Editorial — 16 December 2014
The dilemma of poor people

It is Christmas time, and a time of “good cheer.” But already it is a season filled with the hope and excitement of elections. The Cayo North by-election is near, and soon, after the Christmas and New Year celebrations, it will be “full metal jacket” into the swing of municipal, and there’s even talk of possible simultaneous general elections in March 2015.

But these days, few people, especially poor people, whose lives are a day-to-day struggle to put bread on the table for their hungry children, have the time or the inclination to seriously reflect on what role their elected government leaders can and should play to improve their daily lives in tangible ways.

The situation is what it is, and for anything perceived as done by the government of the day that looks good, they are fair to give them their kudos. The cemented streets and some jobs for roots people are seen as very good things being done by the UDP government.

National Health Insurance, started when the PUP was in government, is also seen as a very good thing.

Many good things have been done by both PUP and UDP governments. And poor people are always thankful for these positive accomplishments by their government.

But poor people are so thankful, they often feel “beholden” to the politicians in government for the good works from which they have benefited.

It seldom occurs to our disadvantaged brothers and sisters that they, the people, are the rightful bosses, and that those political leaders are being paid a handsome salary by their tax dollars to do a job, which is running the business of their government, which is owned by and large, due to their great numbers, by those same poor people. The people, which are mostly poor people, are the power, but they just don’t realize it.

Except once every few years when they are given a chance to vote in elections, municipal or general, poor people normally have a subservient mindset towards elected politicians. It is like they, the poor people, are still helpless slaves, depending on the kindness and goodwill of their powerful slave masters, who now come in the form of their government leaders.

This ignorance of their own power that poor people display in their subservient behavior in the face of political abuse, allows some political leaders to do many wicked things for their own personal gain, at the expense of the people, poor people, and they generally get away with it. They even have the “face of brass” to talk about “moral guilt” and “legal guilt.”

Whenever land or property or control over resources changes hands, lawyers make money; and both major political parties are packed with lawyers. (It is interesting that the first caller on WUB this morning, Monday, December 15, to voice support for the questionable BSI/ASR deal with the cañeros was a lawyer.) One government oversaw the “privatization” of some major national assets/utilities; and the other party now in government re-nationalized a few of these assets (BTL, BEL, BWSL); and certain prominent radio mouthpieces of the other “government-in-waiting” have even promised to return at least one of these assets “to its rightful owner.”

Where are poor people in all these conversations, and those about citrus, sugarcane, oil, huge tourism projects…?

When deals are made, secret deals that in some cases may enrich certain politicians at the expense of the national patrimony, poor people have no idea of all that is going on, although it is their property involved.

Poor people, in their daily struggles, are concerned about “what have you done for me lately?” And that is where they have made themselves like sheep, to be led to the slaughter by wicked political leaders.

Whenever our national assets are stolen or “given away” in one-sided deals, our nation, and, by extension, every citizen, becomes poorer; that is except, of course, for the individual political architect of the sellout deal.

If proper laws were in place, and carried out, without a doubt, a sizeable number of local politicians, red and blue, would be in jail. But it is political leaders that make the laws, and they also control the Commissioner of Police, so all we can do is to continue to pray for investigations of politicians.

The problem is that our present poor people don’t understand the reality of the “wealth untold” that as citizens they collectively own. Meanwhile, that “wealth untold” – the oil, the national lands, landmark national assets – are slipping away, until the day eventually comes when all that national “wealth untold” will have been effectively transferred, by legally binding procedures profiting lawyer/politicians, into the private hands of the slave masters’ children, in the form of foreign investors and their selected local partners. Will the hapless poor then be completely reduced to the level of former slaves? Will their only option then be “rebellion”?

In this post-slavery world of capitalism where “investment capital” is in the hands of the rich (the heirs and descendants of slave masters), today’s poor people (the descendants of slaves and subjugated indigenous groups) have only their labor and their citizens’ rights to nationally owned assets, to make them effective players in this competitive game of capitalism.

But the nature of the “game” is that this “card” of poor people can only be played, for better or for worse, by their representatives, their elected leaders.

The only hope of poor people in making real and lasting progress when trying to secure the necessary inputs of foreign investment capital to see the establishment of job-creating industries, is for their leaders to be honest, wise and nationalistic in all their dealings and negotiations, so as to alleviate the plight of the poor people whom they represent.

Poor people rest all their hopes and dreams in the earnest belief that their elected leaders, who must represent them around the table when dealing with the “big fish” – the IMF, individual foreign investors and global corporations – will live and abide by the lofty principle of, by and for the people.

History has proven that our poor people have often been disappointed and lost faith in their government leaders. When that happens, they are inclined to vent their frustration in an avalanche at elections, where they render landslide verdicts, to “vote out” the set holding office. Poor people tend to “vote out,” rather than “vote in,” but they are also swayed by proclamations that hit close to their heart – “honesty, transparency and accountability.” That is all poor people want, and they will stick through good and bad times with their government leaders. But when such blandished promises are seen to be betrayed, a backlash is inevitable.

It has been back and forth – blue, red, blue, red – but poor people are getting disappointed each time, after a brief period of high hopes and dreams. The PUDP, it seems, are all about “foreign investment.” But poor people still don’t know if they have yet found a leader or leaders whom they can really trust to work fully, totally and honestly in their behalf and not just for himself, themselves, his/their party, and his/their relatives and cronies.

There is no one wearing the mantle of George Price or Philip Goldson in either party.  Few questioned the integrity of Manuel Esquivel, but somehow he seemed out of touch with grassroots people.

The dilemma of today’s voters, mostly poor people, is where to find leaders in whom they can be fully assured that their interest will always count first and foremost, or at least equally, with those of “big business” and “foreign investors,” whom both red and blue political leaders seem to adore.

“Voting out” in the past has not seemed to stem the downward spiral of poor people’s plight.  But when and where is the viable option for them to “vote in”?

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