Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Opinions...



"Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government..." (Abraham Lincoln, Chicago, December 10, 1856)


Over the past few weeks, in fact much longer, I have seen what amounts to a growing intolerance for the opinions expressed on any range of subjects but in particular, the just concluded General & Regional Elections and the subsequent installation of a new government.

Much to my dismay, there are some of us who seem to think that opinions, once they are not in conformity with our own are somehow below the benchmark of what may be considered worthy and able to contribute to the discourse, in this instance, our national state of affairs.

Opinions are not equal nor is there a monopoly on who can or is allowed to have an opinion, however meaningless, trivial or superficial you may consider it to be.

And therein lies the problem, most people, particularly the ones with inflated egos of their own self worth tend to view other opinions as falling short or worse, mindless chatter, failing to acknowledge that their own opinion, no matter how elegantly and sophisticatedly clothed and well supported by logic and coherent arguments, is just another opinion.

And so, it was rather distressing to see decent, respectable brothers, resort to, of all things, rancorous name calling and outright repudiation of opinions deemed as folly simply because they lacked appreciation and moreover respect for someone else's inherent right to freely express an opinion.

It is a right, though inalienable, we must never allow ourselves to take for granted. It may surprise you but there are societies that know what it is like to live under the tyrannical machinations of a dictatorial regime.

A particularly chilling illustration of this is the recent news that four individuals were all sentenced to life imprisonment in the United Arab Emirates, wait for it..."for disseminating information, rumours and pictures on Twitter that harmed the reputation of the UAE..."

Let that sink in for a moment.

Closer to home, history is replete with notable instances of men and women who have paid with their very lives for expressing their opinions, manifesting itself in the form of public protests and other forms of civil disobedience against a regime not responsive to or swayed by expressions of public opinion.

Against this backdrop, it is easy to understand the wave of resurgent hope that has swept ashore like a tsunami with the election of a government, which campaigned hard with the need for change as its central message.

Expectations are high, hope is in the air, men's faces are no longer strained and anxious, everyone is looking though not everyone is cheering. There's a lot of buzz, a lot of speculation, a great deal of wheeling and dealing and yes, a heap of opinions, some scholarly, some mean spirited and outright racist, some indecent, some mostly pedestrian thoughts.

Unlike any other adminstration in recent memory, the Granger administration will be the most analysized, dissected and intensely scrutinized, coming under the microscope for all of its actions, generating varied opinions from Guyanese and other stakeholders both at home and abroad.

It has been decades since we have had anything even remotely resembling an accountable government, a government that was responsive to opinions beyond its circle of friends and families. And so it is only natural that a government which tirelessly preached change and a sharp rebuke of the status quo would receive near forensic type analysis from everyone, not just its detractors.

In all probability, missteps will be made in the new dispensation, as has already been perceived, whether real or imagined. Blunders will be made along the way, there will inevitably be personnel issues, ministers are merely human beings like the rest of us mortals, prone to the same frailties and shortcomings like the rest of us.

Hopefully, the Granger administration would be guided by the strict code of conduct it has signalled for all its officials in high office; for far too long, we have seen public officials commit all manner of transgressions and remain in office, never again should we ever allow that to happen.

Speak your mind and speak it freely, ask questions, demand answers, develop what my undergraduate thesis supervisor, Dr. Michael Scott, called an enquiring mind.

It all starts with an opinion, cherish it, value it, be glad in it.

And yes, the sentiments expressed herein are MY opinion, you may or may not like it but I thank you nonetheless for taking the time to read it...






Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Is this your UNCLE SAM ?!?!




Once upon a time…besieged citizens of the world fleeing political, religious and other forms of persecution looked towards the United States of America, that noble bastion of democracy in the Western world with her beckoning Statue of Liberty as their only refuge of hope for a better life.

Ironically, in today’s dispensation, American citizens are seeking political asylum in ‘friendly’ nations with appalling human rights records as they flee the U.S in an attempt to escape federal prosecution for bringing to light the many excesses and in some instances abuses of a government that increasingly resembles a vast tyrannical empire that aims to ‘police’ the world, all under the guise of fighting terror.

Let me go that over again…slowly !

American citizens (with bona fide birth certificates) are increasingly on the receiving end of a criminal justice system that punishes rather than rewards them for instances of whistle blowing, forcing them to flee the land of the free and the home of the brave to nations that now masquerade themselves as champions of the oppressed.

It is worth pointing out that all of this is made manifest under the nose of a black presidency…a Harvard law school graduate sufficiently endowed with a strong sense of the historical injustices perpetrated against minorities (in particular) that you’d be forgiven for thinking that under his presidency, all Americans whether they be black, white, Latinos, Asians, would, no matter their moral, religious and political persuasion be assured of their constitutional and other civil liberties.

It is the bedrock upon which the greatest nation on the face of the earth was founded, which notwithstanding its dark, turbulent segregationist history, continues to stand out as an alternative pathway for millions around the world who dare to dream of a better life.

Of course, the U.S is not all milk and honey…

The last ten years has spawned a fragmented and deeply divided political system, widespread poverty, senseless gun violence, social injustices and glaring racial inequality, no doubt accentuated in the post 9/11 world.

It is without question a human foible, an unmistakable blemish on the human character, there will always be men who by dint of the colour of their skin, their education, their personal worth and lineage, who will always continue to delude themselves that they are better than the rest of us.

Yet despite her numerable shortcomings, the U.S given the dramatic scale of her wealth and unending promise of opportunity for all to share in the American dream, continues to hold sway over the greatest push pull factor in the history of mass human migration that has resulted in many broken families, torn apart by the years of separation waiting for visa petitions to be heard.

Everyone wants a piece of America…from the dissident Chinese writer who is forced underground as he dreams of democracy coming to Red China and writing freely without fear of recrimination; the little Afghan girl who is consigned to a lifetime of ignorance on the unquestionable authority of the Taliban, who have decreed schooling for girls as unwholesome and against the tenets of Islam; the Syrian rebels who look towards an indecisive U.S for assistance as they struggle to bring down Assad’s regime to political opponents who mysteriously disappear in the middle of the night, never to be heard from or seen ever again.

Is it all under threat from within, is the American way of life as you perceive it to be on the verge of morphing into something completely unrecognizable ?!?!

And therein lies the greatest irony, while the new dichotomy may be unrecognizable for those at home, the gradual undermining of civil liberties will be recognizable to those who have known and lived under oppressive and repressive regimes all of their lives.

Perhaps it comes over as a bit of a stretch to describe in such unflattering terms, the country everyone still regards as the greatest democracy there is, however, make no mistake about it, Uncle Sam is under siege from within...in its war against terror it has become its own enemy.

You’ve got to wonder about a ‘democratic, transparent’ society that has ‘secret’ courts…how do you begin to preach the gospel of openness and accountability in the developed world, to the throngs of poor people around the world who thirst for a taste of real freedom, when at home, your children don’t have access to the living room, which you’ve converted into a massive listening post, spying on your neighbours, your friends and your relatives, surreptitiously trying to ferret out the bad guys.

I don’t consider what Edward Snowden did as particularly heroic, to my mind, he’s just a little pawn in a mega scale conspiracy that has forever destabilized the very notion that the U.S is the bastion of freedom and liberty.

A friend of mine fiercely supports Uncle Sam’s eavesdropping on her citizens, contending that in the post 9/11 world, it is the price Americans must be prepared to pay for their security and continued enjoyment of their civil liberties.

While this argument does sound particularly compelling, it fails to recognize that under the wrong set of circumstances, there can and will be instances of executive abuse (think another version of Nixon in the Oval Office)…and to whom are the men in dark suits to be held accountable, when all of their activities are done clandestinely…the foot soldiers on the ground !

Where does it all stop, just who determines that enough is enough, to what extent will the U.S go to protect her interests from all enemies, both foreign and domestic, what’s next ?! ‘Silencing’ her own citizens from voicing dissent and expressing disillusionment, after they’re found guilty of contrived crimes in a secret courtroom ?!?!

You may want to think twice before you even attempt to blow that whistle friend…it would seem there’s a very thin line between espionage and whistle blowing.

This isn’t the UNCLE SAM you thought you knew !!!!!





Monday, 18 June 2012

Is the U.S at 'war' in Somalia and Yemen ?






Last Friday, I read the aforementioned piece in the New York Times and found myself wondering whether armed conflict/combat by definition constitutes a war since the enemy combatants, in this particular instance, are not nation states per say but radical groups ideologically and militarily opposed to the U.S and its Western Allies.

On Thursday, the Obama administration in its letter to the U.S Congress, for the first time, disclosed to the American public by extension, of taking "direct action" against groups with suspected links to Al Queda in both Yemen and Somalia.

The letter also refers to U.S Forces engaging in a "limited number" of operations against named groups in both countries.

Apparently under the U.S War Powers Act, Obama or any sitting U.S president for that matter is given considerable scope in authorizing military action against groups or nations with hostile intentions against the U.S and her interests, whether at home or abroad, without having to publicly acknowledge such actions.

I suppose you may argue that nothing has really changed, since historically the U.S has engaged in assassinations, coups, fomenting acts of civil disobedience and other acts of aggression, strategically employing a range of other ploys and tactics, in foreign countries, designed to further her own narrow, self serving agenda.

Is this democracy at work ?

In this regard, I don't think ordinary men and women have ever really taken hold of the reality that the U.S once backed Mujahadeen fighters during the height of the Cold War in the 80s, elements of which later led the formation of the Taliban, in its quest to help drive Communist Russia out of Afghanistan.

The implicit danger here to my mind is that once ANY group, which may be perceived or for that matter, designated as enemy combatants by the U.S, it will use its military might to find you no matter where in the world you may be.

I have emphasized the word 'any' to underscore that of late even U.S citizens who have fallen on the wrong side of the ideological divide have themselves become the subject of "direct action" as the Obama administration has put it, without even being afforded due process, a fundamental legal right enshrined and codified in the U.S constitution and designed to serve the interests of all Americans, inclusive of those, who by virtue of association may have fallen afoul of the law.

This is indeed an eye-opener, it thus stands to reason that if the U.S is prepared to target its own citizens in their post 9/11 quest to rid the world of its 'axis of evil,' then who are we whose voices are but a faint whimper, yet may very well find ourselves one day on the other side of the divide.

With virtual kangaroo courts in Guantanamo Bay and the killing of American citizens who are merely suspected of links to Al Queda and other terror groups, the U.S appears set on a path of wantonly eliminating anyone or any group that stands in her way.

With Barack Obama sitting in the Oval Office authorizing direct military action under presidential decree that stands above a system of checks and balances that are inherent in all democratic societies, it immediately becomes clear that the world has entered a new age of global warfare fought by remote control, from thousands of miles away.

Love them or hate them, you gotta hand it to Uncle Sam, no other nation has the military might, the gumption, the audacity or the gall to take preemptive military action against nation states and/or groups, cloak it under a veil of secrecy and be allowed to get away with it.

War crimes or just wars ?!?!

But back to my question...is limited military action against hostile groups war, an act of war, a declaration of war or simply the U.S taking preemptive military action against these groups to prevent a real war.

I tend to favour the position that you can't wage war against groups that are not nation states !

Of course, I may be wrong...