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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Our body politic rots at the soul

by Shaun Michael Samaroo  |  
Thursday, January 5, 2012


We start the year 2012 with the hung Parliament hanging over our heads, as the political parties bicker and quarrel in acrimony and strife over the Speaker’s chair.
Guyanese all over the world – for we are now a global nation spread out across this 21st century global village – watch their homeland in sad frustration that our leaders cannot reconcile their diverse desires for seats of power.
Our nation seems plunged into a leadership crisis, a quagmire where leaders of strength of character, selfless sacrifice and visionary ideal may have gone missing.
Maybe it’s the brain drain effect, as official reports say close to 90 percent of skilled Guyanese continue to migrate. Those who take on the mantle of leadership take on a burden that may be too weighty.
Whatever the cause, the Guyanese nation stands poorer for the Parliamentary morass that faces citizens this brand new year. How inspired could citizens be to design their future?
Across the social landscape we want to see leaders stand up to make an inspiring difference. Our nation has come a long way since Independence, and as our neighbour Brazil, and even our Caribbean friends, advance their societies, we must delve deep into our soul to bring the Guyanese nation to world class standard.
The Guyanese body politic is sick, ailing with an alarming lack of sound diagnosis. Yet, few introspect for us to come up with workable solutions.
What’s to be done?
We have to know who we are as a people – our strengths and our weaknesses. We need introspection and analysis of the body politic, a probing to find where and why the sickness rots the soul.
Our political leaders face two exceptional challenges that tend to affect the rest of the society.
First, these leaders bring their character flaws, their inner weaknesses and strengths, to the public domain. And the society suffers if the flaws outweigh the strengths.
Shakespeare dealt with this brilliantly in his political play, ‘Coriolanus’. The play explores the character of the fascinating Roman politician Caius Marcius Coriolanus. Shakespeare had read of Coriolanus in a historical biographic account written by the Roman writer Plutarch.
Shakespeare’s amazing insight shows us that the body politic becomes sick and rotten if the persons forming the head – the leaders of the State, or the Parliament – lack the strength of character to nurture a healthy democracy.
Coriolanus, despite his absolute brilliance as a military general, lacked the humility, and hugged too much pride, to bow to the wishes of the people, whom he scorned as mere plebeians. Coriolanus felt he was above the crowd, and failed as a political leader.
Yet, Coriolanus had no idea he harboured such fatal inner flaws. He thought he was the best leader for his society. Shakespeare, in analyzing his character from Plutarch’s record, saw otherwise.
Shakespeare showed the character of the man through the language he spoke. Coriolanus used lots of plosive sounds, harsh words, and metaphors that mirror those harsh, plosive words.
If we look at the language of our politicians today, we would see words that lack the spirit of reconciliation, healing, forgiveness and reaching out in good faith. Their words show that our body politic lacks the spirit of cooperation and trust.
Secondly, we get a profound understanding of why we face such a quagmire in the first week of 2012 through the insight of the French thinker, Rene Girard, himself a Shakespeare scholar.
Girard found through studying great literature and history that in any group or society, a “satan phenomenon” rears its head.
We would do well as a society to be aware of these insights, if we want to build a society that plays a dynamic role in the global village.
Girard found that in any group, or society of people, the tendency to scapegoat shows up. He calls this scapegoating effect the “satan phenomenon”.
We see the three political parties vie for power in the Parliament in Georgetown.
These groups, these political parties – if they are to construct a new culture and a new spirit in our 50-year-old body politic – must watch out for those in their midst who would resort to scapegoating others.
We are struggling to free ourselves from decades of ethnic political insecurities and distrust. And so it’s easy to find a few within a group who would harbour these insecurities and influence the rest of the group to act out the distrust through scapegoating someone outside the circle.
Scapegoating, Girard asserts, breeds a “satan phenomenon” because it destroys rather than builds.
These political parties have the best interest of the nation at heart. So why do we see the destruction of that spirit of consensus-building, reconciliation, cooperation, forgiveness, trust and reaching out to each other in good faith?
The reason may be that within these groups certain persons of particular influence cause the spirit of hardness of heart, of rigidness, of destructive social behaviour to rear its ugly head. The society suffers.
The acrimony and strife over the Speaker’s chair reveals volumes about the character of our current crop of leaders, despite their good intentions.
The verbal wars also show that the political parties may not be healthy organisms; harbouring influential voices inside that tear down instead of build up.
As we look to build a Guyanese nation over the next 12 months, one based on the noble ideals of reconciliation, trust and brotherly kindness, those who take on the weighty responsibility of leading us must introspect and openly deal with their character flaws, and the groups to which they belong must purge and cleanse themselves of divisive personalities.
As a nation we have so much going for us. We could contribute so much to each other and to this global village.
Yet, our leaders bicker and quarrel over the Speaker’s chair in the House of the National Assembly.
Author’s web: thequalpedlife.com
email: beingshaun@gmail.com

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