It is more than sad; it is downright tragic that Guyana is a pathetic example of intellectual vacuity. One must give credit to the late founder of the Stabroek News, David de Caires. To galvanize intellectual debate, he spearheaded a committee to landscape the Camp Street Avenue that runs from Church to Quamina Streets.
When this was done, he used the nicely spruced up avenue which now accommodated (permanent) seating arrangements as the venue for weekly alfresco discussion on a wide range of topics. When he died, his attempt to resuscitate polemical exchanges died with him.
Guyana is such an intellectually barren wasteland. This must be the only country in the world where you open the newspapers and there isn’t even a paragraph of a public comment from a university academic on something in the country that is creating nation-wide interest. You pick up the newspapers for most countries, and you will find some academic from some discipline making a public comment.
Read the Barbadian or Trinidadian or Jamaican newspapers and the UWI lecturers are always voicing their opinions on some topic or the other.
There are literally two UG lecturers that offer polemical interventions publicly. One is Sherwood Lowe who ironically is not a social scientist but an engineer but he does write on social issues. The other is Dr. Thomas Singh, an economist. If we had a living academic culture, Guyanese would have been educated by now in the concept of the Over-Developed State.
I have written about this theory which is a brilliant analysis of post-colonial counties many times in my columns and for those who missed those pieces I will briefly describe it once more. For me, it is the most relevant paradigm to use to understate the 50-year absence of democracy and the 50-year mistreatment of the poorer classes.
Birthed by the Pakistani political theorist, Hamza Alavi, in the early seventies, it posits that the State in post-colonial lands carries out the same coercive, non-democratic functions in post-Independence societies as it did in the colonial era. But there is a special dimension to the post-colonial state that is of special interest to Third World people. It is its over-developed nature.
What is meant by over-developed? Alavi wrote that the colonial government was a stranger in a territory that disliked it and wanted it removed. The colonial government then invested in a large state machinery to protect colonial interest, protect the physical colonial society and to intimidate the local population.
When Independence came, that large state with its brutal functions was retained by the post-colonial elites. Alavi used the term “over-developed” because in terms of population, size and economy, the state machinery in the newly independent countries was too large. It had to be large in colonial times because the governor and his officials were afraid but after Independence, small states poor in economy and small in population didn’t need such extensive state machinery.
Under President Burnham, you had an expanding army, a uniformed National Service, the People’s Militia, the police and the youth arm of the ruling PNC had to do select military training. And another layer was added to the Judiciary which other CARICOM countries do not have. Apart from the Chief Justice, we have a Chancellor of the Judiciary
The Over-Developed State in Guyana never went when the Governor and his entourage departed Guyana and the Union Jack was replaced. The Over-Developed State swung into action after 1966 and it has been in action since then and by then, I mean right up to May 31, 2016. Some of its victims included Walter Rodney, Ohene Koama, Dr. Josh Ramsammy, Father Bernard Darke, Vincent Teekah, “Sash” Sawh, Ronald Waddell, Courtney Crum- Ewing, Mark Benschop, Oliver Hinckson, Carol and Bruce Munroe, and Leonard Wharton.
The list here consists of those who were murdered and those charged and jailed for their political activism. I have left out state brutality directed at critics either through employment termination, dismissal, libel and legal harassment, discrimination, and physical attacks.
Sadly, the poor is always the most pitiful causality of the Over-Developed State. As I stated in my last Saturday column, my opinion and belief is that central government directed the City Council to evict those three hundred vendors from Stabroek Market Square so the Golden Jubilee float parade could have moved off from there.
The celebrations for the Golden Jubilee have demonstrated with acute, graphic and vivid visibility that after fifty years of sovereignty the State is incompetent and cannot organize anything, even a little parade. What it is perfect at is the organizing and use of power.
That is all the Over-Developed State can do.