Features — 30 December 2017

I read a Facebook post of a well-positioned supporter of this government blasting people for begging and expecting ham and turkey this Christmas… I just shook my head at the audacity they now have to tell people that they should not be begging, when it is this very government that got people into this unbridled hands-out culture. The so-called “Christmas-cheer” program is just a bribery dressed up as Santa Claus and a reinforcement of the “dependency” mentality disguised as Christmas giving. There is a fine distinction, and the difference is marked by the fact that it’s taxpayers who pay the price of these bribes and givings. See, if the politicians really wanted to give to their constituencies they would use their own personal money, but when they use taxpayers’ money… it is a bribe… it is an entrenchment of a culture of dependency and a legitimization of a culture of corruption… It is not developmental for us as a nation, but it thrives on man’s innate and most basic instinct of immediate gratification and need to fulfill basic needs… food and shelter being high on the pyramid of needs.
Poor Christmas

I’ll be the first to admit that Christmas as I knew it growing up has lost its meaning. Then it was more about the birth of Christ and the religious part of it. To my recollection Christ was at the centre of the celebrations. I recall the processions and Midnight Mass and re-enactment of the Nativity scene and a tradition we in the North called “Pastores,” where it was a signing and presenting of gifts to Baby Jesus by the shepherds – translated to Spanish “pastores”. But we have long moved away from that tradition and are more focused on the commercial aspect of Christmas, with elaborate gifts, expensive parties, the best of liquor and all the extra external trimmings.

However, this year, in my estimation and from talking with many local business owners, it’s been a very poor Christmas as shoppers are out, but are buying the cheapest and the minimum. The measurement one fruit vendor told me, is the extent to which people are not buying the food products. Apples and grapes she explains, are not selling out and are treated more as a luxury item this year. Other years she explained she sold out also on potatoes, tomatoes, sweet peppers and carrots; this year, however, nothing has sold out. From my observations, this year there has not been any scarcity of pineapple slices, cranberry sauce,  eggs, turkey, or ham, as shoppers in many instances have opted to buy chicken instead of turkey and half of the ham leg or shoulder instead of the whole. One business owner explained that first time in a long time turkey and ham remain in such abundance. Other years, she says, people are practically fighting to get the last few remaining ones.

The lights were dimmer this year too… you could count on your fingers (just saying) the amounts of houses in each neighbourhood which actually had up at least a string of Christmas lights and maybe a Christmas tree. Of course, the special 10% of the politically connected Belizeans, who have gotten fat and rich off the people’s backs, had a really merry Christmas and some posted their pictures with no shame or pity of those that don’t have. They showcased the most expensive rums, from Blue to Black Label whiskey, elegantly adorned windows and walls with garlands and lights and draping Christmas trees filled with gifts under their limbs … and of course the endless talk about the gifts given and gotten and the festivities enjoyed from which they are still having hangovers as they prepare to “party” their way into the New Year.

Institutionalized corruption

But the troubles of the old year will go with us into the New Year, because it is one of institutionalized corruption. Yes, what our people have been unable to track and recognize is the nefarious way this Prime Minister and his gang of Cabinet Ministers have strategically broken down every institution that would make our democracy strong and replaced it with a new culture of corruption with people now protecting their personal perks and privileges, instead of advocating better governance. This new culture of corruption has become so engrained that the people cannot even recognize the ill of it because in their own way they have become part and parcel of it, mostly by design and desperation.

Several key events have taken place which have highlighted that in this country those in power operate on the premise that they are entitled to abuse that power and that they are justified in acting above the law. Better yet, we have a Prime Minister who makes the law to suit his will and liking and who has used his power to pass any legislation to have his way and have his say! He has acted above the law, even the law he has created, and when it no longer suits him, he has recreated and amended or passed new laws.  However, the masses have missed out that it is this very conduct that has resulted in the ensuing poverty we are further experiencing. I believe because the masses cannot connect the dots, they have failed to see the correlation between their poverty and the high-handedness of the government led by the narcissistic Dean Barrow.

If my people could only understand that the decisions of the leaders holding absolute power have resulted in their poverty, they can unite to fight corruption. But when your belly is growling with hunger, and your mind is shackled by an enslaved mentality, when your heart is wrapped up with love of your political party and you have no value of your self-worth, the last thing I can expect for anyone to do is recognize that they have now become part and parcel and supportive of the culture of corruption spawned by our political leaders for their personal gain and to maintain their hold on power.

I say the masses are supportive because you see all those “free” gifts you got from the Petrocaribe dollars and the misuse of social security money, or even the money budgeted for the so-called pantry program, they are not free… we are all paying for them. The biggest lie of a gift for the Belizean people has been the BTL takeover. Oh boy, BTL is not really for the people and has been the fleecing ground of the Barrow administration. The services of BTL have been the worst and yet, the monies being paid out to the Ashcroft group are not coming from the profits of BTL, so technically they should have money to improve the company, but have not! However, instead what we have seen are the signs that BTL has become politicized so much so that not even the union there could have fought against the nepotism, when Dean Barrow appointed his own son, Anwar Barrow, to become the CEO. A blatant abuse of power… but did the poor people rebel? Did they see how that was corruption? Did they realize that such an act lacked transparency and accountability? Did they realize that this seemingly simple act has led to less money to improve the lives of the masses? “No” to all of the above.

(To be continued in the next issue of the Amandala)

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Deshawn Swasey

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