Saturday, February 28, 2015


Not to be confused with Guinea, Guinea-Bissau or Equatorial Guinea, all of which are in Africa; this one is officially in the Caribbean, though in fact it is on the mainland of Central America. In full the Cooperative Republic of Guyana (it is strange to think of a country operating as a Co-Op, or indeed a Co-Op operating as a country; I grew up in a world in which a Co-Op was a grocery store and a cooperative was a place where hippies and anarchists "hung out" to do "free love" and smoke pot; on the other hand, co-operative is also a synonym for bi-partisan, a word which used to be in the dictionary of American politics, and would serve every country in the world well if only they adopted it). 

Like New York, Guyana started as a Dutch colony which the British grabbed (Britain’s finances are based in its Treasury; a Treasury is the place where you keep the treasure; treasure is what pirates steal – just wanted to be sure we all understood the terminology). British Guiana became independent in 1966, and a republic in 1970. Though it is still a member of the Commonwealth, it is also a founding member of the Union of South American Nations; and will be made an honorary member of the International Society of Poverty-Stricken Nations, if ever the rich and greedy people in the world, all of whom claim to be caring and compassionate members of one or other of the main religious faiths, actually get around to making the moral decision to reduce their levels of narcissistic greed and self-indulgence and help the 80% of humanity who are candidates for the aforementioned club. 

Guyana makes up for being poor in human living conditions by being extremely rich in ecology, though unfortunately you can’t eat most of the exotic trees, plants and birds, and not just because they are protected species – Guyana is particularly good at protecting species, so long as they are not human. Two thirds of the population are descended from African slaves, brought by the Dutch to work the sugar plantations. One half of the population is descended from Indian agricultural workers whom the British brought when slavery was abolished. The arithmetical disparity is attributable to intermarriage. Politics is ethnically based in the usual manner; it seems to me a universal paradigm that human beings would probably get along much better with each other if there were no politicians trying to organise them, while actually driving them to hatred and war in the process; by odd paradox, total anarchy may actually provide a better chance of harmony and unity, whereas imposed harmony and unity invariably lead to anarchy. 

Economically too the country had little chance for a long while, as the incompetent politicians also owned and managed all the industries; and how surprising that things started to get better when denationalisation took place in the late 1990s. Oil has now been found, though Guyana is still disputing with Suriname over who owns which part of it – and anyway, to access the oil, they will need Dutch or American oil companies, who like to take their profits to tax havens like Guernsey and the Cayman islands, so they won’t gain any benefit from finding it.

In the same league as Niagara and the Victoria Falls, though perhaps at the Liverpool level rather than the Chelsea, Guyana hosts one of the world's great waterfalls, Kaieteur Falls (see photo at the top of the page), which I include in order to balance the mark I am subtracting for the country's appalling treatment of gay people, and consistent failure even to investigate allegations of violence against women.

Marks For: 2 (with a bonus for putting the word "cooperative" in their name)

Marks Against: 5

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