News Americas, PHOENIX, Arizona, Tues. April 28, 2015: Ms. Ryhaan Shah has ignited a debate over the role of the “past” in Guyana’s public political discourse. She has accused the APNU-AFC Coalition of urging Guyanese to forget the past – something she thinks is disadvantageous to the youth. Ms. Shah hints that the Coalition leaders, in their quest to win the imminent elections, are deliberately trying to hide the past. One is tempted, at first glance, to agree totally with Ms. Shah. In fact I sympathize with the underlying principle of her intervention.
But the more she writes on the issue, it becomes clear that she is not primarily interested in rallying young people to study Guyana’s history in its totality as a means of both understanding our present and informing choices, aspirations and dreams for a more cohesive and perfect nation. Rather, she seems more interested in remembering that part of our history, which she accuses the Coalition of wanting to forget.
Unlike Ms. Shah, I do not believe the Coalition is wickedly trying to get us to forget the past. Rather, they are trying not to make the campaign about the demonization of that part of our past, which the PPP is bent on using to whip up insecurity and fear among a section of the electorate.
The rhetoric of forgetting the past is common in ethnically divided societies such as Guyana. It arises from that politically correct mindset that also drives the resort to an inflated Civic nationalism as a substitute for other nationalisms. This same mindset also drives us to incorrectly equate ethnic voting patterns with “racial voting.”
This political correctness is understandable. In trying not to appear to exacerbate our fractured political culture, Guyanese politicians and political parties, including the PPP, and Civil Society reach for neutral language and narratives. But, over time, this political correctness leads to a collective ahistoric and uncritical mindset toward history and ethno-cultural identities. In the end, many become unintentional agents of silencing, minimization, manipulation and distortion of history and identity. I was hoping this is where Ms. Shah would go.
History is not a linear experience and narrative. It is also learned not only from books, but, critically, also from collective engagement of the present. As the collective human spirit confronts human wrongs in its quest for human rights, people discover their history in tangible and intangible ways.
There is a lot to be alarmed about in every period of our history. Yet, there is also a lot to celebrate and nurture in those very periods. The 28 years that are being demonized by the PPP also produced some of our most sterling collective accomplishments. That period produced Walter Rodney and the WPA– an idea and movement that summoned our nation to explore its jointness, not as empty rhetoric, but as living day- to-day revolutionary action.
Alas, that light was extinguished by a single-mindedly ahistorical post-Jagan PPP, which has marched us to the point of disintegration. But again, in the midst of disorder and degeneration, our people have slowly recaptured Walter Rodney’s dignified voice and spirit of resistance, hope and self-emancipation. It is that Rodneyite spirt that is embodied by the APNU-AFC Coalition. That is what the May 11 election is about—an electoral revolt steeped in all that is noble in our varied Guyanese history. Let us use our ballots to erase the ugliness that was painted on our Guyanese face and reclaim the beauty that is ours.
Dr. David Hinds, a political activist and commentator, is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Caribbean and African Diaspora Studies at Arizona State University. More of his writings and commentaries can be found on his YouTube Channel Hinds’ Sight: Dr. David Hinds’ Guyana-Caribbean Politics and on his website www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.com