Blue Sky over the Georgetown Seawall and Shore – Guyana
Photo Credit: Joel Oleson /Traveling Epic! Blog
Growing up in pre- and post-independent Guyana, I had a tough mother with a vision of a better future for me and my four siblings. Without inherited wealth or property, her hope for securing our future lay in a good education. To achieve her goal, she worked long hours at home as a seamstress. No sacrifice was too great.
My mother was not unique. The majority of poor working class parents shared her vision. United in their determination to free themselves from British exploitation and rule, they were prepared to risk their lives by taking part in street demonstrations and workers’ strikes.
But the British were no fools. On granting us independence, they not only ensured that our young nation would remain tied to their navel-string, but they also set us up to fail. You see, we fell for their bait of racial divisiveness. Up to today, the descendants of African slaves and East Indian indentured laborers still harbor mistrust, hatred, and fear of the other.
After forty-eight years of corrupt, autocratic leadership under both ethnic groups, the recently-elected coalition government faces immense challenges. Years of assault on the national treasury together with mismanagement have left the country bankrupt. Hopelessness festers among the marginalized populations.
In his book, Blue Sky for Black America: 100 Years of Colored People in Western Utopian Literature, discussed in my last blog post, Jesse Rhines proposes that Blacks use “utopian literature” to stimulate hopefulness in underclass Black youth. What’s good for Black America is not always good for Guyana. In this case, I believe that Rhines’ proposal merits consideration. He argues that, “unlike other fictive works, utopias, by their very nature, contemplate complete and integrated socio-political systems. Utopias force readers to take stock of the specifics of contemporary reality…” (102).
Seen in this light, utopian literature is not mere fantasy. It’s rooted in the real world with all of its conflicts and broken promises. Through the study of classic futuristic novels, Guyanese youth would learn to re-imagine their future and that of their country.
How would thirteen-year-old high school students envisage Guyana in 2042? As forty-year-old men and women, what would their lives be like if given their desired educational and professional training and career opportunities? Would Blacks and East Indians still be at loggerheads? With Guyana’s coastlands under water due to rising sea levels, where have displaced populations resettled? Where is Guyana’s new capital located? What is the role of Amerindians in the society? What are the qualities required for leadership positions in this futuristic Guyana? What are the roles of women?
Education opened my mind to the world. Exploring utopian literature unleashed the future with its limitless possibilities. The stories we tell ourselves have power. When hopefulness blossoms among our youth, new beginnings become reality. The nation recreates itself and redefines its future.