Sunday, April 27, 2008

Rickford Burke’s Dangerous Path of Perception; Where is Marginalization?

Where is Marginalization?
Part 4 – A Rejoinder
By Prem Misir
LET me say for the umpteenth time that our findings on marginalization focused on only one type of marginalization, social marginalization; and social marginalization has to do with examining the levels of ethnic participation in the occupational structure.

And in multiethnic societies, knowing the ethnic demographics is a prerequisite for appropriate policy formulation and good governance. Policies have to touch the lives of all of a country's citizens, and no citizen should be left behind. And so knowing the status of various ethnic groups, especially in the occupational structure, would facilitate better planning and execution of effective programs for the good of all Guyanese.

Over the past few weeks, I have been presenting findings addressing the ethnic distribution of participation in the public service. These findings have generated a huge response; but there was one personal attack from Rickford Burke of the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy in New York City. But I take whatever comes in good stead, as all this goes with the terrain whether you are in academia or in some other public sphere.
And how about if our findings on ethnic distribution had shown that Africans are not marginalized, would the critics then say that this ethnic distribution is meaningless? Then if by chance, these findings do show that Africans are marginalized, then these findings would have received great accolades. And so this is the nature of the beast that permeates the critics' responses to our findings on marginalization.

I, however, would advise the Burkes of this world that personal attacks merely bring very superfluous, phony short-term gains, but have no sustainable capacity. Our findings are very significant for policy-making measures where we must continue to push for a better quality of life for all Guyanese.

And how about if our findings on ethnic distribution had shown that Africans are not marginalized; would the critics then say that this ethnic distribution is meaningless? Then if by chance, these findings do show that Africans are marginalized, then these findings would have received great accolades. And so this is the nature of the beast that permeates the critics' responses to our findings on marginalization.

The crime I seemingly may have committed, in the critics' eyes, is to release findings on the ethnic distribution of participation in the public service, and which is part of a larger study since 2002; and these findings show that many Africans are well-placed occupationally. These findings also are true of Indians, Amerindians, Mixed, and Others. However, all the responses have focused only on Africans.

However, I did not measure whether or not these well-placed Africans are tokens, are micromanaged, or are controlled by other people; and so I cannot say that they are micromanaged, or controlled. But what I can say is that they occupy senior positions. At any rate, telling a senior African manager who is not a token that he/she is a token, may very well be an insult to that person's intelligence.

But the critics all seem to conclude that well-placed Africans are marginalized, in that they are micromanaged, are tokens, or controlled by other people. Well, these critics would have to provide evidence that Africans in senior positions really are tokens, or controlled by others; this they have not done; capricious examples will not do. What yardsticks or what measures the critics apply to determine their conclusion that Africans are marginalized, or that Africans are in office and not in power. At least, I have presented evidence on the ethnic distribution of participation in the public service.

The critics need to understand, too, that we are presenting findings on only one type of marginalization, social marginalization; and social marginalization has to do with examining the levels of participation in the occupational structure.

Some critics seem confused about the distinction between marginalization and discrimination; they are not the same. And it is common knowledge that in a multiethnic society wherever marginalization prevails, it tends to touch all ethnic groups.

Again the critics seem confused about risk factors for marginalization and marginalization itself. Significant risk factors for marginalization include poverty, unemployment, sickness, physical disability. But risk factors are not forms of marginalization and their presence should not be equated with marginalization. In fact, experiencing social or/economic disadvantage is not necessarily marginalization.

Marginalization is a process, not a condition; and so the individual can experience marginalization in some parts of the life cycle and not in other parts.

This means that it may be hard to differentiate between voluntary and involuntary marginalization; cases may exist where an individual makes a voluntary choice that may involuntarily produce marginalization; or where an individual makes progressive adaptations to his marginalized status and sees the experience as acceptable.

Marginalization involves exclusion from participation in some areas of society. It is important to note that marginalization in one area of social life does not necessarily produce marginalization in others. Simmel, a German Sociologist, explains that marginalization is incomplete participation.

Rickford Burke's Dangerous Path of Perception
Real Data Fail to Support Marginalization
By Dr Tara Singh
IN politics in particular, "perception" is even more powerful than reality. Some critics like Rickford Burke who readily embrace perception and racism have also shown a penchant to unleash them with reckless abandon. Neither caring for authenticity nor the rigors of sound scholarship, and ready to trample on morality, people like Burke operate in a world of illusion, but not without moving aggressively to sway others into their concocted realm of distortions and innuendos. While established science and religion have "truth" as their core principle, that is anathema to them. Accepting the truth will not only mean a massive transformation, but also, lead to the crumbling of their beloved fate of racism.

It's the pursuit of truth that will eventually set us free; no matter how great may be our temporary advantage. Radical perceptionists aim to keep us in darkness, a situation where the blind leads the blind. They continue to bombard us with distortions. And if we are weak, we buckle under their relentless pressure. If we are strong enough, their mission collapses. And how do we become strong? By seeking the truth! The IT (information technology) revolution has endowed us with an infrastructure capable of enhancing our knowledge and wisdom that can eventually tear down the walls of darkness, and erect instead, a fortress of enlightenment. In this way, we can bring their misguided journey to a halt.

The truth must never become a casualty of expediency. We recognize that it carries a high price in the short run, but such sacrifice will pay enormous dividends later. Let's be guided in our deliberations and actions by the scientific method, as well as, by the moral compass of our spiritualism. While there are instances when some type of perception may turn into the truth, more often than not, it remains just perception, and loaded with undesirable connotations. Our challenge, therefore, is never to allow perception to be a substitute for truth.

What's the practical application of this approach, for example, to the social situation in Guyana? Some say that President Bharrat Jagdeo and his PPP/C government represent an "ethnocracy." What's the meaning of this, in layman terms? It's a government of one ethnic group that is also a dictatorship. This is a classic case of perception or falsehood. President Jagdeo and his government were duly elected at fair and free elections. They did not rig the elections, as previous PNCR governments had done. In addition, the Jagdeo government contains 50% non-Indians, compared with the Patrick Manning PNM government of Trinbago that has less than 20% of Indians. If there is a dictator in a CARICOM country, then look to Trinbago, and not to Guyana. Yet, our critics including Rickford Burke conveniently ignore this situation and embrace Manning and his government, especially when Burke recently dispatched a letter to Manning describing the evils of the Jagdeo government and siding with the Manning administration; clearly, the logic here points to Rickford Burke as a racist.

President Jagdeo has shown a remarkable capacity to cross ethnic boundaries. It is known that the PNCR government presided over the economic collapse of the bauxite mining town at Linden, and that it is the Jagdeo administration that has infused it with new life. It's no wonder that the PPP/C won a Parliamentary seat for the first time at Linden (a former stronghold of the PNCR), something which the critics had failed to perceive. The PPP/C won a sizeable number of Afro-Guyanese votes at Linden and elsewhere in the country.

By the pursuit of sound policies and "inclusionary" measures, the Bharrat Jagdeo government has even made greater inroads into interior communities, the once traditional strongholds of the TUF and the PNCR. But the process of "enlightenment" that sweeps across the country has not left the Amerindian communities untouched. In gratitude, they delivered, for the first time, a number of Parliamentary seats to the PPP/C. And how can we forget about President Jagdeo's recent appointment of Ms Carolyn Rodriguez, an Amerindian, to the high-profile position of Minister of Foreign Affairs! What ethnocracy are they talking about? Are they using marginalization as a surrogate for exclusion from Cabinet-level power? "Rickford Burke, snap out of your dream, Burnham and Hoyte are no longer there."

Rickford Burke, a PNCR activist, desperately fighting for Robert Corbin's position, now a so-called democratic guru of the worst kind, and a bitter critic of the Jagdeo administration, has launched a scathing attack on Dr Prem Misir. Again, the basis of his argument is grounded in perception and innuendos. "Prem Misir, the Pro-Chancellor of the University of Guyana, continually demonstrates his proclivities for blatant partisan politics, which manifest Guyana's ruling People's Progressive Party's (PPP) philosophy of racism. His prejudices are openly and recklessly promulgated by pen in the daily media, as he enmeshes himself into his party's ethnocratic politics and promotes their nefarious propaganda as the State apparatus' misinformation czar."

This type of incendiary outburst by Rickford Burke is not scholarship, but a sordid attempt to demonize an outstanding Guyanese, one who rose from the sugar plantations to become the Pro-Chancellor of UG. The "racist" epithet better fits Rickford Burke and not Dr Misir, who has shown a capacity in his writings with seven (7) books to his credit and several research studies and articles, as well as, in his life to rise above racism.

And Burke claims, too, that Misir is exploiting the gowns of academia to dispense partisan politics. The University of Guyana (UG) has several senior academics and administrators who are clearly aligned with various political parties, and blatantly dole out partisanship. And let it be known that there is no such thing as a class of literati at this UG, who has the capability and integrity to recognize anyone for scholarship. No one in academia at the present UG could merit recognition as a scholar; and their political leanings are astounding.

Don't confuse Dr Misir's disdain for PNCR politics with racism. To some people, to criticize the PNCR is tantamount to become a racist. Don't "pull down" Dr Misir because he is bold enough to show via research that Afro-Guyanese have not been marginalized by the PPP/C, as claimed frequently by critics. Upon what evil and racist road is Rickford Burke's one-man Guyana Caribbean Institute for Democracy sliding?

Let's examine the notion of marginalization. At the level of the Permanent Secretary, both Indo and Afro are fairly well represented. However, Afro-Guyanese hold an advantage in all other senior administrative and executive positions, such as, Deputy Permanent Secretaries, Principal Assistant Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, Accountant Heads, and Senior Personnel Officers. "There is an evolving ethnic mix in the hierarchy of control throughout the Public Service," says Dr Misir.

Most Heads of Nursery, Primary, and Secondary Schools, are Afro-Guyanese. Only at the Primary level do Indo-Guyanese show competitiveness with Afro-Guyanese for Headships. Under the PNC/R regime, 70% of Afro-Guyanese were Regional Education Officers (REDOs). In 2006, Afro-Guyanese constituted 55% and Indo-Guyanese 45% of REDOs. There is a disproportionate number of Afro-Guyanese over Indo-Guyanese academic staff at the University of Guyana. "The ethnic imbalance among academics is astounding -- 22% of Indo-Guyanese, as opposed to, 67% of Afro-Guyanese that occupy faculty positions." Only in the Natural Sciences, is there any competitiveness in staff allocation.

Again, there are data in other areas of public life to refute the thesis of Afro-Guyanese marginalization. Between 1992 and 2002, for example, over 70,000 house lots were distributed to Guyanese, of which 29,287 were allotted to Indo-Guyanese and 25,810 to Afro-Guyanese in the 10 regions. This equitable distribution holds good also for Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese in the Education State Boards, as well as, other State Boards (Source: Where is Marginalization, Part 2 by Dr Prem Misir).

Having reviewed these data, we are puzzled to understand why these critics still speak about ethnic "marginalization." Was marginalization a concept ever developed during the Burnham era? If so, why wasn't it applied then to the social conditions of Guyana? Critics seemed to be more concerned about preserving the "rights" of a few, who had stolen power, rather than with the pursuit of the truth. Perhaps, if they dared, they would have been liquidated! For other critics, their time had come, and accountability was less important than enjoying the trappings of office.

The PPP/C government inherited a grave problem that they never created. Economic collapse, a huge foreign debt, double digit inflation, high interest rates, negative foreign reserves, and a battered population who managed to survive, but were left hopeless by years of PNCR tyranny. For 28 years, the PNC/R had been unable to lift the Guyanese people (Afro-Guyanese, Indo-Guyanese, Amer-Guyanese, and Others) out of poverty and despair, and brought them instead to economic ruins. Yet the same critics had failed to chastise the PNCR government for their ineptitude.

Over the succeeding 15 years (1992-2008), was it reasonable to have expected the PPP/C to pull Guyanese out of that abyss of despair into which they were hurled? While most of the available evidence is positive, we must indicate here that most Guyanese are not yet happy with the fight against crime and corruption. The failure to capture the notorious Buxton Rawlins' gang, despite massive injection of assets into the army and police, and other law enforcement agencies, still leaves Guyanese baffled. Will this gang be ever apprehended? Will the infusion of additional capital assets into the Police Force in particular necessarily lead to attitudinal transformation? Will this help to change the "culture" of the police?

On the positive side, inflation is in single digits; the national debt is less than

US$700 M; there is a healthy foreign reserve; growth is positive; and never before in the history of the country had there been a more inclusive governing structure than presently. In the absence of shared governance, inclusive governance is a step ahead of the Westminster Parliamentary model.

The government can do much better if only it gets the support of the PNCR and other opposition elements. Distortions and the spreading of fear hurt everyone. Poverty and unemployment exist, but these cannot be equated with marginalization, which is a conscious policy to leave defined groups behind in the process of development based on colour or ethnicity. No one believes that the PPP/C government is engaged in this deprecatory practice.

Let's continue to bring alleged cases of racial discrimination to the Ethnic Relations Commission for adjudication. And yes, let's stop peddling false information, and work together to build our country. More than ever, Guyana needs builders and not destroyers.