In every nation, there are hungry people. Whether the hunger is for sustenance, a fair share of the pie, knowledge or respect, what sustains us is not equally distributed or guaranteed to everyone.
This week I heard the story of a woman who removed an empty bowl from her bag. He tried to hide that there was no food in the bowl and pretended to eat. When the person who saw her went with love, she admitted she had nothing to eat. But she was in her place of employment. This was not an unemployed woman that many would not regret because she was too lazy to work. This was not a woman who chose begging that many would reprimand her and tell her to seek employment. Here is a woman who sought honest employment yet starved in this land of plenty. But her condition is that of many Guyanese.
In a nation where food is plentiful, no one should go hungry. With vast lands for handling and rearing cattle and poultry, and great rivers for fishing, how do citizens still starve? But we know the truth. Not only do some of our people pretend to eat because of poverty, but even those whose cups are filled and running over are also often eating from empty bowls. But it is nourishment such as compassion, joy, virtue, love, confidence and peace that they crave.
In a country with abundant resources, every citizen should prosper. Dreamers, who imagine a world where wealth is fairly distributed, our voices are mixed. We were born into a world where small groups hold the largest pieces of pie, while the rest of us fight for crumbs. In Guyana, the lines are blurred between the rich and the poor. The differences become even more pronounced. For so long we have fought and fought against each other and our rights have been violated so that we may think we don’t deserve much more.
Hunger in this country for food is one thing, but many Guyanese do not even have a piece of this country to call their own. They want food for the respect they deserve as citizens. How can people be without land in their country? We have only recently seen how Success squatters were treated like animals. Our citizens have become so accustomed to violating their human rights, that the revolution seems to have been permanently postponed. Many Guyanese apply for land and some have to wait decades; some have even died without ever accepting their conspiracy, but foreigners are quickly getting their share.
What is the current rate at which we are measuring progress in Guyana? Are we supposed to get excited when we hear announcements of new hotels being built by foreigners? Most of the citizens of this country will not be able to be guests in those hotels. Most of our citizens can’t even afford to eat at some of the hotels we have now. But they may not be built for us.
Are new gates communities and seaside properties supposed to be signs of progress and excite us when they are only for the wealthy? I am not going to applaud these initiatives and pretend that fancy new structures mean we are making progress that will benefit all our citizens. How can the gates community and slums stand side by side and we believe all our citizens are satisfied? How can the five star hotel and the ghetto be on the same plot of land and we ignore those in the ghetto? Can we be surprised when those who haven’t watched are watching and plotting?
We see the transformation of Guyana; the only problem is that this transformation is not for the benefit of all Guyanese. It will leave many of the poorest people poorer than before because they are being ignored and their rights are being violated. The cost of living in Guyana removes the possibility for the poor to live comfortably here. I do not know when the poorest people have lived comfortably here. Living can not only feed yourself, but affordable housing, education, living wages, security and, of course, spiritual enlightenment.
We see how ridiculously expensive it has become to live in our capital city for example. With no rent regulation, landlords are increasingly providing for the rich and foreigners. I won’t be surprised if in years to come Georgetown will be populated mostly by immigrants. Gentrification occurs slowly. Venezuelans, Brazilians, Cubans, Americans, Africans, Europeans all come and take their place in silence. However, it seems that the only foreigners with whom issuing deportation orders have a problem are the Haitians. Where is CARICOM when it comes to the state of Haitians? Is CARICOM satisfied that Haitians are treated as the step-child of the community?
The citizens of this country are constantly throwing away the bones of the fish, while only a few eat the flesh. Small gifts to the people like the $ 25000 COVID release, which many still haven’t received and probably won’t receive, are supposed to appeal to the people. But here’s what we get from the big cats we’ve given permission to watch our milk.
Guyanese still leave these shores to find greener pastures in other countries. Even the myth about oil finally fixing all our issues does not keep many Guyanese here. But what do the crowds of incoming foreigners know that we don’t know? What are the advantages they have that the ordinary Guyanese do not have? Who really owns this country?
What happens when the poor people who have nothing – no land, no home, no food, no money, no oil, no respect – stand on the sidelines watching those who drive the fancy cars , hoteliers, mansion owners, seaside properties, citizens of oil-gated communal communities, those with private aircraft and an army of servants? Will those who don’t just work for them still have to hide and pretend to eat from empty bowls? Or will this annoy them, triggering an increase in crime and other disturbances?
Not all Guyanese will be rich. However, the least that all Guyanese deserve is a parcel of land to demand their own affordable housing, education and living wages; whether they are CEO or Janitor, the least should be expected. When this becomes a reality, maybe then we can look at the fancy and approval structures. Perhaps so, those who worked hard for their wealth would not have to worry about the plots of the uninitiated and all our bowls will remain full.