As we observe our independence and celebrate our contributions to the world, we are still grappling with the legacy of colonialism. Another of our musical icons, David Rudder, tells us a bitter truth—that we live in a world “that don’t need islands no more.” Our islands once made Europe rich—the root of their wealth lies in our little islands or as Walter Rodney would say, their development is a function of our underdevelopment. So, as we celebrate, we must also reflect on our condition, in all its manifestations. We Caribbean people like to party—for good reason—but we have at all times a duty to engage in a “conscious party.” In other words, we must dance to the rhythm of freedom, for if you are/were bound in captivity, your dance can only be a dance of freedom.
The question before us this independence is, despite our challenges, whether we have done enough to translate our independence into a deliberate quest for freedom. Have we expanded the freedom-space since 1966? Are our people — especially the least among us — freer today than they were in 1966? If socio-economic poverty was the most damning consequence of colonization, what have we done to decrease its grip on our society? What have we done to turn the plantation model into its opposite?
Any fair observer must answer those questions more in the negative that the positive. After fifty-three years of independence, our country still resembles a plantation society. Our former colonial masters still control the drift of our collective motion. But we know enough now to know that that outcome was inevitable. The question is whether we have mustered the collective will to negotiate that inevitability. Again, the answer has to be more a no that a yes. Note, I am not saying that we have not attempted to deal with those inherent maladies, but in the end, we have to conclude that we have not been as persistent and consistent as we should have been.
Yes, our people in Guyana and the wider Caribbean have survived the last six decades—they have, in their native ways, tried to give character and dignity to our independence. They turned plantations into villages and areas of darkness into points of light. Many of us can today lift our gazes to the mountain top, not because of the freedom given to us by some political party or government, but because the people turned themselves into ladders for us to climb.
But even as we made those noble moves, our elites have let us down badly, especially the political elites. We hear the supporters of the various political leaders sing their praises. From Burnham and Jagan to Jagdeo and Granger, we construct these political deities and, in the process, diminish ourselves as an independent people. Not that these men and their governments do not have virtues, but they also have political vices—sometimes these vices were more the rule than the exception.
Their attempts at transformation were outweighed by a propensity for plantation-like dictatorship. I acknowledge all the admirable attempts they made, but in the end our independence is poorer—the price we paid for those positives is too high for a post-plantation society to pay. They all—all of them—ended up loving power more than using power to free our society from what the Kwayanas call “the scars of bondage.” I know that I am offending my Jaganite and Burhamite friends, but the other narrative must be told. As Brother Bob Marley again reminds us: “Half the story has never been told.”
I come to the Coalition government. When it came to power in 2015, I said it was best poised to correct the wrongs of the past—to write that other half of the story. Our society has thrown up social formations at different junctures in our history, but as CLR James would argue, those formations have to be conscious of what they represent and must have the capacity to absorb the positive energies that are responsible for their evolution. On the cricket field, we saw that with Frank Worrell, Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards, but not with Brian Lara and Chris Gayle. The latter two did not have the capacity to absorb the energies that made them possible. Hence, while they shone individually, the West Indian light rapidly faded.
I am afraid that if the Granger government did not have to an appreciation of its historical calling. Vision matters. A sense of your government’s place in the historical trajectory of the society matters. I observe the elected leaderships and I see little sign of a willingness to engage history; to engage the present as the past and the future.
More of Dr. Hinds’ commentaries can be found on his website guyanacaribbeanpolitics.news and on his Facebook page Hinds’Sight. Catch him on F