Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Hot Country by Shiva Naipaul

This short very readable book gave a snapshot of Life in Guyana in the period just before 1980.
On reaching the end of the book I felt sorry that no modern Guyanese writer was able to capture the nuances of being Guyanese like the this author and Mr Battacharya of Sly Company fame. I thought Mr Naipaul's style reminiscent of Edgar Mittleholzer's. I liked very much how he captured the little familiar things like a mother warning her child not to let the coconut water get on the clothes and certain Guyanese phrases- 'catch as catch can'.
The story is about a well-meaning Middle-aged man realising his noble aspirations for the country and its people has all been in vain; even his marriage to an introverted secretive 'cold' woman is a far cry from the aspirations of his youth. The book struck me as a long 'short story', and while giving a good picture of what life was like in Guyana in the late '70's, the naked racism jarred with my 21st Century sensibilities - the book opens with the comment about Amerindians being expressionless, one also mentioned by Mr Battacharya but having been in contact with quite a few of the different tribes I tend to see them as having a very optimistic view of life  and generally jovial; further in the book the derogatory remarks about 'black people' also jarred but I concede that both reflected common views at the time and who knows- even now?
It was interesting that he managed to merge Georgetown and Port-of-Spain in his description of the Capital City in the book and being familiar with both I recognised the non-coincidental locations! Shame our Guyanese writers can't do something similar.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Running the Gauntlet

 I've been told this Blog has a bitter angry tone.
So I want to record the fairly good job the Police did on Monday night to withstand the taunts, missiles and provocation when the disruptive crowd came out again to impede the flow of traffic on the East Bank Road.
Someone commented to me that he was surprised that the Police withstood so much abuse and it reminded him of the Police in England last July when primarily London exploded. There were minimal disruptions but several cars had their Windscreen damaged by things thrown.
Sadly I have found out since that women of a certain race were bodily picked up and and forcibly carried off and raped on the previous Thursday- I am stunned to think this is Guyana and where I pass every everyday practically!  Minibuses were discharging their hapless passengers at the edges of the troubled villages and I suppose the women made a bad judgement call to continue the journey to the other side by foot.
As usual it is not those people stirring who have to live with the dreadful consequences-- regular people had their Windscreens broken by missiles - an additional expense to the Family Budget that many would not have foreseen.
Several people are predicting a repeat of the troubles of the 60's.

Friday, October 12, 2012


With apologies to Emile Zola...
.... the traumatised dwindling remaining Middle Classes stayed off the roads early today after the blocking of the Major East Bank Road yesterday from 4-9pm.
This following the preliminary trial of the three Policemen who apparently shot a 17yr old in cold blood. They were apparently sent to take him in for questioning for planning an apparent robbery but something went wrong. Especially emotive after immediately following the deaths of three people during the closure of the Linden road-- and that in itself is controversial as the Attorney General went on the television to inform us that the bullets recovered from the three bodies did not 'match' any of the weapons issued to the Police - bullets being highly-priced and closely regulated apparently.
So apparently after the family and friends of the shot young man  protested outside the Magistrate's Court from 8am-- it apparently didn't dawn on the Powers-That-Be that the protest could possibly spread to the closure of the East Bank Road in that village which is strategically placed to inflict major disruptions falling before the division of the road into the two main branches.  Often when I pass I notice a Pick-up load of police in Riot Clothes hanging out- so very short-sighted of both the Police Force and indirectly the Government for not anticipating this move!
As an aside- sorry - the major Housing expansion seems to be in the canefields heading South on the East Bank.  It clearly never occurred to the Bright Sparks that there needs to be accompanying infrastructure such  as roads as there is also a non-existent Transport Policy - seeing as most of the decision makers live on the East Coast and have the privilege of a sirened Police Car accompanying them - they are out of touch of the reality the rest of us have to live with! Up to 20yrs ago plans were suggested to create another Highway Type road from the Airport (Timehri ) bypassing South Georgetown and connecting to the East Coast road. Those forward-planning people have clearly pegged it by now (died) and the reckless people in charge clearly are hell-bent on starting something and leaving the next set of people to grapple with the problem of poor planning!
So now to my heading--- two government spokespersons - the Attorney General and Minister on Governance - interrupted the American Vice-Presidential debates (why would Guyanese be so interested to see that I wouldn't know but it showed on at least three stations?!) to get on the air to accuse someone in an Opposition Party whom they clearly see as a threat - this went on ad nauseum while I waited for them to tell us of their strategy to deal with the problem and went back to my book when they got whiny and accusatory saying that the blocking of the East Bank Road was clearly part of a wider strategy -- mmm-- so in effect the Opposition can outsmart them and they the Government have the wisdom of Hindsight and not Foresight! Don't know if they really have my sympathy for crass stupidity. They are standing tight behind the Minister of Home Affairs who has a long line of Gaffes behind him, refused help from the British to train our Policemen and bring them up to the 21st Century. I have long thought that when chaos ensues the hustlers stand to make a big killing - sadly unlike Thomas Friedman's Golden Straitjacket - they seem oblivious to the fact that the Country makes a big step backwards or simply don't care.
The road re-opened and there was another hugh backlog of frustrated people at 10pm - I suppose most people got home at about Midnight.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

To what levels are we sinking?

I pulled my piece on Suicide after being advised it was libellous and since then read a hypothesis from the last Century that postulated that it was the lack of Human Connectedness/Community that was a major contributing factor to suicides. This was after a Peace Corp volunteer found disturbingly high levels of thoughts of and actual suicides in the Black Bush Community, alcohol being another factor-- whether on a self-medicating basis or people's response to alcoholism in the family.
A sad case of a drug-addicted 21 or 23yr old reached the papers last week who followed his two female relatives to the Backdam to strip coconut leaves to make the local pointer brooms. Apparently it was discovered/suspected that he had been short-changing the Principal whose house he had been staying at- 'his aunt' - and his solution to the problem was to chop her to death. The woman took along another younger woman who also subsequently got chopped to death and the young man before he died (ingested poison after the acts), claimed that he would not have chopped the Aunt's sister who was invited on the trip and who declined, as he didn't have a problem with her and he would have made her sit and watch!  THIS has got to be some stupid deranged Hollywood script superimposed on a drug-addled ill-formed brain - oh the dangers of imposing the 21st Century on a 16th Century brain!
That was in the rural environment - in the Urbanised environs of Georgetown a few days ago, two teenagers had a history of a dispute - the father was walking home with his 16yr old son when the other teenager attempted to grab his Gold Chain from his neck, the father pushed off the attacker and who knows maybe did more-- what arrogance and lack of judgement would a teen have to be attacking a 'foe' in the presence of an older male--( mind you and I digress to the the West Coast of Berbice- a 36yr old was walking with her 16yr old daughter and husband when the 32yr old man who liked to 'trouble her' decided to take offence at her statement to the effect that her husband was with her and boxed her to the ground- he was subsequently arrested). The teen with a more bruised ego than bodily harm went to his house nearby and got HIS father who lashed the first man/father with a piece of wood while the mother and brother and him pinned the first man down and gouged out his right eye -- I kid you not-- this happened for real.
I remember sitting next to a Surinamese man on a 'plane trip who was in their Government's Fishing Department and he noted that unless the Law and Order side of a country functioned there would be no progress in that country. How ironic -- the one profession the we churn out in abundance is those in the Law Field!