Remember…We’re all Guyanese

Less than 24 hours ago His Excellency President Donald Ramotar named the big day: May 11, 2015. Campaign material flooded social media almost immediately and, of course, the inter-party battles begun.

Guyanese will be attacking each other in the safety of cyber world with the worst possible weapon: words. But must it really be this way?

Not so long ago, my elderly neighbour collapsed in her home and had to spend a few days in hospital. As soon as she came home again, I rushed over and I made sure I held her close and told her how much she meant to me. I did not want the words to be left unsaid.

Every morning she sits on her veranda watching as the soft sunlight slowly awakens our world. For years, my eyes have always turned upwards looking for her when I walk out my front gate. I cannot imagine our village without her. I cannot imagine becoming this me that I am without her.

Her family and mine will most likely not be voting for the same party in May but this does not lessen my love for this woman. She has a right to freedom of choice; to choose as she pleases.

So today, if any of you are so moved with those passionate emotions that cause us to wield words that inflict deep and lasting wounds, please don’t. I beg you.

Stop and think of someone like her, think of someone different from you, someone who does not share all of your beliefs but still holds a place in your heart. Think of how you still care for them despite this difference.

I am certain that all the people in my house will be voting PPP. I am not sure where my vote will go but I know where it will most certainly not go.

My family is aware of my choice and yet they love me no less. We are a family and we share a bond that cannot be broken by a difference in political preference. And is this not what a nation should be? A family?

So please, please, whether you’re supporting PPP, APNU, AFC or one of the others, I beg you to respect each other’s choice. In the end, isn’t this what we all believe we’re fighting for? For continued freedom? And doesn’t this include the right to freely choose without being hurt for that choice?

Remember, when this is all over we will still live together under the roof of this nation. And when the politicians have settled into the powers that we have given them at the price of our bond with each other, we will be the ones who will struggle to put the pieces back together again. We will be the ones, watching each other try to scrape a living.

It is sad that more often it is only in such times of great misery that we manage to see ourselves in each other and only then realise that beating a man over the head with one truth does not cause him to forget his own truth.

Without Wax,

Bharrat

On Indianness and the PPP Trolls that prowl social media

While I despise the use of an ethnic tag before my nationality, I do not deny my Indian heritage. I do not deny that my great great grandfather Anganou came to British Guiana, broke his back on a sugar plantation and perhaps died at peace in a foreign land that is now home to me. I embrace my heritage, I understand that it is part of who I am and I do not treat it unjustly by making a costume of my Indianness.

I do not forsake my Guyanese identity for an Indian mask. I do not need a mask because my soul has long seized to be a displaced thing. I do not need a mask because I am not torn between allegiance to mystical India and Guyana. I do not need a mask because I am not loyal to any tribe but to a country, a nation, a single people.

It is for this reason that I am deeply disturbed when someone says to me: “I am sure you have some trace of Indian ancestry”. The meaning is clear. I cannot be purely Indian because “pure” Indians do not point out the skullduggery that takes place under a PPP led government; a government that has become the icon of Indian power.

It is with great regret (I say regret because the tribe will feel betrayed) that I inform you I am indeed “pure” Indian. I can trace my Indian ancestry on both sides of the family. More so, I am a Hindu and my family traditionally votes PPP. My nani still tells everyone Jagdeo is a “good boy” and I am still her favourite grandchild even though I do not share her political views. My nana was a cane cutter and then rice farmer. If these things make me entitled to my Indian heritage then entitled I most certainly am.

Now that I’ve cleared up the issue of my “Indianness”, I come to the real reason I’ve abandoned my research to write. I am tired of social media trolls. I am tired of deleting hate filled comments and blocking fake profiles. But more than this, I am tired of the feeling I get when I see a friend request from someone with an Indian name. I am wary of Singhs and Persauds and Rooplalls and Bharrats and Ramcharrans and the likes.

I have been attacked on the premise that I am anti-government. These trolls with the Indian names pose as PPP supporters. Now, I am well aware of the fact that no political party can control the actions of its supporters. There will be unruly souls among any group. Further, it would be ridiculous to think that any sane political party would employ people to harass those it considered in opposition of its views.  I am also aware that these PPP trolls may have been created by idle opposition bodies with the aim of blackening the PPP’s spotless image.

Regardless of the origin of these social media trolls, the PPP should be concerned about their existence. All the trolls that have harassed me and acquaintances that are also viewed as anti-government have of course posed as PPP supporters. If unruly supporters are to be blamed for the trolling then maybe a sentence here or there discouraging trolling would help. If opposition bodies are to be blamed for the trolling then I’m sure the PPP government is capable of unearthing these groups.

But of course, trolling will be treated as a joke and some bright fool will call me ridiculous for advising the PPP to be concerned about the blackening of its image by this social phenomenon. I should also point out that I am yet to hear an openly pro-government individual complain about an APNU or AFC troll. I encourage my pro-government friends to share any such trolling experiences they’ve had.

I’m too busy to rant about trolling and too tired to do troll control. But more than these, I find it ridiculous that a coolie woman now friken fuh add coolie people pon Facebook. Plus, I can’t help but notice how the tribe and trolls have so much in common. One hides behind a mask of Indianness and the other behind a fake profile.

The Abuse of Guyana – A Culture of Fear and Silence

Not so many years ago, I was an abused woman. Ever since I freed myself, Guyana has not looked the same. I think that once you’ve broken the chains of any type of oppression it sharpens your vision. So now when I look at our country I recognize a certain pattern, a pattern of psychological abuse.

I failed the first time I tried to tell someone about my suffering. Fear strangled me. I could not find the words. And so I suffered in my silence and as my suffering increased I became ashamed that I could not speak because of fear. I lived silently in fear feeling that the only way to live was to endure it alone.

When I finally found the courage to break my silence, I was asked to be quiet, to be quiet for the well being of my family. And so, once again I remained silent. This time I thought silence was my duty; duty to family, duty to protect them.

But to stay silent is a hard, hard thing. One day, you just cannot hide the horrors anymore or endure the pain to protect the people who should have been protecting you. This time I tried to tell someone who was not family and they said that I simply could not be serious.

Having been intimately acquainted with horrors, I know that there are those things which the imagination simply cannot create. There are those things so miserably vile that unless we have experienced them then there simply is no imagining the way they have been or could be.

What makes you so different from me?

The journey of my freedom began when several someones decided that they would not sit and witness my suffering. I will forever be grateful to those who lent me their voices when I could not speak for myself.

It is this same cycle, this same culture, of fear and silence which imprisons the Guyanese psyche. We have all been afraid. Many of us are still afraid. We remain silent because we believe that we are protecting our well being, our family, our children, our means to make a living, our chance at becoming something, anything, in this country we call home. We remain silent because we are convinced that no one else thinks or feels the same way.

And where does the fear come from? It comes from the sinister political machinery. It comes from the powers that be, from the powers that should be protecting us. The truth is that some of us are afraid of our Government. And the rest of us are afraid of the Opposition. We are afraid of them for different reasons. We are afraid of our leaders, our protectors. We are afraid of the powers that we have given them to wield. These are truths we all think but truths we seldom speak.

We have been victims of our political system. We have let it imprison us in a culture of fear and silence. It is not an easy thing to live in fear. What is this if not mass abuse of a nation, of our nation, of you, of our people? What gives them the right to lock us in a prison built of fear? And where are those voices which should rise to defend us?

To sit silently in fear and be victims is not what we will do, not so long as I am. Having found my voice, I will speak for you until you speak for yourself, until you break the chains of your oppression. Silence does not protect anyone. Silence steals our peace and condemns our children to the same fate or perhaps, a worse fate. Silence steals our hope.

These days I write letters and I sign them “Until Death and Without Wax”. It is a declaration that I have conquered fear and that I did it only with truth. I believe that even you can do this, why else would I write these words?

To Roger F. Luncheon – On Democracy, Trust and Tragedy

Dear Roger F. Luncheon:

I had a bone to pick with you about that USAID Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) project. However, bone picking is exactly why we are the way we are. I have been many things, I am many things, I will be many things but I will never become the bone-picking-Bharrat. Truth is the currency I deal in.

After you announced that Cabinet would not have the democracy project I told my nani all about it. This is what she said: “Luncheon is a good man”. When people attack you personally, specifically when they say that all you are is bad, I defend you. I do not defend you because of any personal allegiance. I defend you because I know there is good in every man and woman among us.

I defend you because attacking a man personally is pointless and dishonorable. It only serves to distract us from the systems which we should be examining and questioning. Do not worry, soon our people will learn to shrug off these distractions; they will learn to see , to question, to act in the most effective manner.

I wrote about the LEAD project earlier. I do not believe that Government’s concern about the US’s alleged high-handed manner is the only reason behind refusing the project. People have no doubt read my words and recognized that I am for the project. However, there is more to the matter.

You see, there is a sad, sad story behind the fact that I would choose to believe the US over my own Government. When I made the decision I kept remembering all those appearances of the US in Caribbean history. I am well aware of the risks. When I made the decision I felt as if I were backed into a corner and left to choose between the lesser of two evils.

Why should I have to feel this way, Mr. Luncheon? Why should I have to sit in my country and feel that I cannot trust my leaders? It is the tragic story of our country. We do not trust each other.

And there is the other question too, why should the US have to come into my home and clean for me? Can I and my brothers and sisters not do it on our own? I have decided that I will clean my own house. Democracy is not a gift that someone can simply hand us. Democracy is a journey, a path of self discovery, which we must take alone and together all at once.

You know, back in 2011 when I spoke to my peers about voting many of them had the same thing to say; they said that voting did not matter because none of you (politicians) were worth it. Outside of the PPP/APNU/AFC followings another tragedy was taking place. Young people were giving up on their democratic right because, and this is my belief, our political machinery has robbed them of hope.

Why has our political system done this to us Mr. Luncheon?

Do not worry though, I have since told these young people that there is always hope. I have told them that we must become responsible for our own well being and the well being of our country. I have told them that we are the final shred of hope to which Guyana clings. I have told them that we should not give up on our country. I will keep telling them until they hear, until they see, until they act.

So Mr. Luncheon, there is something much greater than the LEAD project that is struggling to take birth; that will be born.

For my people and country

Without Wax

Sara Bharrat.

P.S: Perhaps, I shall take a walk to the post office later to ensure that a copy of this at least makes it to your office. I know how easily such things get lost in the cyber world.

Being East Indian does not automatically make me PPP

racism

My identity is my own. I do not appreciate being branded politically because of my skin colour. Last time around, I stood at a rally screaming in favour of the AFC. Who knows where I’ll be next time around. Maybe no place close to any of the madness that happens here in Canecutopia. Because quite frankly, I’m tired of racist politics and I’m tired of believing in the shallow brand of change some people market.

It seems that the only way to get things done here in Canecutopia is to get up and make change happen yourself. While there are a few among us who soldier on against the odds, sadly, the majority of my brethren are spineless souls. Sad story. But true story. Very true story.

How is a young East Indian woman like myself seasoned politically? Well, (and I can only speak from my own experience) it seems that tradition dictates politics here in beautiful Guyana. You see, within my own cultural community I vividly remember adults trying to instill in me a deep respect for the PPP. Basically, what they teach us (and I’m sure other young East Indians, if they have the courage, can attest to this) is that PPP power means East Indian power and East Indian power is the only way we can survive.

What did all of this do to me psychologically? It created a deep rooted fear in my heart, in my being, in the deepest, most intimate part of my mind. You see, as I grew older, became acquainted with history and facts and learnt to question everything in the world around me, I saw politics for what it was in this place. It was inevitable that I would see the truth. And during the last elections, even though I had voted for my bit of change, I have to admit to feeling a stab of fear when the rumour of a PPP loss started circulating.

Yes, this is what my country, my people, my culture has done to me. It tries to make cowards of us all. Clearly, I have dealt with that fear. Had I not dealt with it, then I would not be writing this. And this brings us to the real reason behind my sudden urge to tackle this subject: am I calling the people and community and loved ones who were responsible for my socialization, am I Sara Bharrat, calling them racist?

Is my nani, who loves her best friend auntie Jocelyn more than she loves her sisters, racist? Is my mother, who cries every time a young black man is gunned down, is she racist? Is my uncle, who brings fruits and provisions from the farm for our next door neighbours, is he racist? Or are they all just victims of the race based machine of traditional grassroots politics that preys upon our psyche here in Canecutopia?

I know many East Indians who openly say that they are not racist. However, when they see the young man I love, their faces change, their voices lower and they ask me “he has black in him?” These same East Indians claim to want change. They claim they have escaped the trap of race based voting. And yet, here they are, clearly being racist beneath a carefully crafted facade.

So where does it end? How does it end? I can’t answer that for anyone just yet. But I can tell you this, racism ends with me and the death of this race based machine of traditional grassroots politics and voting begins with me. I have shed my mask, I have exposed myself to the elements that be and I am ready to fight for truth and real change. But not just to fight but to work too, to come up with solutions to problems, to help with implementing said solutions.

And finally, I hate when people address me as an Indo-Guyanese. I am simply a Guyanese. I do not need an ethnic tag before my nationality. It encourages the deep rooted and intricately disguised segregation that lives on here in Canecutopia. And please remember, being East Indian does not make me a child of the PPP or a government hater.

Like some of you already do, I will aid government initiatives once they are free of corruption and genuinely aim to help the people. But my decision to help does not mean I am government branded. I am just me, just Sara, a Guyanese, that’s all.