- Published on Thursday, 20 June 2013 08:31
- Written by Critic: Dr Glenville Ashby
In the field of psychopathology, "Black Rage" is a veridical mental disorder, a seething psychic wound that festers, then erupts with savagery at its perceived oppression. The term has also been deftly used by defense lawyers to humanise perpetrators hauled before an unforgiving penal system. G.H.K.Lall is neither therapist nor attorney, but in this shoot from the hip, emotively unrelenting and daring undertaking, he has assumed both these titles….and more. Lall's signature pen stirs controversy. He will have it no other way. His earlier work, "Cesspool" impugned Guyana's choking bureaucracy. In his latest offering, “Sitting on a Racial Volcano," Lall biblically rips into the racial and sectarian demons that stalk, possess and mold the South American nation into a haunting skeleton.
The author wears the mantle of prophet, but unlike St. John's Revelations, his warnings are hardly shrouded in the cryptic and the esoteric. He's as literal and daunting as The Book of Mormon's Nephi and the Torah's Moses. And like a saint engulfed in the dark night of the soul, Lall's writing bears marks of an existential crisis - his angst and disgust at Guyanese society slowly devouring him. He presents a unique and terrifying social tableau.
Sure, it lacks the academic leaning and historicity of Stephen Spencer's "A Dream Deferred,” preferring not to dwell on the seeds of Guyana's racial crisis, but it proves equally, if not more impactful. Lall is frighteningly unapologetic and strident. His message is singular and pointed. His foot is planted, never slipping. The Black man in Guyana, he argues, is marginalised, exploited, dismissed, humiliated, even summarily executed - victims of an inveterate Indian cabal - calculatingly political, tribal, racist and self serving.
Unbridled charges of tsunami- like proportions! Lall rails against a corrupt system that profits well connected Indians who prey on blacks like vultures. This tribal, racist oligarchy has betrayed the founding fathers and the once noble ideals of the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP), he contends. Vengeance is costly, and the stalwarts of this unabashed Indian party well know the ABCs of exacting retribution.
They employ intimidation, fear, threats, and appeal to identity, racial consciousness - Indianness. He questions the validity of Commission of Inquiries, and repeatedly reminds readers of the spectre and lack of accountability in the Linden killings. After all, what is a black life worth?
Lall periodically and derisively injects island argot into this clinical exposé Seemingly comedic to the outsider, these racist mantras are no laughing matter; "Ayuh playin wit trouble....Ayuh want fuh see dem Black man geh bak in power? Like ayuh fuget wha used to happen..." Lall then offers his diagnosis in an enviable display of prosaic brilliance. He writes:"These are a snapshot of the blunt verbal hatchet blows delivered in person by party veterans and emissaries, who wrap themselves in seriousness that is intended to induce panic and fear.
" In "Volcano" no one is spared from Lall's searing lens. There are black sell-outs - the Masters' pet - the House Negroes who seek recognition and a piece of the Indian pie. They are Guyana's “quisling.” Lall lays bare the stench of his nation's racial intolerance. He discusses the ostracism of those who buck tradition and copulate. In Indian families, in particular, parental retaliation is swifter, harsher. The People National Congress (PNC) is also in Lall's cross hairs.
Decades removed from the reins of power, it is politically anemic, moribund and incapable of mounting a robust response to PPP's excesses. As if whipping a dying horse to perform, Lall counsels, excoriates and implores its disjointed leadership that is also guilty of dabbling in racial politics. The opposition, he posits, must reach out meaningfully to the Indian community despite the "historical patterns" and predictability of the Indian Guyanese at the polling stations.
"Real outreach that incorporates determined and focused ground breaking, frank discussions, hard give and take, and the beginnings of understanding," he writes, could lay the groundwork for some semblance of change. Here, Lall is axiomatic: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. But he is short on optimism.
He questions the effectiveness of The Alliance for Change (AFC), a competing political party. "...the AFC's failure to make a significant impact and its resultant stagnation is traceable to the powerful influence and stranglehold that the PPP and PNC have on their respective ethnic bases." Further, "it contented itself with being armchair activists and media generals."
But it is race that is the overarching factor that carries near archetypical properties, bending Guyana to its will.
For sure, racial accommodation appears illusory. Perceptions are entrenched, immovable. Stereotypes of Black and Indian Guyanese are embraced and spewed effortlessly, and not only by hard core extremists. This is what makes Lall prognosis for change so daunting. That the majority of Blacks and Indians are bedevilled, exploited and pauperised by a scheming few, yet resort to verbally attacking and distrusting each other, may just be the most insightful observation of "Volcano."
Fortuitously, though, the racial volcano has yet to erupt, because, as Lall puts it: "There is little by the way of mental preparedness to take the first step, that long punishing crawl," and "there is the huge sucking vacuum of migration and anticipation of relief from everyday woes through remittances and hopes of escape through flight..."
Lall also makes mention of the underground economy where narcotics and money laundering that enrich some Blacks," compliments of an Indian dominated trade." Interestingly, Lall gives little credence to interfaith dialogue, a timeless response to healing wounds in chasmic societies, yet he offers substantive and practical solutions to a nation on the brink. He beckons the few to stand ground and respond to a racist and kleptocratic system.
They are the patriotic, the brave - "individuals who seek no favour from anyone, who take no money, especially the dirty kind, who owe no one: who need no prestige jobs, or status symbols such as opulent homes in reserved areas off limits to regular citizens." He warns, though, that "there is a price attached to resistance and involvement." But Guyana is sorely in need of progressive, thinkers - "new faces” and new ideas.
Lall's work, brewed in Guyana's social laboratory has wider regional implications. In countries such as Trinidad and Tobago with shared historical and cultural experiences, political rumblings are oftentimes underpinned with racial invective. Fortunately, no political leader has dared to open that Pandora's Box. "Sitting on a Racial Volcano" is a reminder of the evil that lies within…a grave warning to leaders of plural societies who are bent on undermining the will and destiny of nations entrusted in their care.
Sitting on a Racial Volcano (Guyana Uncensored) by G.H.K. Lall, 2013 ISBN- 13: 9780615787442