Of course the politicians and some analytical gurus point their fingers at OPEC and Iraq – “gas prices [are] high because of global supply and demand”. That’s the quick emotive answer – blame them for our problem. And Venezuela’s Chavez offer of cheap oil for the poor – blame him too and shrug him off. When some people recently voted to boycott gas stations, one gas station owner lamented that he only makes a few measly cents on the sale of gas.

On a recent long trip I chose to use Amtrak instead of driving because of the high gas price which I may have to endure in the future (since Amtrak was notorious for its excessive delays and deplorable lavatory conditions).

Driving around New York City boroughs shows a wide range of prices, from $3.05 to $3.40. This alone suggests a degree of price gouging. Surprisingly New Jersey prices ($2.91 to $3.11) are not better than the lowest price in New York City especially when one notes that the gas tax in NJ is 14.4 cents per gallon compared to 49.5 cents in NY. (Note there is an additional Federal tax of 18.5 cents per gallon. Figures as of 05/14/2006.)

Still nobody is owning up to the seriousness of the issues at hand. Why is the blame placed on foreign oil shortage when there is obviously no shortage at the pump? Why should consumers suffer so much when at the same time the declared profits of the big oil companies run into billions of dollars? Exxon disclosed the biggest profit of $36 billion. Exxon’s boss Lee Raymond was given a huge retirement package of nearly $400 million, one of the largest in history. The profit approximates 32 percent increase in earnings over the previous year. Shell reported net income of 68%, equivalent to $9 billion more. BP had an increase of 38 percent, about $6.5 billion profit. ConocoPhillips showed a 56 percent increase, $3.8 billion profit. And ChevronTexaco approximates 53% higher earnings of $3.9 billion. (Reuters)

The Consumer Federation of America observed: “Well over half of the increase in profits has come not from crude oil, but from profits on domestic U.S. refining and marketing.”

So while corporatism flourishes in the midst of misery that is causing families to regularly juggle their household budgets from pay check to pay check nothing is done to ward off or ease the burden.

The oil companies boldly and unashamedly defend their disproportionate and soaring profits without offering any reprieve or restraint.

Some people are planning boycotts. While this may be the most effective form of passive resistance there is no solidarity and cohesiveness in this approach. Some states are suggesting lowering the gas tax or having a temporary tax holiday until some effective legal and economic mechanism can be worked out; but this is still at the debate stage. Washington DC has reportedly appropriated $60 million to run government vehicles. It is difficult to figure out whether Mr. Bill Frist’s offer of $100 to consumer is dumber than this inequitable measure.

Is there any Federal and/or State plan to offset the summer fuel costs and the winter heating costs? So far there is only talk – a paralysis of ideas. Reducing gas taxes does not find favor among governors. The only good thing about it all is that there is some interest in alternative energy.

The status: stay and suffer. No one is budging. Prices continue upward. It is therefore up to the consumers to use their tactical purchasing power and their ballot to influence meaningful changes in their favor.

– By Gary Girdhari

Immigration Reform Should be Given a Chance
Guyana Journal, April 2006

No sensible person, American or otherwise, is really against immigration, that is, legal immigration. But many people are not happy with illegal immigration, especially the wholesale, unregulated influx that is presently the case. Those in favor certainly have their own agendas, and these are countless, whatever they may be – secret, mercenary, selfish, political, human rights advocacy, Hispanicization of the US, reclaiming of former territories, globalization of the economy so that labor and capital (and perhaps drugs) can move freely, creating opportunities for the repatriation of US dollars to the illegal immigrants’ countries of origin so as to sustain their economies and immediate families of the illegal immigrants, and a host of others.

From a labor economics perspective, immigration, even a small amount of illegal immigration is a good stimulant for an economy, just as a vaccine is good for the good health of a body.

But illegal immigration has been allowed a free rein over the past decade or so, not because it was good, but because of partisan politics and political myopia of both democrats and republicans. Suddenly now they have become aware of a monster.

The problem now facing policy makers is how to control this monster, and, at the same time, maintain a level of (legal and perhaps illegal) immigration that would insure a net benefit to the economy without hurting the average American. (At least it must appear so on paper.) And an equally pressing problem is, if, and when a legalization program is agreed upon, how do the authorities, in trying to implement that program, avoid the corruption such as was allegedly associated with the LULAC program in which thousands of people (allegedly) illegitimately obtained documentation showing that they were residing in the country for X number of years. A myriad of other problems shoot up. Would these new residents join the line alongside others who have been patiently and orderly waiting their turn for legalization or would they be at the back of the line?

Other unanticipated problems include how to diplomatically and delicately deal with the sudden surge of street demonstrations, some of which arguably come very close to treason, e.g., the hoisting of the Mexican flag on US property. Had any other group done this, would they have gotten off so lightly?

Laying heavy fines on employers of illegal immigrants is not the solution. Employers will continue to employ illegal immigrants and find ways and means to evade these fines, not to mention the near impossible task of the INS and Homeland Security, whose personnel and budgets are already stretched thin, of finding and fining the hundreds of thousands of employers who employ from single to triple digits immigrants.

But one thing is very clear. Since many people in the US are not against immigration, they must be careful that their support is not construed as being in favor of any biased immigration scheme where one particular group enjoys more rights or privileges than others. They need to watch for hidden agendas and ask who benefits or seeks to benefit either politically or economically from any legalization program – a person, a small group, or the American people? They need to be wary of the motives of politicians who have avoided this issue like the plague for decades and are now showing keen interest in it. Usually when a leader’s popularity remains chronically low, despite attempts to boost it, he resorts to appealing to people’s sense of value, nationalism, God, and other issues on which there is widespread consensus.

Because Americans today cannot compete with foreigners for the high paying and high professional jobs, and cannot compete with foreigners for the low paying jobs either, they must, whether they like it or not, derive a sensible and orderly immigration policy.

Like any other immigrant, I am in favor of legalizing undocumented aliens who have paid taxes for three years and more, starting with those who have been here ten years and more, then the next wave for those five years and more. This way there is an orderly, chronological queue. But my support is not a blanket one. I believe a quota system, according to geographical regions, should be put in place. Immigrants should also pass a simple health, sanity and language test – just as European immigrants were originally subjected to at Ellis Island, and all other immigrants worldwide have to presently go through. Furthermore, I believe each state or county should be able to have a say in the number of illegal immigrants they can safely carry or throw on the backs of their legitimate taxpayers. The bill of $200 billion on the backs of taxpayers is overburdening, not to mention the hundreds of billions more taxpayers have to pay for trying to establish our concept of democracy in foreign theocracies and ‘mullahcracies’.

We have to be careful that any carte blanche support for President Bush’s “guest worker program” does not backfire on us like the way the Democrats supported the invasion of Iraq, and when the situation backfired, they turned around and said they were “misled” by Bush. Today, the Bush solution of globalizing “democracy” has turned out to be not the solution, but the problem in Iraq. Likewise Bush’s “guest worker’ proposal is backfiring. We have to be careful that our support does not turn out to be more “political capital” to the President, or a license for him to purse hidden agendas.

I am of the opinion that all illegal immigrants should be issued identification cards and tax identification numbers. Apart from security reasons, it insures that they can be tracked to their employers, and their history of employment and tax payment as well as their length of stay in the country can be verified. This way there can be no question regarding their position in line for legalization. Also, their employers should provide basic coverage in case of industrial injuries.

Community precincts should also take steps to discourage large (employment exchange type) gatherings where immigrants ‘garbage’ indiscriminately, consume alcohol openly and behave boisterously. Two years ago one such person froze to death while drunk near my home in Queens, at an ad hoc employment exchange.

Their places of employment, particularly where they handle food, fruits and vegetables, should be regularly inspected by the Department of Health, like any other place. My wife got sick twice after eating salad from salad bars in the Manhattan. With tuberculosis and so many other diseases rampant I have become wary of inhabiting fast food joints, and the picture of the guy peeing in the dough at a bakery is still vivid in my mind.

Generally, the majority of illegal immigrants are hard working people; they do a lot of the jobs most Americans shun – the menial, low skilled, low paying indentured and slave-type jobs, even though some are highly qualified, some working as much as eighteen hours a day, many at two or three jobs. I, myself, recall doing two jobs, one being as a construction laborer, while attending graduate school full-time almost twenty years ago. One Egyptian gentleman I met has a PhD in engineering and was driving taxi. Another Guyanese with a PhD in biology was working in a warehouse. These are just common experiences of almost every immigrant who come to the US with a dream.

They come here, and will continue to come, documented or undocumented, as long as Lady Liberty continues to be a beacon to the tired, the poor and the huddled masses of the world because, despite all its hypocrisies and short-comings, the United States of America, with its mix of political freedoms and capitalist economic system, still offers better opportunities for millions stifled, stymied and oppressed by political, economic and social circumstances in their homelands.

– By Gokarran Sukhdeo

All are Involved. All Woven Together
Guyana Journal
March 2006

There was a brief statement in Stabroek News (March 5 2006): "I condemn the murder of Ronald Waddell. This assassination is an attack against democracy which cannot function properly without respect for the basic human right of freedom of expression and its corollary, freedom of the press." – Director-General [Koichiro Matsuura] UNESCO.

(UNESCO is the only United Nations agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom.)

Any decent and ‘civilized’ person should condemn murder, not only because it is simply wrong to kill another person, but also because it suggests decadence in philosophical maturity and stultification in humanizing development – a degeneracy of a culture.

The UNESCO statement falls fully in tune with Western/European concepts and culture. “Freedom of expression and freedom of the press” is indeed the hallmark and pillar of Western democracy (and the fourth estate has evolved into the watchdog of such derived liberty) that is cherished, so much so that many have sought this liberty and/or died for it.

Against this desideratum one can examine the recent widespread volatile eruptions by Muslims consequent on the publication of the satirical cartoons lampooning Prophet Mohammed in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

Freedom of expression and the free press are necessary for the maintenance of a free society. But as Royston King (Stabroek News, February 24 2006) reasons: “Not because the media have a right to report on an issue they should do so, or insist on doing so, even when that issue threatens the stability and security of society.” The two statements are not mutually exclusive, but surge into an area that is highly contentious, tenuous and debatable – even in the best circles and with the best motives.

At the best of times and at the worst of times this cherished freedom should be measured against societal norms – individualistic and collective – in time and space, bearing in mind that some values are so well formed and molded into a culture (and identity) that they become non-negotiable. The values may be different and accepted as an article of faith (as in religion) and thus the media as the steward for the onerous task of guarding liberty must also be vigilant “to the need for [themselves] to be sensitive to the cultural dynamics of the environment in which they work.”

In this respect alone Koichiro Matsuura’s comment is insufficient to the issue of Waddell’s death. Mr. Waddell’s death is not just about a murder (which the Director-General rightly condemned); it’s also about Waddell, the journalist, and about the role of the media (his medium of television) in the Guyana context where Waddell was ‘evangelizing’ political propaganda.

In Guyana a few individuals have been using their various talents and standing to speak out, albeit dangerously so, on matters of race, and proffering a case for Africans being “maligned, marginalized and discriminated”, in a manner that is believed by some to be inflammatory, and which may lead to or exacerbate conflict in the country. Calling for “mo fire”, referring to murdering criminals as “freedom fighters”, and writing about a cycle of racial (African) oppression by Indians, are but three examples; and there are many more! Sympathizers lend support to the proponents of the perceived “wretched” in Guyana in occasional letters to editors. Waddell is being described as one who spoke the “unpalatable truth” and some see Waddell as a hero and another “fighter for freedom” comparing him to Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. and Walter Rodney!

The opposing views follow the similar well-trodden pattern, i.e., along racial lines. Whatever may be the merits or demerits of Waddell’s modus operandi it is clear to me that the methodology employed – direct and between the lines – signals confrontational political dialogue that is further polarizing the Indians and Africans, and aggravating tensions. Such was the language in Rwanda! The radio station ‘Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines’ was a tool to instigate conflict. The “hate radio… systematically laid the groundwork for mass slaughter from the moment it was licensed in July 1993. It also helped facilitate the genocide.” (See Media in Conflict: Case Study – Rwanda.>> )

The history of racial conflict in Guyana has always been prompted by ethnic and political mobilizers. The February 23 jailbreak by “freedom fighters’ has been the starting point of the current spate of violence. The violence appeared to be racial in nature, initially. Then there were copycat crimes. At different times there were no apparent racial or political motives, but rather is reported as being due to business going sour – drugs, turf wars, money laundering, kidnapping. Now it is getting out of control, in the sense that the criminals are able to control highways, and the police are cowed into passivity. En passant some criminals are reportedly aided and abetted by rogue police and army soldiers.

These virulent deadly activities are doing untold harm to the country – in slowing progress in all spheres of the economy, tourism, and in the personal security of the people. Massive plans for tourism and world cup cricket is being seriously threatened. Some have even described the country as a “failed state”.

Who is speaking out against this new trend of violence and terror that started since 1998 and got momentum in February 23, 2002? Some politicians and organizations are mum, presumably to their satisfaction and for political mileage. Oftentimes when a monster is created it can and do get out of control!

In the final analysis it is primarily the government’s duty to secure the nation and protect its people. If the government fails (as the accusatory finger points) citizens will leave in large numbers; others may form vigilante groups; and this can potentially lead to more civil strife. There must be immediate relief, especially considering the coming elections...

The question that weighs heavily: Is it worth eroding one’s fundamental rights for the benefit of one’s safety in a “terror” free society? It is not a case of denial of dissent. For now I have to agree with Charles Kingsley: “There are two freedoms - the false, where a man is free to do what he likes [rights without responsibility]; the true, where he is free to do what he ought, [rights with conscious and responsibility]” and Louis D. Brandeis: “The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”

Mr. Koichiro Matsuura’s observation is generally true, but should be modulated in limited degrees according to specific circumstances.

To some Waddell might be perceived as their voice; to others he was seen as a dangerous agent provacateur. Journalists are not just talking heads. They ought to assume responsibility for the consequences of their work. The media have to be vigilant in speaking out, but must also show restraint in certain matters of security, individual privacy and sensitivity. It’s a judgment call after all. We may heed Herbert Spencer, an English evolutionary philosopher, who said, "Liberty of each, limited by the like liberties of all, is the rule in conformity with which society must be organized."

– Gary Girdhari

Gibson’s Obsession Not Mere Chicanery
GuyanaJournal, February 2006

There is nothing more irksome than hearing or reading something you passionately believe in – something you have been advocating for years – cynically appropriated by someone who clearly doesn't mean it, who mocks and disparages it, to disguise it with a slant for personal destructive agenda.

Dr. Kean Gibson’s newest book Sacred Duty: Hinduism and Violence in Guyana prompted me to look again into her previous The Cycle of Racial Oppression in Guyana. The Cycle of Racial Oppression in Guyana created quite a stir – many Indians in Guyana were clearly upset. But Gibson is not moved by any criticism. She continues her writing in the same vein: The Dualism of Good and Evil and East Indian Insecurity in Guyana by Kean Gibson, Journal of Black Studies. 2006; 36: 362-381. Her creative and academic pursuit presumably is invigorated by the banal commentaries from some black commentators.

Clarence Ellis writes: “[I] really cannot understand what all the fuss is about. Dr. Gibson is very brave to express what many Black people feel…” and who also supports Gibson’s generalized contention, thus: “The East Indian leadership is not flinching from its pursuit of racial dominance.” How trite!

On the other hand detractors of the book vehemently object. Freddie Kissoon was trenchant: “Ms. Gibson’s book is an invidious, insidious, conspiratorial, vicious apology for the perpetrators of a post-1997 regime of violence.”

Now Dr. Gibson can claim preferred status among close-minded black elites. She may clamor for ‘divine right’ to the “house that Africans built” in Guyana.

Reading The Cycle of Racial Oppression in Guyana for a second time was one of my most painful cerebral experiences. Intellectually I had to force a steady equanimity of my faculties. Why? Part of the reason is not only the content that preaches conflict and discord, but also because of the methodology and style that pass for intellectualism. The format belies its inadequacies of academic reference sources, i.e., excessive hearsay and anecdotals. It is a sad commentary of what passes for and is accepted as intellectual/academic discourse! Quoting a few academic authorities and philosophers such as Mills and Webber, Kant and Fanon does not make one an academic, but numerous hearsay references to solidify, justify and conclude a position is most certainly not a sign of intellectualism. For this Dr. Kean Gibson, Lecturer in Linguistics, should be sanctioned.

The Cycle of Racial Oppression in Guyana (I have not read the other) should not therefore be classified as an academic work. Here are two statements in her book: “…Hinduism – a religion that sanctifies racism…” “In the march 2001 general elections…the African-dominated People’s National Congress (PNC) was the only [my emphasis] political party with an economic development plan and a vision for Guyana;”

Here is another resounding unscientific statement from an academic: “… many East Indians became wealthy during the era of the PNC.” And there are many unscholarly references cited.

She often appears to be like a conspiracy theorist. At times her writing may be classified as inflammatory and racially incendiary, as for example, “[African] killings by the TSS are similar in function to the lynchings by the Klu Klux Klan in the United States. But the attempt at systematic decimation is more Nazi in character.”

Her general thesis for oppression is generally true – for all oppressed peoples – but she makes it appear that only one group of the Guyanese people fit that defined mold. She writes with many truths and many more half truths. There are also spurious claims that tend to falsify history: “Thus East Indians greater success in the rural areas vis-a vis the African villages was attributed to their great intellectual ability, their cultural values that encouraged thrift and industry. The East Indians naturally preferred a rural existence…” And she poses these as indisputable truths.

Her statement that “Africans as the most deserving to assume the reins of power… since they made the most fundamental contribution to the development of Guyana” is reminiscent of Tom Dalgetty’s reference to Guyana as the “house that African built”. Her emphasis is thus excessively parochial.

No one can deny the contributions of Africans. But it appears that the contributions of others are negated. Gibson must learn, understand and accept that the world moves forward; that history is not static; that there are many epiphenomena during the course of human history; and thus also we all have to accept epochalism as a matter of fact – not negating the truths, but coming to terms with them, and move forward. Otherwise, the New World as it exists today would have to revert to its pre-Columbian form. Wouldn’t that be absurd?

Her understanding of politics of race is overly simplistic. Her digression appears to be very superficial and sometimes contradictory. For example: “Hinduism allows utmost freedom of thought – one is free to choose the material side or spiritual side of life or both, and all are treated with equal respect. It is an ideology, therefore, which not only gives free rein to our instinct of self-preservation, but it is an ideology where selfishness is rewarded.” [my emphasis] The mind boggles at these conclusions!

Similarly, unreferenced and false or unproved statements abound:

“Jagan’s desire was to rule Africans,”; “The draft [1962] constitution provided for one-party rule…”; “…the agenda of the PPP has been one of domination and destruction of African people which the caste system of Hindu ideology legitimizes.”

Is it not strange that she also characterizes the PPP as “communist”, which analyzes society in terms of class, and not by race or religion. If she would take the time to read carefully the position as set out by the PPP leader Cheddi Jagan, she may arrive at an equitable, rational and dispassionate judgment.

I do not speak for the PPP, but her remarks and interpretations are antithetical to Dr. Jagan’s philosophy and vision. Jagan said:

A national cultural policy would have to recognize both class and ethnic factors as important in the shaping of the Guyanese consciousness. There is no need to strain out one set of factors from the others, except for the purpose of analysis.

It would be useful in relation to the articulation of a national cultural policy that will promote multiculturalism, to conceive of Guyana as a culturally rich mosaic, remembering that a mosaic is a pattern, a whole that integrates and transcends the constituent elements.

Our internal diversity is only part of our story. After all, each ethnic group has been shaped as well by its interaction with other groups, and with the past that all Guyanese have played a part in shaping. We are no longer Indians or Africans, Portuguese or Chinese, Amerindians or Europeans. We are Guyanese – a distinct people and a particular nation.”

East Indians (and Hinduism) have given the world many values (as indeed other cultures and religion have). The universal greeting – simple yet profound – Namaste, is worth pondering:

"I honor the place in you where Spirit lives
I honor the place in you which is
of Love, of Truth, of Light, of Peace.
when you are in that place in you
and I am in that place in me
then we are One."

One should not denigrate any religion and or be insensitive to religious and cultural practices. (Note the current uproar in response to the insensitive cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed.)

The Cycle of Racial Oppression in Guyana by Kean Gibson was published by the University Press of America that touts it “proudly serving the scholarly community”. The book in my opinion detracts credibility from the author. It would appear that the author is attempting to fulfill preconceived irrational views in blind conformity with ethnic/tribal polarized methodology such as occurred in Rwanda. She fits into the classic mold of the ethnic entrepreneurs and outbidders schema. This is dangerous.

The problem is however not the credentials of Gibson, but it look as if she is driven by other ulterior motives. This is not scholarship that can pass peer review. This is twisted and distorted logic that deceives scientific methodology. Further it does not augur well for Guyana with its plural society suffused with issues of race.

… like a root
stopped by a stone you turn back questioning
the tree you feed. But what the leaves hear is not
what the root ask.

These terse lines of Martin Carter hold much truth and are worthy of careful and intense consideration.

Caveat emptor!

By Gary Girdhari

Rights without Responsibilities
You are not entitled to do as you please
January 2006
by Gary Girdhari

We human beings, once we get a toehold on anything, inflate our ego with an uncanny and false sense that we have become (or are) specially entitled. “We came. We saw. Then we plunder.” We become titled; and no one can stand in the way. In so doing we destroy that which give sustenance. We pollute without even considering the aftermath of our actions.

The dams are cut to satisfy our special favor. We eat and drink from styrofoam and our daily new appendage is the plastic bag, plastic cups, spoons, plates, and various kinds of utensils – all non-biodegradable. And on top of all we discard (not re-use) these any and everywhere, as though it is always someone else’s job to clean up the mess.

Then one day our collective garbage build up on sidewalks, parapets, trenches and canals. It now encourages new habitats for new flora and fauna that change the landscape. The water remains stagnant and a slow stench greets us from early morning. Mosquitoes are now more brazen because they are stronger and they derive strength in large numbers.

Because of the overgrowth and obstructive garbage we cannot (do not want to) see the water building up. Sludge breeds more sludge.

In our daily movement to and from work we hop or jump-skip over rising water. Sometimes we purchase long Wellingtons so that we don’t have to exert any energy to jump. Those who can’t afford Wellingtons or who are too lazy to jump would place any old plank of wood or slabs of stones. Children like to play in the water and we feel it is fun – until they get hookworms, skin rashes or lepto. Then the clouds get dark. And before you can find your Wellingtons it becomes a huge flood. The furniture on the ground floor is damaged; the poultry and domestic animals die. Vegetable gardens perish. Large scale rice production is affected, and rice farmer livelihood is destroyed. All of us – the mayor, store owner, the fast food outlet, the homeowner, the farmer, the politician – assume the posture of the thinker and wonder, and wonder. And when their grey cells refuse to stop them wondering, they began to use another part of the anatomy, the one nearest to the opposable thumb, and move it toward any one present, not realizing that the other three fingers are pointing back to them.

Obviously those who are hurt most are the first to wake up to make their voice heard. The reporters and the cameramen (also with their new imported Wellingtons) are everywhere to show everyone what is happening, not realizing that everyone already knows. The President, not to be left out from the Wellington parade, joins in for photo-op and occasionally takes a break in a ballahoo. The mayor as usual is still in the thinker posture. He somnambulates most of the time. He saves his energy for the right moment when he has to join the catwalk in his Wellingtons by avoiding vocal exertion.

The rain eases up. Wellingtons are dried and stored for another rainy day. Index fingers are less taut. “Give me another plastic bag; double it. This one is not strong to put in four Styrofoam boxes of fried chicken… Thank you very much. Later!” Meanwhile Sony and his family had just finished their delicious meal. “Don’t bother take it home. Just open the car window and throw it out. Yes, the Styrofoam box, the cups and everything. I don’t want to keep anything to mess up and smell up me car.”

How is it that we are getting so callous and indifferent to our own surrounding? Why is it we always seem to be developing a Lamarkian tendency to point the finger? At the time we seem to be looking for quick fixes (which is certainly necessary) without taking a long prospective view, a holistic approach involving all who own Wellingtons. It is everybody’s business.

Warning: “You cannot, should not, will not do as you please – not on my doorstep, not even on your own doorstep. If you do, you will be charged and fined according to the law. And if need be we will change the law to do so.”

Does anyone have a problem with this? I doubt it.

No. You are not entitled to do as you please, even if you see them do it in America! My right and your right to do as we please must be balanced against the well being of others and the common good of the community at large.

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