Not Just Prayer, but a Complete Cultural and Moral Revolution

Re-introducing prayers in schools is a good start, yes. But it’s like giving a drop of water to a person dying of thirst, or putting a band-aid to an open heart surgery. And when all the political correctness is added in and the religion subtracted, we would end up with a prayer to an unknown god like that of the dying atheistic soldier who prayed, "Oh God, if there is a god, save my soul, if I have a soul." God does not like to be addressed in unknown terms.

What we need is a complete cultural and moral revolution of the type agrarian societies like the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), China, Singapore and many Asiatic countries have experienced and which they had determined to be an antecedent and a prerequisite to any economic and industrial take-off.

Today these economies are experiencing consistent double figure growth rates that put to shame the economies of the west. Much we know about Japan, a country vanquished and destroyed in WW II, but rose from the ashes to rival the US in industrialization – all within a generation. And almost all of Japan's natural resources have to be imported. Take China. It is estimated that China's GDP will equal or surpass that of the US by 2010. How about the DPRK? This country came out from a war that destroyed its economy, and within half a generation it became a nuclear power. (Note: the DPRK has been known to possess nuclear technology since the late eighties, and nuclear weaponry since 1991.) Now we go to the darling of Asia – Singapore. In 1965 Singapore ranked with, not the poorest, but probably the second poorest nations on earth. Today, a generation later its per capita income is higher than its erstwhile colonizer, Great Britain. It has the world's busiest port, is the third largest oil refiner and a major center of global manufacturing and service industries. And don't forget India. (Talking about growth rate, have you seen how the Indian film stars today are at least six inches taller than those born in colonial times?) Today India leads the US in computer technology. Indians in the US enjoy a per capita income that greatly exceeds the average American. They dominate every hospital, can be seen in executive positions in every corporation, are professors in most universities, they are the brains behind Bill Gates, and some even hold top positions at NASA.

The Asians have a cultural (?) trait: whatever they do they carry it to the nth degree. But most importantly, the people of Asia have learned what the west (and Guyana) is still to realize – that the viciousness of wars devastates economies and population, and nobody wins; that tribal and racial conflicts breed lasting hatreds that carry over to second and third generations; that while peace begins from within the individual, the environment for it has to be created by the government

What then should we in Guyana do? We need, not dreamers, but visionary leaders who see and plan for a generation ahead. Men who would emulate the likes of Mao Tse Tung, Mohandas Gandhi, Kim Il Sung, and the still going Lee Kuan Yew.

For a start, bring back a restructured national service, this time not with militarization as its primary focus but agricultural development, the main aim being peasant farming and cottage production with each recruit allotted a five-acre plot to do intensive agriculture. On each plot the cadet will have a few livestock. If cows, then the farm should have an acre under antelope grass. The manure from the livestock would be fed into a biogas digestor to produce cooking gas and lights for each household, (saving foreign exchange). The manure from the digestor would fertilize fields for bhagi and ochro (no marijuana, as per pre-arranged lease agreement). The vegetables and secondary processed foods like pepper sauce would be exported to New York, and the pigs to Barbados, generating more foreign currency.

The land? I propose converting all the marginal cane fields bordering the East Coast villages. Using these lands would be killing a number of birds with the same stone. To begin, the productivity of these lands (tons of cane per acre) has always been low since they are used a lot for grazing livestock and hiding bandits. GUYSUCO might even find it profitable to surrender these lands. The cost of implementing the project cannot be great since the lands are already cleared, irrigated and laid out. Roads and electricity may be installed later, after the project is implemented which should only take three to six months to get going. No immediate financing for the project? No problem. The Central Bank could sell short to medium term Agriculture Development Bonds. Tenure of lands would be under a five-year lease with agreement that the farm shows consistent productivity. Three consecutive failures to show productivity terminate the lease. At the end of five consecutive productive periods, the leaseholder is granted a title to the land.

As can be seen, all government departments (except the police and army) are involved in this project. Moreover, the PNC/R (as they claim), I believe, already has the rudiments of a plan that can be incorporated in it. Thus, we have multi-partite participation – that is, if the PPP/C will buy into it. I believe the possibilities for peace and development are limitless should we undertake this project and I am willing to render my services free to help implement it. I believe I may even persuade a few of my qualified colleagues in the US to help, too. Of course, if this is a plan for certain people, then those people must participate fully in the planning and implementation processes. Any perception portrayed that the project is being foisted upon them is flirting with failure. The cadets will be trained to protect themselves, which most already know to do, only lacking in discipline.

We need to put back dignity in labor and in depressed communities. I, like the classical economists, believe that the earth is the source of true wealth, and from mother earth honest values derive. I believe the institution of family automatically accompanies peasantry, and from the family further values of social behavior are inculcated. I believe we belong to the earth, and should not behave like it belongs to us. Let us not follow the road to Rwanda but the signs to Singapore. I believe Guyana, now more than ever before, is at the threshold of either a glorious future or an ignominious failure. If we fail to take the great opportunities presented, we may well see "more fires" developing into "explosions."*

In a subsequent letter I will deal more with the cultural and moral revolution I originally set out to write about. I will show why globalization, a threat to national and cultural identity, is nothing but the imposition of western non-values, and an intensification of corporate exploitation, and why we, a people of eastern and African extraction would find the Asiatic models more suitable. I will show how the western concept of human rights, currently defined along the lines of US constitutionality, is inappropriate to countries with indigenous cultures. I will also show that it is both axiomatic and historical that certain "rights", liberties and privileges have to be exchanged at times, for security and the common good of the whole. I will dwell on the roles the school, religion and sports can play in re-uniting the races. Enough has been said by too many about power sharing. I believe they are all putting the cart before the horse. The objective and subjective conditions must first be ripe for this to happen. I believe this will automatically and neatly fall in place once the right conditions exist.

We may pray to Allah, but we still need to tie our camels.

– By Gowkarran Sukhdeo

* Note: reference to more fires and explosions; the latter a word used three times in one paragraph of Robert Corbin's inaugural speech.


The PNC is not Comfortable with Dialogue

Mr. F. Skinner of Dallas, Texas and many others have, over the weeks, appealed for a breath of fresh air in the leadership of the PNC. While several people have called for Bernard and Trotman, I cannot recall anyone lobbying for Corbin. I know there is a great feeling of expectancy and optimism over the appointment of the new leader of the PNC.

And rightly so, for I believe no other event in the post-colonial history of Guyana is of greater significance in terms of deciding whether we live together or die together, whether we sit down and dialogue or grab at each other's jugular, whether we unitedly put our shoulders to the wheel and accept the challenges of the 21st century and accelerate the development of Guyana or tear down bridges and tear up inroads that we have achieved in the past.

Alas! I do not share the optimism of Mr. Skinner, et al. You see, the leadership of the PNC is determined not by popular consensus of the masses; not even by party hierarchy, rather by the covert and overt policies of the party.

In studying their policies I have noted that the PNC has never been comfortable with such tools as parliamentary democracy, national dialogues and peaceful protests as a means of effecting social and political change.

Their demands have always bordered on the unrealistic and ridiculous, with little consideration of national and international effects.

The consequences of their actions have always been greater and more damaging than the flimsy demands that triggered their actions, and every consequent action throws Guyana a little further into the stone age. But even more ridiculous, whenever government seeks to address their concerns, they change or up the demands, so that it is impossible to satisfy them.

I have known Mr. Corbin since I was the Economist at the Ministry of Agriculture in the 80's. I have followed his subtle pronouncements loaded with innuendos. I have noted his propensity towards mob rule and his pushership, not leadership.

I therefore submit that unless the policies of the PNC undergo a radical reform, Corbin is the most qualified candidate for leadership.

By Gowkarran Sukhdeo