Guyana will only survive if we take our stories back from the people who have weaponized them. These people act stupid but they know the value of a story and they use our stories to serve themselves.
My nana was a cane-cutter at the Diamond Estate for much of his life. For many years, my nani sold our farm produce at Bourda Market. My mamoos and their sisters were never really young. They grew up on back-breaking work. By the time I was born, this story was already a weapon used to breed a perverted sort of loyalty based on insecurity and fear.
We all have similar stories. No matter our skin colour or hair texture. No matter how rich our family is now or if we come from Buxton, Rupununi, Essequibo Coast, Bartica or Leguan. Our stories begin to repeat themselves and they are the veins which give Guyana life.
As we approach our 53rd Independence Anniversary, I find myself dwelling more and more on how our stories have been used against us. Our families went hungry and sweated day after day to educate us. And what did we do with our education? Some of us told stories to rip the nation apart. And no matter how bright Guyana’s future may look now (with the promise of big money from oil), our future will never be truly secure until we stop burning ourselves from the inside out.
If you’ve ever been to a cremation at Kashi Dam, Ruimzeight, you will know the bitter-sweet flavor of the place. The sun beats down on your skin scorching it, but somehow you don’t feel anything. You take a couple deep breaths of the clean ocean air and try to steady yourself. But you can’t steady yourself because your heart is heavy or you feel the sadness all around you and it seeps into the deepest part of your being. This is how I feel tonight.
Ten years ago when we cremated my nana, my chest was heavy. A few years ago when we cremated my Bee-bee, I was lost. A few Junes ago when we cremated my father, I held back the tears until I saw the flames cover his body and then I screamed as if the entire world had torn. Our leaders, across the political spectrum, have inspired feelings like this many times. Sometimes, I think that every time they misuse one of our stories, they throw one more piece of wood on Guyana’s pyre.
It’s not that I am not excited about the possibilities our future offers. It’s not that I don’t have things of which I am proud. If I were not proud of Guyana and Guyanese, then I would not care as much as I do about where we are going. But for right now, it is hard for me to see the silver lining when all I can think of is whether we will survive.
Where is Guyana going? What is our story today? Is it still the same story of the 60s? These are the questions that weigh on my mind tonight. If we listen to the stories we are told today, they sound like the same stories from decades ago. It’s like our story is stuck on repeat at a very bad chapter.
Until we begin to tell our own stories, we will all be at the mercy of those who manipulate us through them. Your responsibility today is to tell them #ItIsMyStory. Take back your stories by telling them yourself.
This article contains the personal views of the author and is in no way connected with any institution or group with which she may be affiliated.
A note from the Author:
Given the custom by party loyalists to misrepresent and misuse any type of political commentary to support their own positions, I feel that it is necessary to borrow the following from Thomas Paine (an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary) with whose work I became acquainted as a student of History at the University of Guyana:
Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the Object for Attention is the Doctrine itself, not the Woman. Yet it may not be unnecessary to say, That she is unconnected with any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or private, but the influence of reason and principle.
Craig Village, East Bank Demerara, May 25, 2019
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