ROAR of Ravi Dev
Guyana Times 1-6-17
I note the intervention of my friend, Dr David Hinds, in the matter of Red House that has transfixed the nation. So as not to misrepresent his views I quote his letter extensively:
“As a student of ethnicity and ethnic politics, I allow for certain normatives in ethnically polarized societies. I am not torn up by ethnic voting nor am I condemnatory of appeals to ethnic solidarity—I see these as normal developments that are products of the logic of ethnic polarization. One just has to live with them and try to utilize them in positive ways. But what Mr Jagdeo is doing is going out of his way to create an atmosphere of ethnic tension when there need not be one. This Red House issue is not one of disrespecting Jagan or Indian Guyanese sensitivities.”
“As a student of ethnic politics”, however, I hope Dr Hinds would concede the salience of the identity of“the leader” in such politics, which, for good reason is also labelled “identity politics”. The identity of the follower is bound up with that of the group and it is widely conceded by “students of ethnic politics” that the desire to be ruled by “one’s own leader” is one of the driving forces of such politics.
In Guyana, this holds true for both Dr Jagan and Mr Burnham who have come to symbolise “leadership” in their respective Indian-Guyanese and African-Guyanese followings. Those who mobilised in those communities “from within”, so to speak, outside those leaders’ umbrellas, were seen by most in the group as “betraying the cause”. As a self-identified “Rodneyite”, Dr Hinds would have experienced such opprobrium from within the group he situates his political praxis.
The point is that neither Dr Hinds or anyone else can arbitrarily decide “This Red House issue is not one of disrespecting Jagan or Indian Guyanese sensitivities.” “Sensitivities” are subjectivities which, by definition, are generated by the subject. Unless Dr Hinds is implying ethnic followers have no agency and are merely reflexively following the music of the pied piper of their group. Let me assure him “this Red House issue” has affected “the sensitivities” of Indian Guyanese such as no other since the January 12th 1998 ethnic violence directed against them for presumably being followers of the PPP. Outside of anything Mr Jagdeo may have said.
As such it is quite inconsistent for Dr Hinds to define “the issue” for the Indian Guyanese since he promised to “allow for certain normatives in ethnically polarized societies.” It reminds me of the instance in October 1992 when Dr Clive Thomas, as leader of the WPA and Dr Hinds as of the foot soldiers, did not allow for the “normativities” of African Guyanese and defined “the issue” then, as fulfilling Dr Rodney’s mission to “remove the PNC dictatorship”. They paid the price as I did in 2001, when I misread the “sensitivities” of Indian Guyanese.
In supporting the PNC in its present incarnation, I assumed Drs Thomas and Hinds et al, had worked out a modus vivendi with the “sensitivities” of African Guyanese for “cleaving” to the signifier of their group’s leadership. And would have accepted the Indian Guyanese analogous movement.
But I would like to share with Dr Hinds and the other partisans of the government’s Red House gambit a more specific reason for the Indian Guyanese “sensitivities”. I invoke J.L. Austin’s proposition of the “speech act” implicit in the government giving the CJRC two days’ notice to vacate the premises with all of the records of Dr Jagan’s life’s work. When one writes or makes a statement, there are the words – in this case “move out since your lease is invalid” – which can be analysed for their sense and reference (the locutionary aspect). But there’s also simultaneously the “point”, or one may say, the “move” that was intended by the government – the illocutionary aspect of the statement – called “speech acts” by J.L. Austin. If “the move” was to undo an alleged illegality, the conundrum arises to Indian Guyanese as to how that “illegality” would have been cured by including “the papers of other presidents” as Dr Hinds said approvingly of the government’s offer.
But speech acts have a third, “perlocutionary”, dimension – “what we bring about or achieve by saying something”. And this is where Indians feel the government was out to humiliate the memory of Dr Jagan- especially when the summary verbal expulsion was confirmed by Ministry of the Presidency’s employees breaking down the sign of CJRC and throwing it on the ground.