Guyanese have long been accused of taking the beauty and bounty of their country for granted. But based on my personal observations, there is something else that we do which is far more damaging: We are blind to the good and the opportunities right in front of us. We are trapped in a self-imposed love affair with negativity and we cannot seem to see past this darkness toward the goodness that is. So, we miss the golden opportunities to build on our strengths, in order to catapult ourselves and country toward a more rapid state of development.
The reasons for this self-defeating condition need to be discussed if we are to successfully move beyond it. We assume that it is normal human behavior to seek pleasure and avoid pain, however, in Guyana too many of us appear to only take delight in complaints, accusations and the blaming of others.
This continuous need to seek comfort in the negatives at the expense of ignoring the positives has become synonymous with ‘holding our leaders accountable’ which we know to be a very critical aspect of development. But at what point do we draw the line, as it relates to fairness?
Dialogue based on issues and objectivity no longer seem to apply and there is a complete breakdown of constructive argumentation in favor of personal attacks, misinformation and political bias, on social media in particular.
On the receiving end, the public gets subjected to an inescapable environment of naysaying which ultimately serves the purpose to divide; and no one stops to examine how this cyclical pattern keeps us woefully distracted, nonproductive and doing absolutely nothing to better our personal circumstances as citizens.
Yes, Government must be held responsible for delivering on their promises but we too are responsible for steering our lives in productive directions by working to create better opportunities for ourselves and families. No amount of blaming will change what we must do for ourselves, in order to achieve real benefits in our everyday lives.
So for the purpose of starting the discussion, I have noted some key behavioral observations which are offered as hypotheses to why we seem naturally attracted to negativity:
Observation 1: Insecurities and low self-esteem.
Our over-dependence on Governments which have historically disappointed us have resulted in a deep-rooted distrust. Politicians and their operatives, exploit these feelings of distrust to keep citizens divided based on race, economic profiling and other factors.
Overtime, the cycle of continued disappointment and manipulation has led to an inner sense of us not feeling deserving of ‘good’ in our lives.
So as a collective, we reject seemingly simple solutions and become an obstacle to the very things we wish to achieve such as unity, foresight to economic opportunities, the acknowledgement of national progress in certain areas, etc.
Observation 2: The way we were raised.
Our parental style in Guyana has long embraced the beating of our children into discipline. This is done from a standpoint of parental frustration, ignorance and unrealistic expectations of our little ones.
We have come to believe that this is acceptable behavior but a growing body of research continues to suggest that the practice of beating keeps societies enslaved to a culture of violence, characteristic of various public health issues and negative impacts.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the transmission of violence between generations, with violent behaviors passing from grandparents to parents to children – a phenomenon known as the “cycle of violence” – and the tendency for abuse victims to continue to suffer and inflict violence, as they move through life are long-term consequences of maltreatment in childhood.
Observation 3: A return to what we know.
Stemming from the cycle of violence, some of us have endured lifelong struggles, trauma and other negative experiences which leads to a characteristic condition where there is a need to continuously relive what we know.
Negativity becomes a state-of-mind which we feel familiar with; and as a result, we go through our lives responding to an insatiable need to always lash out in anger, peddle sarcasm and publicly promote exaggerated misfortunes which are used to reinforce self-promoting rhetoric.
Our general lack of understanding pertaining to mental health issues in Guyana lends to an unhealthy breeding ground for persons suffering from these conditions. The negativity of which filters down to citizens on social media. Audiences on social networks then engage the victims of these unfortunate circumstances, in ways that degenerate into casual spectacles for entertainment. In many cases, victims are mocked or ridiculed in private which compounds the negativity and disregards the need for psychological treatment.
Observation 4: The search for realism.
Many of us pride ourselves on being realists. We mistakenly believe that to be realistic, we must constantly focus on the negatives and aim to dispel any signs of optimism we encounter. There are alternative forms of this among Guyanese who are too afraid to acknowledge ‘joy’ because positive feelings are seen as a set-up for disappointment.
These scenarios, along with the custom of complaining, blinds us to the possibilities for growth.
Observation 5: Our history and its wounds.
Too many of us are still consumed by deep feelings of remorse, anger and regret over past experiences or consequences of decisions we cannot overcome. Guyana’s history has resulted in people unconsciously punishing themselves and others for past hurts gone by, especially among those who would have lived through periods of trauma that has unfortunately conditioned them.
We see the effects of this in the form of racism, the fight for property and the promotion of hate speech which the younger generation either absorbs or rejects, depending on their levels of understanding and intellectual exposure.
Now is the time to put an end to our self-defeating love-affair with negativity and focus on our collective development as a nation. Why only now? Now is as good a time as any!
We must look to ourselves for reassurances of hope and a belief in our country, instead of the average politician, many of whom are yet to grow themselves. We must shift our expectations toward a sense of independence, realizing that we have the power to earn results for ourselves through education, hard work and a commitment to personal excellence in everything we do.
We need to research healthy parental practices and reconsider the ways we contribute to the generational cycle of violence. We must understand that the little adjustments made today will significantly impact the quality of life our nation’s children inherit, tomorrow.
Our country is in urgent need of properly equipped clinics offering therapy, qualified professionals, research, support groups assuring anonymity and educational awareness that is dedicated exclusively to mental health issues. We need to advocate for these improvements, while maintaining a sense of compassion for the victims who are suffering in silence. We must not engage their suffering as a form of entertainment.
We must be cognizant of those with a vested political or economic interest in influencing us away from concepts that encourage the fair assessment of issues, racial unity, non-violence, etc. by attempting to bring discredit to initiatives dedicated to achieving change.
The manufacturing and disseminating of cyclical negativity is a tool that is being used every day, year after year, by operatives from both sides of the political sphere in Guyana. We must not buy into the divide. Reclaim your minds and become Free-Thinkers!
Heal Guyana is a registered, not-for-profit organisation which functions as a civil society platform that focuses on empowering Guyanese and influencing citizens toward positive behavior change.
The views expressed herein are those of the Author; they do not necessarily reflect the views of Heal Guyana or its Executives.