“The colour of the rulers may darken; the ethnicities might change, blur or merge, but the culture of the power structure remains.”
The quote from Jeff Henry in 2008—cited by Kerrigan in the UWI book ‘In The Fires’—explains how we are manipulated, even when we think we are in charge. This is the story of the recent voice notes which lays bare our reality, destroying the myth of ‘all ah we is one’. We may have a ‘rainbow country’ but the storm is not yet passed.
The ‘Nalini’ incident is triggered by the undesired airing of unexpected programming on an East Indian cable channel. Zee TV is not a general audience channel; it is almost exclusively enjoyed by the East Indian communities on a Saturday night.
The provider’s indifference to this reality, in the light of sharp ‘colourful’ political lines, is driven by a desire to maximise their income coupled with a casual disrespect of the consumer’s payment for individualised entertainment. The desire of the channel’s audience is cast aside because of the dangled money. The empowered consumer responded, albeit inappropriately, but is this not the consumer activism we long for?
Unfortunately, the focus of the vented anger was another helpless actor, Keron, whose only role was answering the call. He was roundly cursed for his efforts.
Into the ensuing fray—sparked by the reckless rant, believed by Nalini to be private—ran Devant Maharaj, the erstwhile national discloser of secrets. He who had no qualms about disclosing private telephone numbers. Now, he takes the other side, reprimanding the whistle blower with the access to the company’s tapes.
‘Evil is what others do, not what me and friends do’ is encapsulated in his personal behaviour. Demanding that the company remove the offence, he works lamely to protect the erring foot soldier so as to preserve a chance to return to power. Truly, do so ent like so!
To add salt to the wound of the national psyche, another leak—this time apparently from the Office of the Prime Minister—airs a tearful apology from Nalini.
Was this leak a heavy-handed, shameless, deliberate ploy to belittle a penitent citizen? One can only hope that, if true, Dr Keith Rowley ferrets out the offender. Nothing less will do.
Poor Nalini spoke what is unspoken in public places. Some among us, from both major ethnic groups, imbibe the political vitriol and are the loudest defenders of their party’s embrace of their financiers. These unfortunate persons are motivated by the anticipated economic rewards and live vicariously through their choice of politicians.
Remember the video footage of the UNC women protesting outside Parliament but not knowing what they were protesting? Or the famous picture of the PNM supporter with the broom in the 2015 celebrations?
They are pawns; they do not benefit from their efforts in the way that the power brokers do. In Nalini’s case, she has probably seen more direct benefits than the ‘broom sweeper’ and so she is enraged twice—disruption of her private viewing by the perceived ‘robber of her economic well-being’.
“Knowledge of the past must play a part in our liberation from the bonds of the past,” said Professor Elsa Goveia in 1959. “Our history is not dead knowledge. Its significance […] is vital and immediate.”
Newly freed slaves and indentured labourers were set against each other by the colonising planters. Those who advocated for slavery in the 19th century used ‘race’ to justify its retention and claimed that the differences, which were socially constructed, were God-given.
We fell into one of three groups—Europeans, Africans or Indians—and the seeds of division were watered. Post-Independence, our two- party system splits us into two (one group remains outside the gayelle) and allows for an intense competition for political domination.
The state’s leading role in distributing scarce economic resources lead to fierce battles. Power brokers induce and finance their co-ethnics to believe that salvation only comes from ‘their’ people being in power.
Krishna Lalla and Jack Warner, in the 2010 general elections, are a prime example of this action. Their $1.5 million quarrel reached in the courts and the underlying reason was about who would be seen as the prime People’s Partnership financier.
SIS, owned by Lalla, was later accused of ‘snatching’ land worth $300 million on a $11,250 monthly lease. The financiers are yet to rise to consider the overall improvement of the country but focus on egging the supporters on in order to maximise gargantuan payoffs.
The embrace of consumer baubles and increased conspicuous consumption is the currency of the supporters, for it is through these acquisitions that they hope to win respect and recognition from all others.
When Nalini used the epithet ‘nigger’, it is more than descriptive; it is political and can prove irrevocably divisive. We only need to look at Guyana’s history and current realities to understand the long-lasting effects of this type of mindset. The ‘Others’ are ‘pure evil, unfortunates’, a sentiment probably held in reverse by the ‘PNM till ah dead’ folk.
Not achieving our national goal of ‘together we aspire, together we achieve’ causes us to pay the economic price with abrupt changes to government policies and manpower changes based on electoral results. This also leads to our society becoming more unequal.
The rich continue to get richer while as dispensable proxies, the poor fight the divisive battles. This must stop. It is time for ‘every creed and race to find an equal place’.