Kean Gibson and Pamphlet Education
by Rakesh Rampertab

In a letter published on the eight of December in Stabroek News, one R. Soobrian asked in reference to widespread racial violence; “Are the talk show hosts, the lunatic fringe racists and their supporting cast using Dr. Gibson's book to take Guyana down this fiery road. Is Dr. Gibson's book, The Cycle of Racial Oppression in Guyana, intended to be the spark?”

The answer is, arguably, yes. In of itself, this book was written to prepare and provoke a particular section of the Black community into action against Indian interest, from the supposed “Indian” government to impoverished Indian estate villagers. Conniving and corrupt, it was not done to demonstrate research skills or to enlighten Blacks. It is not about Hinduism. Every book begins with an invention, just as every type of blasphemy has an audience. Dr. Gibson knew she needed a limb on which to stand to trumpet her blasphemies, and this was found in the Hinduism-PPP idea that already existed in the Black community before her advent into our landscape.

A good student of literature would recognize that this “book” shares characteristics of a pamphlet. Whether it’s 18C British or early 20C Russian pamphlets, pamphleteers usually have one message and will use anything to deliver it. Gibson’s book is the same, only more colorful and carrying an ISBN barcode meant for international circulation. Pamphlets need no real testimonies because pamphleteers can invent dialogues, and dialogues are mere words that can be reshaped at will. This differs from fiction (e.g., novel) or dramatic (e.g., plays) writing because these have dialogues created especially for characters. What Dickens makes young Oliver Twist say is specific to who Oliver is. In Gibson, the“who” saying things is not important. “What” is being said is. This makes it acceptable in Gibson’s view to reference an imaginary "Ghandi" instead of the historical Gandhi.

Because pamphlets differs from even manifestos (which shares elements of a pamphlet) and do not work under the rules of either technical or literary writing, facts are not necessary. If facts are use, it’s a bonus. In Gibson’s case, it’s a disguise that deceived many reviewers from Mr. Frederick Kissoon to Mr. Al Creighton, both of whom did painstakingly similar reviews. The flaw of the Cycle of Racial Oppression in Guyana is not that it lacks facts, but that it has some. She never intended for her work to be another Groundings with My Brothers, because her primary audience is one with clenched fists that will open only when it’s time to light fuses, not to read. All one needs to light a fuse is a matchstick and a book of blasphemies marketed on TV is a great flamethrower.

Here is an incident that makes Dr. Gibson very relevant. After Ms Donna McKinnon was killed in the vicinity of Freedom House in April of 2001 during post-elections unrest, an individual E-mailed Guyanese worldwide saying that an “an Afro-Guyanese woman” was “murdered” by an “Indo-Guyanese male.” As with Dr. Gibson, we’re told, “witnesses say” this. Interestingly, this person is now a founder-member of the newly formed Guyana Institute for Democracy in Brooklyn, a supposedly “non-partisan” group. While the strange transition from rabble-rousing to democracy championing is suspicious, it is obvious that this person wanted to incite a violent reaction by Blacks against Indians, not only in Guyana but also in cyberspace.

This readiness among Black voices in opposition to the PPP to manufacture news and opinions out of lies or half-truths, borders on barbed-wire propaganda that is detrimental and self-destructive—for misinformation only keeps a community out of focus with what is really happening. On May 27, 2001, the late Mr. Hoyte accused the PPP of many things that were false in a letter to the press, such as the diversion of water from Buxton to Indian villages. That an ex-president would indulge in such false claims is evidence of the desperation of Black leaders to indulge in a degeneracy of ideas. Black voters have to put an end to this because it is dead wrong, and it serves no benefit so great that it requires the exchange of their conscience as decent people. Since the decline of the PNC from office, the Black community of Guyana has failed to demand this from the PNC, that is, the trading of the Black conscience for a right for PNC members to speak (or not to speak) in parliament.

But why condemn this book when it is only the typed opinion of notable Black leaders, from Mr. Hoyte’s “mo fyah” and violent Buxton as a “just cause” to Mr. Alexander’s “injection” theory of violence for Indians? This book is just a photo essay of violent street protests that are commonplace now. When Black protesters-turn-arsonists light Indian-owned stores afire, they do not hum “we shall overcome” but holler “mo fyah!” instead. The PNC cannot deny that almost every violent protest since 1992 has been done in their favor. This is because Black leadership is the only one that offers violent rhetoric (whether at rallies or in newspaper interviews) as political solution.

Fortunately, this book will not survive the test of time. This is not due to the sheer horror of its content, but because its primary admirers cannot learn anything new from it. They did not need this book to stir their wits beyond the grab of their imagination, or give their sunken views arms and legs. At most, they may anticipate that the Black middle class of Guyana which may afford this book at $3,500 (US$25.00) will read and be incensed into action by it. It's difficult to foresee this occurring—this book is an immaculate throwback on decades of serious, intelligent writing to originate from the Black community across the West Indies from Garvey to James to Rodney. Ultimately, the Black community will have to dismiss this book, even if subtly, for it is a terrible and shortsighted examination of the complex Afro-Guyanese personality today.

Still, until then, it must be taken seriously because there is orchestration against Guyanese interest. I say “Guyanese” interest because one cannot act against Indian or Black interest in Guyana without damaging national interest. No one should dismiss as R. Soobrian did, those who plot behind TV screens and E-mails as “lunatic fringe racists.” These individuals are neither insane nor do they exist on the “fringe.” Instead, they are adequately financed, well connected, and committed civilians who dwell intimately among us. And even if they were indeed “lunatics,” we still have to be attentive for madness cannot be easily measured, only monitored constantly at best.

Finally, I would discourage people from buying this expensive book. Borrow it if one must read it, but it’s not worth paying for because it’s not worth reading.

[Editor's Note: For Frederick Kissoon's review, please see Gibson's Work is Propaganda.]

December 13, 2003
© 2001