A child’s last memory

For those who were privileged enough to be present at a family function of the entire clan of ‘Meyers’; to witness the sight of an upper-middle-class family in it’s full plumage, have many times told tales of subconscious offensiveness and mild resentment sensed within the family. There was a silent war pulsing through our bloodlines, one that could never be won because no one seemed to know it was going on.

All our carefully composed faces and sharp features would question each other, our thoughts painful like barbed creatures. Even in pain we did not share a bond held carelessly by other families, but the ‘rebels’ like my Uncle John and Ken, with their lop-sided grins, carelessly put together clothes and flippant nature gained the snooty looks normally reserved for dying dogs on the side-walks from the lot of my family. Individuality was not entirely accepted, although we were allowed to be what we really were, frightened and vengeful, clawing and gnawing at anything we wanted.

We were all gathered in the dining room,spread out amongst ourselves like strangers engaging in painful small talk, while awaiting the arrival of my late Grandmother’s lawyer. He entered shortly after, clutching a brown briefcase in his hands. He was long and thin with his shaggy triangular head cocked sideways in a kind of bereaved gesture. I didn’t know what it was about him that I found so unsettling but the fear settled on me like a cold coat full of mist.

“Nice to see you all here again,” he began with a smile. I wondered if I were the only one to notice the slight condemnation in his voice as he spoke. The only other time we had all been together was two years ago, when my Grandfather had died. “Should we start?”

“We better,” my father gruffed, “We waiting long.”

A few of the ladies moved uncomfortably, I myself involuntarily smoothened my trousers. My father hardly spoke and when he did, it was always a cause of great discomfort.

“Alright,” he began as he took a seat at the vacant chair and plunged his hands into his briefcase.

I could feel the tension in the room, feel the lack of oxygen as everyone stopped breathing for a while. My Grandfather, wise man that he was, had left none of them anything, save a few pieces of furniture he might have well have gotten from the war. They all earned decent livings, but not nearly enough to sustain the image they tried so hard to upkeep. My mind drifted off as he began to read from the sheets of papers, but I could feel joyous breath being released all around me and I knew the old hag had made them happy for once.

They were all circling each other now, like a swarm of bees, making less strained conversation. I looked around them and realized that we were all a band of thieves and hypocrites, with scarce believers sprinkled amongst us like rare treasure, but most were good, or tried to be and those who weren’t, well… Morality existed only in the faintest of places but loyalty to each other above all else was expected, demanded. In my heart, I knew better but I still had hope. Hope that one day all the cleverly guised conflicts would end and it would not be because of great statesmen or churches like our own. It would be because we changed.

The beauty concept

Yesterday at a Café house, I met up with a group of friends whom I had not seen for a while. We caught up on each other’s personal lives and began some harmless bantering and then our conversation inexplicably steered to beauty. Here was a group of intelligent young people but no one could agree on what beauty was.

Eventually, for lack of a compromise, we moved to other topics to entertain ourselves but still, the beauty concept stuck with me. Almost everyone in the world has their own notions about what beauty is and what it is not. Due to this reason, judgements on beauty broadly vary across societies and cultures. In short, most of us can quickly say that X is beautiful but we struggle to say why we believe so in truly acceptable terms.

The belief that beauty is subjective is perhaps best exemplified in the popular phrase, “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” This belief made me wonder as to whether beauty is what convention may have told us from childhood; that beauty is dependent on individual personality or whether there is a universal physical idea which determines beauty.

I would not be hypocritical and say that everyone is physically attractive, as I find some persons more aesthetically pleasing than others. What I can say however is that beauty is not wholly objective, as I have sometimes found persons attractive whom others may have believed to be plain or average; some part of their physicality or personality appealed to me.

According to Aristotle in his book, “Poetics,”, “To be beautiful, a living creature, and every whole made up of parts must present a certain order in its arrangement of parts.” Here, Aristotle equates beauty with symmetry, further suggesting that true beauty lies in one’s geometric composition. Beauty according to this theory then can be said to be composed of our values, morals and the Golden ratio.

Despite the steady changing of the beauty standard in the world, the one element which has remained intact as suggesting true beauty is the Golden ratio, also known as the “divine proportion” or more commonly, “phi.” It is stated that the more ones face adheres to phi, the more attractive that person is. This can be debated however. Actor, Denzel Washington has a near perfect facial symmetry and was once named sexiest man alive by “People Magazine.” He is without doubt a handsome man. Let us look at rapper, Jay-Z now. The rapper has a perfectly symmetrical face yet he is not considered beautiful by most in today’s society. Even with the “divine propertion” there seems room for debate.

Despite the fact however, that beauty; even objective beauty cannot accurately be defined, due to the mass media and books which sexualize the human face and body, we are in an age where beauty is normally measured solely on ones outward appearance. I suppose we come back to the premise that beauty is indeed in the eyes of the beholder but we can go further and say that what defines beauty is the multiple lenses through which that eye perceives that beauty- social conditioning, sexuality, cultural practices, other characteristics of the beheld and the direct preconceived prejudices of the beholder

It has been a bad week for bigots

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Earlier today, I received a call from a friend of mine. Normally a very soft-spoken person, I immediately knew something was wrong when I answered the phone. She bombarded me with the unpleasant sound of what can only be described as a cross between gurgling and screeching. After some careful coaxing, I finally got her to calm down enough to tell me what the problem was. Imagine my surprise when she told me that the USA  had legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 of its states and how worried she was that the Caribbean would soon be following suit because, “everybody like copy the Americans.” I believe sometimes I’m slow because I could not figure out for the life of me what this possibly had to do with her calling me in a panic and I asked her this, only to realize where my problem lay when she replied, “we can’t allow them to marry here, they gonna sink our country.” I momentarily forgot my problem and became curious at this point because I was trying to figure out whether she meant this metaphorically, as in our country’s development may become stunted upon legalization of same-sex marriage or whether she meant this literally. Did she believe our country like the fabled Atlantis would sink because we upset the Gods?

Coming to the realization that I would never know what she meant as she continued rambling on about sins, I hung up the phone and tried to objectively look at my problem, because aside from being an avid consumer of food, I also enjoy solving problems. Before coming to my decision, a bunch of possibilities popped up, such as, “don’t comment on it,” “ignore it” etc. but these posed new problems as I am a very opinionated and vocal person and I just cannot stay silent on issues which concern me. Bigotry, religious extremism, male chauvinism and babies in Aeroplanes are all issues that I believe need my prompt addressal. My problem is that I always seem to end up with friends who have intensely different religious views or different political views than my own. I believe I have them mostly just to show everyone how open-minded and accepting I am of everyone elses belief systems. I realized however that for the preservation of my sanity, I would have to give these people up and be branded as someone who is intolerant of other people’s beliefs and rights. Although the irony hurts, I realize how necessary this is to preserve the modicum of self-respect I have for both myself and my few remaining religious friends.

Instead of celebrating or at the very least, being accepting of the strides made by the USA today to further push equality forward, I see my social media feeds dripping with hate and disrespect of the grossest manner. There are the outright ones who clearly state how wrong and immoral this is and then there are the ones who take a more errrm political approach to it while still displaying their biases. Although there appears to be a few level-headed persons amongst the mixture, this number is alarmingly small and speaks of how intolerant our great nation is. To the ones who say they should not get married because it is a Christian concept, I say to you, please do some History. Marriage was a legal contract long before Christianity even existed and dates back to the code of the Hammurabi 1790 BC. I realize that years of social and religious conditioning has changed most of us for the worse as we are allowed to pick and choose our morals, but wouldn’t it be nice to love someone as they are rather than hating them for it?  I applaud the USA for its decision and I can only hope other countries do follow them soon. It has been a bad week for bigots. I can’t say I’m sad about this as I hope that in the near future these bigots will be hit closer to home. It’s unfortunate that some of you are so riled up, but it’s about time you have had a bad week when the rest of us have had bad decades and centuries.

The University of Guyana

Dear University of Guyana,
It is with a heavy heart that I write this, there are only so many blows one can take to the perfect image they’ve held unto for so long before it completely shatters.
Since I was younger I used to look upon University level education with a certain reverence bordering on the spiritual. There were only so many University graduates in my family and I was determined to be one. I was certain then of my path, after my secondary education, I would then become a student of the prestigious University of Guyana and make myself and by extension, family proud. In retrospect, I’m surprised to find out how much of a romancer I was, but such are the dreams of a young child.
The University of Guyana leaves much to be desired, from their tuition fee’s, range of academic programs and opportunities offered, straight down…

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The country is the way it is because people do not speak out

Dear Editor, For years, I have asked myself and those closest to me, what was wrong with this country we call home, where our people are fed racism, hate and lies. Our people are rapidly losing their identity and there seems to be no stopping it. We are alienated to the point where it is now brother against brother and sister against sister. I asked myself, why in a country of so much wealth, we are so poor and even in the 21st century, Guyana is in one of the most detrimental states it has ever been. After pondering these questions for short periods, I would quickly come to the conclusion that the government and the people were to blame and I had no part whatsoever to play in this.

My thoughts never went further than this and my opinions, though strong, were never voiced because I had never seen myself as my brothers or my sisters’ keeper. I saw politics as something alien. Something the foolish meddle in, because to meddle in such a system was asking for trouble. I did not wish to question such a system, being so young, unknown and not anywhere in the world as yet. I did not wish for the trouble that would be brought on me for speaking out on the matters and decisions that hurt us as a people.

Age I believe surely brings wisdom. As an 18- year- old Guyanese citizen, I’ve learnt that I can no longer dish out the blame on others. I can no longer blame the people, not even the government. I have to blame myself.

I have to blame myself for not being my brothers nor my sisters’ keeper. I have to blame myself for witnessing injustice and never taking action against said injustice. I have to blame myself for our failing country and everything that goes with it. I have to blame myself for the rapidly increasing crime rate in our country.

I have to blame myself for even our failing education system, the Marriott fiasco and the BaiShanLin embarrassment because I’ve read about them, seen the effects of them and I have remained silent on them.

By remaining silent, I have unwittingly agreed to support a failing system where foreigners are treated better than one’s own citizens. I have to blame myself for being an embarrassment to my country, my family and myself for saying more than once that I have no interest in politics or world affairs.

I recognized my ignorance and saw how my continued silence was slowly sinking this already sinking country. I blame myself for being a coward. What do others blame themselves for?

Yours faithfully,

Akola A Thompson

University of Guyana student