THE EDITOR: Something I remember well from my childhood days growing up in the sugar estate is the rebuke from my “agee” or grandmother: “Saram na ba?” — meaning, “Have you no shame?” — whenever I shortchanged my younger sisters with the sweets I was supposed to share equally.
Direct question as it may appear, it was in fact that of the rhetorical kind, pointing in a poignant manner to my concern only for myself, which generated a tremendous sense of guilt as I slouched away hanging my head in shame.
Such admonition from the elders in the face of wrongdoing was a customary part of the cultural psychology of the East Indian community in the estates and rural villages for it seemed an expectation that we should behave beyond reproach, and when we didn’t, we were pulled up in this fashion with the therapeutic effect of feeling a sense of guilt and remorse, hopefully not to repeat the same errant behaviour.
With time many of these elders have departed the scene, but I wish they were still around to admonish some of those Opposition politicians for their less than acceptable behaviour, in the expectation of generating the same kind of guilt and consequent remorse which we experienced during our younger days in the “sugar.”
I have chosen this group for most, if not all, belong to the same East Indian constituency, and probably would have been part of the same upbringing in the rural communities of old and subject to the same “saram na ba” retort from their “agees,” but now they seem impervious to the kind of moral introspection which such rebuke would have generated in us.
One case which strikes me relates to a recent Opposition platform in which great enthusiasm was shown by one senior member for the present leadership, offensive cynicism and all for her rival, when during the last party election he was trying to oust her with equal enthusiasm.
This is an example of “singing for your supper” at its worst with no sense of guilt about the “about face.”
“Agee” would have been mad at this indifference to the dignity of the person, seeking to serve yourself at the expense of your pride and your self-respect.
But this is the nature of the politics in this country where serving the self takes precedence over every other moral and ethical consideration, and one has to only look at some of the others in this group, especially the first protester on this issue of the elections, and ask whether their support for the incumbent leadership is based on anything else except ensuring their own political survival.
Which is why the present challenger with “bow tie, knife and fork, and accent,” ridiculed as such by the self-proclaimed champion of the incumbent, is a breath of fresh air, for he dares to ask questions when others bow slavishly in acquiescence, and with him three others, including a senior member, who are equally refreshing in questioning the legitimacy of the elections.
The challenger will most likely lose and the three dissenters would have probably forfeited their candidacy for the next general election, but their legacy will remain and “agee” will be proud.
In ending I ask: “What is your ‘sense of shame’ if not your soul, your humanity?” Without it, you are nothing.
DR ERROL BENJAMIN