The creation of national wealth occurs when ordinary people come up with creative, useful and sometimes not so useful ideas, build them, improve on them and then market them. This can be a product as well as a service, a new way of doing something, a process or even a concept. That is pretty much the basis of wealth creation, and it’s no great secret, as some might be led to believe. However, in most instances it is not overnight and takes persistence, patience and a dogged determination to succeed. Individual success grows into companies and eventually to some of the large successful Fortune 500 conglomerates we see today. As the saying goes, a great forest fire starts with a simple spark. This process is commonplace — from the man who started Facebook to the person who invented the common paperclip.
There are three things that somehow, I cannot bring myself to ever buy in Belize: mangoes, drinking water and dogs. Growing up in the 1970’s these were either given away or were free of any financial cost. Today, these three things combined can make you into a modern day financial baron. Just ask Bowen & Bowen and the Asians who import dog food. When I was living permanently at home, I made sure that I bought a plastic vat which was connected to my main household water from BWS, nothing fancy or expensive, just practical. The rainwater from the roof gutters made its way into the vat and was used for everyday use. This was the same way our parents and relatives did it when we were young, except with old metal 55-gallon oil drums. It was cheap, economic, healthy, and reduced the cost of living, and in some cases was a necessity when there was no running water in the dry season. To this day, of all the places I have travelled, there is no taste better to me than the taste of fresh PG rain water. Mangoes, on the other hand, were so abundant during their season that after a while not even the pigs wanted to eat it. We ate it green with salt and pepper, “turn” as we called it when it reached that stage between green and ripe, when it was ripe and even over ripe. Almost everyone had a tree in their backyard, and as kids we had a feast. No one ever charged for it, because it was everywhere. Some people were less generous with it, but there was never a scarcity.
The same was true of dogs; they roamed the street; despite that, come night fall they all found their way home. Neighbors, friends and family gave them away as gifts to kids and loved ones, and they too became part of the family. We knew nothing about breeds and whether they were house dogs or outdoor dogs. A dog was a dog was a dog. We made sure they were fed, bathed, and had a place to sleep and even nursed them when they were sick, but they always knew their place was outside and where they stood in the family hierarchy, and that was their needs came after that of humans. While we loved our dogs in our own unique way, they never took precedence over real people. They ate from the family pot and when it was dog poisoning season to control stray dogs, they were granted the rare indoor comfort of a spot indoors in the house. They generally served two purposes: protection and companionship. I remember when I was living in the Belize City area, I told a friend that I needed a dog. When he mentioned the different breeds of dogs that were available, and not to mention the prices, which were enough for almost two months’ mortgage, I almost fell off the chair. I ended up getting a dog from the neighbor, which naturally was our own special Potlicker. Naturally I became the joke of my friends, but when I pointed out to them that my dog had teeth, fur, four legs and a tail just like theirs, they started to see the light. The joke was even more on them when they wanted to borrow money and I made sure to remind them of the cost of the dogs they had and not to mention the feed and monthly vet fees. That quickly put the joke on them.
Over the years, Third World countries have been led to believe that anything they did and whatever they produced was not good. Somehow the West convinced us that bottled water, mangoes bought from large industrial farms and the particular breed of the dog really mattered and we totally bought into it. We have been led to believe that the brand of our clothing and footwear matters, and little do we realize that wearing the brand of the products that we buy makes us literally into walking billboards for them. They should be paying us to advertise for them, but it’s the complete opposite; we pay them to advertise for them. Personally, there is not a single brand of clothing, footwear or attire that I have a preference for. If it’s comfortable, will last and fits into my budget, then it’s a go; the brand is irrelevant. In addition, we continue to support the idea that bottled water is the right approach rather than drinking from Mother Nature. If you need bottled water and see the constant need to have it within your reach, buy a water bottle and fill it up from your vat. Even better, reuse an old vinegar bottle. You would be amazed at the savings you would get in just one year. With regards to the dog have them eat leftovers and see the cost of his care also reduced, and yes, plant, plant and plant. Food self-sustainability is the key to national growth. The minds or the way of thinking of most Third World nations have been led in a way that supports the commercialization efforts of the West, and we have failed to see it, or in some cases we don’t want to. Gone are practical and more sustainable ways of living.
Am sure that a lot of Belizeans were glued to the TV set to watch the Super Bowl this weekend. Imagine, they have us watching a game that we neither play, and most do not even understand but has now become a pastime for us like Thanksgiving. The number of Belizeans who would go out and support our local athletes in most disciplines when they are playing is not even half the number of Belizeans watching the Super Bowl. Talk about being brainwashed. I went to school in the states, worked in the US and live here most of the year, and I am still not into it as some people back home. The US is the largest income-earner when it comes to the entertainment industry, be that movies, music and any other type of entertainment. They became that way because they supported their own and their own ideas. That is something we can learn from. We need to stop being led by the nose to feed others’ economic interest.
It’s all about the people!
Neri O. Briceno