“Forged from the love of liberty, in the fires of hope and prayer, with boundless faith in our destiny. We solemnly declare: Side by side, we stand Islands of the blue Caribbean sea. This our native land. We pledge our lives to thee.
“Here every creed and race find an equal place. And may God bless our nation.”
As we celebrated our 60th Independence anniversary, it is fair for many to assess what we have achieved.
Several have opted to highlight our flaws and warts. It is tempting to give up as global winds batter us. The last two years have been particularly challenging since, on the heels of Covid, the life-threatening virus, we now have to deal with the lack of food on our grocery shelves and the rapid price increases of what is there.
For a nation accustomed to living in plenty, watching Guyana’s fortunes soar and witnessing the new surge of Jamaican capital snapping up our long-established businesses is humbling.
The crime situation makes us fear that our families will be affected one day. These issues can conspire to induce a paralysing fear and cause us to wonder how we could have boundless faith in our destiny.
Our anthem reminds us that the ‘boundless faith in our destiny’ comes from ‘the fires of hope and prayer’. Hope is not optimism. We are not hard-wired to have either optimism or pessimism; we all have both. Our choices and culture shape us to lean in one or the other direction.
In our challenging and unstable world, it is easy to slide into despair. Having been threatened by the scourge of possible death induced by Covid, we now wrestle with enormous societal problems.
It is easy to give up and believe that things will not improve. Hope is lost because of our emotional exhaustion wrought by the cares of life. Everything irritates us, and we strike out in frustration as we seek a saviour.
This state of affairs is particularly challenging since we have become accustomed to living large on oil and gas largesse frittered away on frivolous, transient baubles. We cannot believe that the party has to stop. It must be somebody’s fault.
The desire to pin the blame on someone robs us of the energy to imagine that we could do something to change the trajectory of life.
Bryant & Cvengros (2004) distinguished between hope and optimism. They said: “hope focuses more directly on the personal attainment of specific goals, whereas optimism focuses more broadly on the expected quality of future outcomes in general.”
Optimism says, ‘every little thing will be alright’, but hope says, ‘I am convinced that things will be better if I act.’ The power of agency. This sentiment is more like Pollyanna’s decision to be optimistic. She decided to look for happy things!
Prayer oils the wheels. May we not forget this. To pray is not to seek an escape from the realities of life, it is the girding of one’s self to tap into a power higher than ourselves to overcome things which confront us.
When we review our cycles of history, there is much to be thankful for. We had dark days and deep valleys—times when we despaired.
Sadly, we have moved from living in communities where we shared what little we had to a place where we have embraced the philosophy of ‘the devil takes the hindmost’.
We have seen a small group of influential people, disconnected from our lives of hardship, snatch up the harvests of those who laboured in the literal boneyards. Still, we have enjoyed a respite from the deadening draining poverty of the 1960s. Each family can count its blessings.
It may appear naïve to have hope amid the relentless drumbeat of problems. We could be afraid to hope because we do not wish to be disappointed or lose everything we have gained. But hope is our secret weapon.
When we lose hope, we lose our will and courage to handle what confronts us. Hope gives us the desire to launch out even when we do not know what the future holds. It sustains us and tells us we are sufficiently resilient to handle the unknown.
At a personal level, we retain hope since it does not disappear even when things appear hopeless. We enjoy relationships, have children and look to a time when we can have our homes. We look at longer-term futures when the treachery of the present intrudes. This inclination to imagine future possibilities is a natural human instinct.
Why should we have ‘boundless faith in our destiny’? Because we have citizens, our peers, who are committed to making this place a better place. Those citizens do not wait on the government or the opposition to improve our lives; they work in their little corners.
They do not even wait for our praises—they merely do what is needed. These folk believe that society is what we choose to make it. They toil to make our nation a better place. Their examples should give us hope to join them in crafting a better society.
I will name some patriots at the risk of leaving out and offending others. It is not intended to be an all-inclusive, comprehensive list. I invite you to add more names of those who toil to make our country a place of hope. They are in our neighbourhoods.
Since 1992, Paula Lucie- Smith, through ALTA, has helped our adults in dark corners to be part of our society. The literacy drive is now online and seeks to connect our less fortunate with the means to tap into new opportunities.
Dr David Bratt tirelessly attempts to focus our minds on raising our children. Since 1982, he has worked to save our children from gastroenteritis and still uses his voice to caution us about child-rearing. Thankfully, he appears to have recruited Dr Joel Teelucksingh in that lonely battle.
The other David, Abdulah, is a voice in the wilderness for the oppressed; for that, he is jeered. The same fate befalls Afra Raymond, who just this past week correctly called out our Attorney-General’s advertised, ill-advised plan of roping the Chief Justice into the Procurement Bill matter.
Afra, the lonely crusader, has continuously challenged us on the affair we carry on with the opaque spending by all our political parties. Now, the ante is upped with the proposed recruitment of advice from the Chief Justice. Do we even notice?
David and Afra incessantly take personal risks to protect our interests. We reject them both since yielding to tribal voting instincts is easier. We fail to recognise that they work on our behalf. They want more and better for us, the lowly citizens.
Why do we assail Raffique Shah for his incisive weekly observations and warnings? We lack the courage he has displayed. We refuse to be embarrassed for our good. It is easier to paint him as a PNM stooge.
Really? Does his history show that?
We rest assured in our Judiciary’s independence despite attempts at influencing or undermining it. Without this, we will not have the rule of law. Have we—could we—ever repay our debt to Canon Knolly Clarke?
This priest, at the age of 87, still works and encourages young people.
What about David Rudder and Kes and the young people singing the National Anthem lustily on Independence Day on the beach? What can be said if you watched the video without getting goosebumps?
Our embarrassment of literary riches, given life by Marina Salandy and her Bocas crew, joins these patriots in supplying fire to our hope. It is impossible to enumerate the wash of talent we now have.
There are countless others, including the labour of love represented by 103 FM and WACK Radio. What about Sundar Popo or the brilliant Mungal Patasar and Pantar?
Jereem ‘The Dream’ Richards leaves his all on the track. Ainsworth Mohammed and the Exodus Steelband honoured him. That’s the way it should be! No petty jealousy allowed.
Look around at our natural beauty. Our hearts should soar. You may add the points of beauty in our country that give you joy.
We have a long way to go, but our cup overflows. David Rudder urges us: “Give praise, children, give praise!”
Our icon, Stalin, encourages: “We could make it if we try!”
Let’s keep the fire burning!