For Dave Martins – 100 Reasons to Hope: Reason #1

Dear Dave,

I still think of the evening of May 24th, 2016 at Moray House Trust. Only two days before our country’s 50th Independence Anniversary, I spoke about my vision for Guyana in 2066 and expressed my belief that change, the kind we want, was inevitable.

After my talk, you more or less asked me why we should continue to hope. I tried my best to answer you in that moment and I ended by giving you a hug because I wasn’t sure then what else I could say. I’ve been thinking of your question since.

Towards the end of 2014 and until the beginning of this year, I felt that there was nothing to hope for and that there was no reason to continue fighting. It was like being thrown into a dark, bottomless pit where you didn’t even have the escape of an end.

It’s part of why I haven’t been writing. My words, they come from a deep and pure place, a place that preserves my belief in the good of this world. While I agree that a significant part of being human is being able to think, I believe that it is our ability to feel that defines our humanity in a more profound way.

When I allowed myself to be infected with hopelessness, it was as if all the joy had been sucked from my soul. And it was impossible to write then. How could I when all I had to share was pain and disillusionment and hopelessness? Can you imagine how many more of us feel like this?

When people like you and I – who share our love for country and people despite the vulnerability such sharing brings – lose hope, it can have disastrous consequences. You see, when we are infected with hopelessness, we don’t just lose hope for ourselves but for all those whose lives we touch in a meaningful way.

I believe that one day Guyana will cease to be a place where a privileged group continues to control our country’s wealth by manipulating our people with black and brown politics. Because I believe this, I have hope for a better future, if not for all of us, for our children and their children.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll share 100 reasons to continue hoping for a better Guyana with you. But this isn’t really about you or me, this is about the thousands of people who feel the same things we do and who, like us, struggle to live life in this country one day at a time. This is for our people, Dave.

 

REASON #1

We’re alive, we think and most importantly we feel. This means we can still fight for what we want. There’s really no limit to what we can do. No limit at all. Just believe and keep the hope alive.

 

With love and without wax,

Bharrat

 

The ‘Why’ behind my blogging

Guyanese storiesFor most of my blogging career, I’ve written about Guyanese politics in relation to race and ethnic identity. But what many people don’t know is why I started blogging. All my life I’ve been obsessed with telling stories and I began blogging because I believe that our stories are spectacular stories that can’t be found anywhere else.

I mean, yeah, you may take a boat from Vreed-en-hoop to Georgetown everyday and then back again. You probably sit in the boat smelling the salt water, feeling a few cold splashes on your skin and seeing the soft golden light of sunrise or the colourful sunset. And I know you feel that it’s all part of your mundane existence.

But hey, trust me, there’s nothing mundane about what you’re experiencing. The things you see and feel and the memories you make of them are things that other people in the world will never experience in quite the same way. So the next time you’re in that boat, on that bus, in that market, stop, take a breath and look around you. And see. See the beauty, the quaintness, see what only you can see.

And this is exactly why I write and why I blog. It’s not because I’m good at it or good with words. I write because I want to teach people to see themselves beyond the noise, to value their own unique experiences, to embrace their identities and to know that it’s okay to feel passion, to express it and let it fuel your work.

A lot of my articles have been primarily emotive or have had emotive undertones. You see, I believe in rationalism but I also know that being able to think is not the only thing which is responsible for making us human. It is both our ability to think and to feel which makes us human.

Signature 2

The Economics of Activism and the Writer

“…when a monster grows, it grows out of control. It eats up even those who created the monster. And it’s time that our people understood this.” Walter Rodney, 1977, Georgetown.

In January, a woman suggested that I put down my pen – because it was useless – and that I march in the streets of Georgetown. I was taken aback. Did she really believe that tramping aimlessly in the sun was superior to writing? And if so, did she believe it while being aware of the cost attached to silencing only one pen in Guyana?

Her view of writing did not surprise me. She is only a product of her society and its culture. She has been conditioned to see her world as a place where the writer is meant for spinning El Dorado fantasies and where writing is not truth but merely the silly imaginings of a fool. How many more Guyanese share her view? Even one more is too many.

I believe now, more than at any other time in the history of our nation, the writer – the man or woman whose pen deals in the currency of truth – has become chief activist. Writing is a powerful and dangerous form of activism. Words are not merely read or heard, they are felt, absorbed, embedded in the memory and they shape the way we see, think, act.

For weeks I have written about the fear and silence which imprison our people. The Guyanese writer, the Guyanese artist, is the voice of the silent, of the silenced. They carry the true spirit of the fight against oppression. They create hope for and belief in change. They awaken and give strength. Without them, there is no hope for freedom from oppression, no hope of stopping the monsters that have grown out of control, no hope of having hope.

Like any form of activism, like anything else in the world for that matter, writing comes with a price. For many weeks I have not written. I do not consider them weeks of silence. They have merely been weeks of observation, of learning. I have been watching and listening, absorbing.

I have also been working out the economics of activism, the economics of writing. Am I willing to pay what it costs to write? Do I believe that the possible results will be worth the price I pay? Yes, of course, I am willing to pay what it costs to write because writing is necessary for my survival, for me to be who I am.

I also believe that any price I pay to shift the culture of fear and silence, to awaken more people, to give my peers voices, will be worth it. I believe that our people and country are worth all my correspondence ending up at the Central Intelligence Unit eventually, my phone being tapped, my privacy utterly and completely invaded. I believe that it is well worth the anger, the depression, the heartbreak, the broken friendships, the lost relationships, the aloneness, the labels of anti-coolie coolie woman and racist.

So what is the problem? The problem is this: I am not the only one who shoulders the cost. I overlooked the fact that other people would have to pay a greater price for my writing. I did not consider the price that would be paid by the man I love or by my mother, my brothers, my nani, my friends. What right do I have to condemn these people to live in fear for me? Worse yet, what right do I have to put them at risk?

Would it be easier for all of us if I sat in my house and lived my life in silence? The fact is that not writing would cost every one of us far more than writing. If I did not write then I would abandon my basic responsibilities as a human being and eventually become but a shadow of a woman. If I did not write then I would rob our people of their chance of having one more voice, of change, of hope, of the promise of a better Guyana.

If I did not write then there would be one less to fight the monsters among us. If I did not write then the cost would be extended to not just family and friends but to an entire nation. Writing is clearly the more economical choice.

During my weeks of observation, many people asked me whether I had been threatened, if I had given up, if I had bowed to the monster. Who will threaten me? And where is the need to threaten me? The most dangerous thing I face is not threats from the oppressor or even my own fear; it is the fears of the people I love and my need to sooth them, keep them safe.

In the end, the writer, the artist, the activist must choose between love for a few and love for many. The writer must choose between self and others. The writer must be prepared to walk alone while using words to fill voids and unite people. The writer must be forever conscious of the cost attached to every word and pay the price for writing, for stopping the monster, for teaching the nation that we all face the same enemy.

To Ian McDonald

Dear Ian McDonald,

As I sit here this cold, grey morning in Craig Old Road my mind and heart and soul wander through the moments you’ve remembered these past decades. I see now, Ian, if I may be so bold, that there comes a time when a girl must rise and burn the leeches from her skin so that she may forge a sword of metaphors.

Swords, I’m sure you must know, are not only meant for blood. No Ian, some swords have been created to carry flames; flames from the same fire which has kept your dear Martin, our dear Martin burning until now. It is the same fire, Ian, which I have seen in the soul of my Martin.

I have witnessed much more than the man Ian McDonald in A Cloud of Witnesses; I have witnessed my country and region and world. But more importantly Ian, I have been taught by you to see so much more than I’ve been willing to see. And even though, I may not agree with some of what you say, I am honoured that I could drink from this reservoir of yours. Knowledge is never enough. It seems that I have been condemned to thirst until death.

In some ways Ian, I envy you. I am not jealous of Martin, no, I have my own Martin, but I am sorely jealous that you have been able to experience that thing which died long before my birth. You are right though, not all ages can be golden. I am certain that this is an age of lead.

But still, hope is an eternal friend (or foe) of man and so once my Martin lives I have hope. I await the day when the nation recognises that my Martin is really our Martin. You see Ian, men like my Martin (and even your Martin) and maybe one day I may be able to say women like me were not conceived in a womb but in the university of war.

Eternal Gratitude,
Sara Bharrat.

Sharing a quick moment with you while I’m on the go.
Sara.

Reportah Storie

For our journalists.

Yuh tink I like wake up every marnin’ an’ see you?
Dat I like lef’ meh house, meh pickanee, meh lil piece in dis cowboy country?
Yuh tink dis is how I wan’ live?
Dat I wan’ watch dem minista thief?
Dat I wan’ watch thief watchin’ thief?
Yuh really tink I wan’ hear how yuh beat yuh wife?
And how she tell de police lef’ yuh cause she love yuh?
Bai look, you na tink I gah better ting fuh do dan dat?
Last week when yuh neighbah thief dem fowl an’ end up in front de magistrate, yuh feel I had time with he?
Yuh feel I didn’t sit dunk in de court room and laff meh rass when de chinee lie-ah tell de magistrate dat is hungry yuh neighbah de hungry mek he thief fowl?
Banna, look, is who tell you dat fowl thief na fuh laff in dis country?
Yuh feel me na laff when de mad man de shootin’ up last week?
Yuh na tink dat show yuh is wa dem people in this country deh pon?
Yuh feel dat right now meh heart na hu’tin’ fuh dem people dat dead?
Fuh dem policeman dat gi dem life fuh something dem na know bout?
Bai look, is wa you feel at all?
Couple year back when dem seh fineman shoot up de people dem,
Yuh feel I de wan’ see duh?
Yuh tink I de like seein’ how dem pack de bartica ppl like dead fish?
Is wa you feel at all?
Dat dem tings don’t hu’t meh heart?
Dat meh stomach don’t bun like you wan?
Dat meh eye watah na does leak fuh meh brethren?
Yuh feel dat I don’t feel?
Bai look, is wa you feel at all eh?

Sharing a quick moment with you while I’m on the go.
Sara.

Vagina!

I’m a woman and yes of course I have a vagina. I just realised that I haven’t written this word once on my blog. Shame on me. Anyway, to make up for it let’s all say it:

VAGINA! VAGINA! VAGINA!

See? Not so bad, now was it?

Oh wait, I should note here that I am partial to the word “cunt” as well. I’ll have to write about it soon.

Now go thy way and do not be afraid to say Vagina!

Sharing a quick moment with you while I’m on the go.
Sara.

Stop run ya man’s phone, email and facebook!

Trust is not a one way thing.

It’s ironic that people ask me for relationship advice. You’d think I’m some very experienced woman with enough ruined relationships to serve as a sort of guru. I’m not.

Every time a woman in particular asks me for advice the conversation ends one way. She’s depressed and angry by the end of it and usually writes me off as a “cruel bitch”. I don’t mind. We’re not all wired to take the truth. So ladies, if you’re going to keep reading this, keep in mind that the truth hurts and pisses off even the most controlled among us.

Last week, one girl asked me if I thought her man was cheating on her. This is how the conversation went:

Distressed Woman – I think he’s cheating on me.

Me – Why?

DW – I saw some messages on his phone to this girl.

Me – I see. And how exactly did you see his phone?

DW – I went through it while he was in the shower. I know. I know. That’s wrong. But he makes me feel like I have to.

Me – Well, leave him.

DW – But I’m not sure if he’s cheating. He was telling her that he’d like to hear what she sounds like when she moans. Do you think he’s cheating on me?

Me – You need to ask him that. If you can’t trust him. Leave him.

Sigh. Shit like this irks me. Yes, it’s wrong to go through a man’s phone, his emails, his facebook messages, his wallet, his personal belongings. It’s a violation of his privacy, a violation of his trust in you and it’s an insult to yourself, particularly your intelligence.

Clearly, DW is insecure and has trust issues. But I wonder, just how many of us understand this concept of trust. How can you expect a man to be trustworthy if he can’t trust you with his privacy? I believe that trust is a two way thing. You get what you give. If your investments are shitty then expect twice as shitty returns.

Furthermore, such actions make you look desperate and demented. No man can make you feel like you have to reduce yourself to such a disgusting pile of patheticness. You must choose to become that thing. If you can’t trust him, you can’t love him; if you can’t love him then how the hell can you hope to build a lasting relationship with him?

So for all you ladies in that position, stop embarrassing yourself and womankind. Do yourself and the man a favour and just leave. There’s no hope for a lasting union there.

And while you’re at it, learn to love yourself enough to get some help. Become a woman of character, a strong woman who can be trusted and who deserves to be trusted. Who you are will attract the type of man you want.

So remember, trust is a two way thing. Happy hunting!

Sharing a quick moment with you while I’m on the go.
Sara.