“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity”.
– from “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) Chruchtown, Dundrum, Ireland: The Chuala Press, 1920
The recent decapitation of a “roots” Belizean, Pastor Llewellyn Lucas, represents a fairly new chapter in Belize’s crime chronicles. This horrific incident, allegedly masterminded by one William Danny Mason, a Guyanese Indian businessman deported from Canada who, incidentally but curiously, has a Belizean birth certificate, and is an associate of some UDP ministers and a party campaign contributor, is a saga that Belize can ill afford at this point in time. Hard on the heels of this is the possible devaluation of the Belizean dollar, the Pyrrhic “victory” of compensation payments to the Ashcroft Alliance for the nationalised companies formerly owned by the British adventurer, Lord Michael Ashcroft, the loss of correspondent banking, and investor money flight. Aggravating this situation is the decline in exports, now down by 30 per cent as against those of June 2015, the rapid depletion of Belize’s foreign reserves and a steadily shrinking economy. Belize now has an alarming poverty rate of 40 per cent. There is also the colossal tragedy of the government’s mishandling of the Guatemalan problem, the current loss of Belizean territory, daily and virtually unchecked Guatemalan incursions into Belize and the large scale theft of the nation’s natural resources, as well as the real possibility of the splintering of Belize.
In the 16th July issue of AMANDALA, the news item: “‘Another World’ accused killer, 18, arraigned” disturbed me more than most of the crime stories coming out of Belize. The victims – and this includes the alleged murderer – were young, jobless, idle, uneducated, unskilled, and clearly incapable of clear thinking and objective reasoning. They could not even be advised. The dead boy, from all reported accounts, was a vicious bully and thief, having previously stabbed his alleged murderer and confiscated his bicycle and $10. The accused said he was “tired” of the harassment. However, instead of seeking redress he resorted to self-help, without considering the inevitable physical and spiritual consequences which would result by taking another person’s life. The accused not only shot his tormentor once but, according to his aunt, attempted to shoot again, when she stopped him, and he ran away.
Hannah Arendt, the German-American writer and political theorist formulated a very key concept, which is most relevant here. She described it as “the banality of evil”. Arendt posits that the world’s great evils generally are not executed by sociopaths, but by ordinary people who accept the premises of these actions, and thus perpetrate and participate in evil on the grounds that these abominable acts are in fact normal. The normalcy of the unthinkable, or that which is wicked, therefore becomes commonplace and routine. In religious-speak, such people are described as “tools of the devil”. And, most Belizeans would attribute Lucas’s gruesome murder and that of the 19-year-old youth in Roaring Creek by an 18-year-old as “the work of the devil”. However, there are other reasons, no less important, for the deviant, yet “normal” behaviour of another crime sector in Belize; which is, Black on Black or Creole on Creole violence, and the decades old blood bath that is now normal among Belizean youths, particularly those residing in Belize City’s Southside neighbourhoods.
These reasons range from unemployment, institutionalised poverty, neglect, an inadequate, dysfunctional and dire lack of education, no skills, the absence of a viable professional or semi-professional sports infrastructure and opportunities to channel energies and direct talent, the large scale transplant in the last three decades of America’s violent guns, gangs and drugs culture via Belizean deportees and immigrants from the US, Belize’s porous borders which make gun acquisitions easy, and also to the drugs trade, in which Belize is caught midway between the largest supplier and user nations on earth. There is also the crisis of values in the family, religious entities, and the community. And, above all this is the abysmally poor governance and destructive rule of both the PUP and the UDP, which have resulted in Project Belize becoming a failed state.
It is a given, though, that the fault lines in Project Belize had always been there, only gaining momentum after our false Independence in 1981 which, in effect, was built on quicksand – or else, why have we been bedeviled and lumbered for so long with the diseased contraptions called the PUP and the UDP? The crises in our House of Cards have now reached epidemic proportions, with things culminating in “brigiddim buff” – that expressive Kriol equivalent of Yeats’s “things fall apart; the centre cannot hold”.
Project Belize has undermined and alienated its youths, and this has resulted in new constructs of specific primordial identities. And, because these youths have no positive role models, values, and ethics, they also have no conscience. The 18-year-old accused murderer in that recent Roaring Creek murder incident reportedly said: “Some mothers are going to cry”! Thus, the community and the state are “THEM”, the brotherhood of the gang is “US”, and the immediate target is minutiaed to “YOU” versus “ME”. Therefore, what one group in Belize’s fractured society regards as evil, and beyond the pale, the other perceives as normal, ordinary, and even justified. In a real sense, the political elite are not that different from the second group.
In fact, a young taxi driver who took me around much of Belize on my last visit there, confidently asserted that the biggest and deadliest of all the gangs are the political apparatchiks! There is also the matter of distrust of the nation’s security agents. Many Belizeans are reluctant to assist police investigations and serve as witnesses of crimes, even when the perpetrators are known to most members of the community. For witnesses have little or no police protection, and genuinely fear reprisals. This means that many investigations never make it to the courts, and so a good number of criminals go unpunished. Another factor is police complicity, and where this is known to exist, the ordinary Belizean prefers to “mind his own business”.
Some people tend to point the finger of blame to the parliamentary system of government which Belize inherited from Westminster and Whitehall – certainly, nothing to do with the Queen, as the occupants of Buckingham Palace have long been reduced and relegated to being mere ceremonial figure-heads, a process which began in 1689 with constitutional monarchy and culminated in George VI’s reign in 1937 to 1952; and are albeit in part, a symbol of cohesion. But the parliamentary system has worked fairly efficiently not only in Britain, but in Canada, Australia, India, (the world’s largest democracy) Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia and South Africa, and Caribbean nations such as Barbados. The parliamentary system is mainly used not only in Commonwealth countries, but also in Continental Europe which, however, avoids the “first past the post” system, that usually produces governments composed of one party, (as we have in Belize) and instead use proportional representation, which tends to produce election results in which no single party has a majority of seats.
But assuming Belizeans were to ditch the parliamentary system, because not only has it failed to work in Belize, but has operated mainly in the breach, in favour of adopting the American presidential system of government, in which there is a clear separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, and even the media – the fourth estate – would it fare any better? The American presidential system, as Nigeria has come to realise since adopting it in 1979, is exorbitantly expensive. In fact, it has failed woefully to bring democratic dividends to Nigerians, and there are strident calls now for a return to regionalism and the parliamentary system which existed in Nigeria before 1966. While the presidential system has served America reasonably well since the 18th century, some of its most noticeable flaws include gridlock, government shutdowns, filibustering, pork barrel spending, the undue influence of lobbyists and campaign financing whereby policy implementation largely favours donors over the people, harder to pass bills, and the slowing down or even lack of policy implementation because the legislature and the executive are not from the same party, and often work against each other.
In a genuine democracy, the servant is the elected official, while the master is the citizen whose votes led to the hiring of the servant. In Belize, however, there is a gross distortion of parliamentary governance, in which the servant is not only more powerful than the master who hired him, but he uses the master’s money and resources to bribe him in acquiring and keeping this ascendant position, and continues to shamelessly exploit him for personal gain. Meanwhile, he does no work to justify his existence as a servant.
In 1963, when Britain’s Conservative government was faced with the saga of the Profumo scandal, it not only weakened the government of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, which was already laid low because of poor budgetary policies, but it led to John Profumo’s resignation as Secretary of State for War, and Macmillan’s as well. Macmillan did not reshuffle his cabinet and, with Profumo, continue to sit tight amidst the national disgrace that had befallen his government. The honourable and decent thing to do was to go, and they both did. Alec Douglas-Home, the Foreign Secretary, then became Prime Minister after being chosen from a wide range of candidates. We see British Prime Ministers like Margaret Thatcher in 1990 and Tony Blair in 2007, as well as Australia’s Julia Gillard in 2013 resigning, when they knew they had become liabilities. In 2014, Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, resigned after Scotland voted against leaving the United Kingdom – despite his support for the Leave Vote. We see a replay of this recently in the same United Kingdom, with Prime Minister David Cameron’s resignation when Britain voted to leave the European Union (EU) despite his support for the Remain Vote. Cameron gambled and lost, and he sensibly knew when the game was up. He will now go down in the history books as the PM who recklessly led Britain out of the world’s largest and most successful trading bloc, ignited the possible breakup of the “United” Kingdom, and has precious little policy achievements and any legacy of worth to show for his years as Prime Minister.
In our own Belize, nothing like this would ever happen. Our own sit-tight “Right Honourables” and “Honourables” have not one iota of moral scruple in their DNAs. Rather, they are like V. S. Naipaul’s “Mimic Men”, who are in effect grotesque and pathetic parodies and fakes of the original and genuine article. Laws, conventions, age old, respected, and widely accepted customs and norms the world over, mean nothing to them. So, reshuffling the cards in the House of Cards is as far as they can go in their limited understanding of honour and political decency.
Come 10th September, the celebrations in Belize of an ancient battle and victory would have reached their apogee after a period of inane bacchanalia. And those among us who neither observe, read and think, nor attempt to understand and interpret the world within and without Belize will be lulled into a false excitement. There are many among us who fail to recognise that there is a far greater battle than that of 1798, which is even now at hand and is far more deadly and real than any other in the history of Belize. It is The Battle for the Soul and Spirit of Belize: The Battle for True Belizean Independence. In this battle there are many fronts. First, and most imperative, is the need to identify and dispense with the scavengers among us, Belize’s internal colonial masters who, in their relentless quest for power and money, daily divide us and connive with all our enemies to demean, subjugate and ultimately destroy our souls and spirits, particularly those of our children.
Some of them actually believe that by equipping their own children and grandchildren with the best foreign education money can buy or scholarships can provide, is indeed insurance against “the barbarians” of inner city Belize. Little do they realise that fire is no respecter of persons or gated neighbourhoods and homes. When Attila the Hun ravaged the Roman Empire in the 5th century, leading to its decline, very little was spared in his path. Next, is the need to identify and support new and truly revolutionary and positive leadership, as the hope for reform or any meaningful programmes of change to emanate from the tried and tested failures of our past and present amounts to mere wishful thinking. For although we left Egypt some time ago, Egypt is still inherently within us, so we stumble all these decades long in the wilderness.
In 2016, we now desperately need, even at this eleventh hour and before it is too late, a real, not a false Joshua, with his rod of correction and the inspired vision of a New Project Belize to lead us to the promised land of True Independence.
America’s Founding Fathers understood that if the United States of America did not have sovereignty it did not have True Independence. America’s first president, George Washington, in a letter to Alexander Hamilton, America’s first Secretary of the Treasury, stated that if a foreign power can tell America “what we shall do, and what we shall not do, we have Independence yet to seek, and have contended hitherto for very little”. Certainly, our Belizean politicians have never imbibed this creed. Sovereignty also exists when the people indeed rule, and their representatives respect and serve them diligently and efficiently, and not lie and rob them, insulting their intelligence and taking their patience for granted. Neither should any political representative: “bestride the narrow world like a Colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about to find ourselves dishonourable graves”, as William Shakespeare warned in the well known play “Julius Caesar”.
– Blessed are they who respect the people and serve them with Efficiency, Honesty, Transparency, Truth, Dedication, Loyalty, Humility, LOVE, VISION and WISDOM.
– Blessed are they who speak Truth to Power, despise oppression and advocate the cause of the oppressed.
– Blessed are they who do not take up guns and knives against their brethren and sistren, scorn the lure of drugs and turf supremacy.
– Blessed are they who refuse to be fooled, browbeaten and silenced by the ancient foe, Guatemala, and instead fight and defeat the fifth columnists, saboteurs and all the other enemies within and outside Belize, no matter their span of influence, until victory is won.
They – all of them – shall flourish like the mahogany, zericote, rosewood, granadillo, sapodilla, pine, santa maria, cedar, redheart , logwood, mylady, machiche, katalox, chechen, bocote, bullet tree, white gumbolimbo , t’zalam, cabbage bark, and all the many other woods, almost 700 species in Belize’s great forests. Sub Umbra Floreo! And their seed shall prosper.
This is the promise of God and the Owner of all Creation.
* Therese Belisle Nweke writes from Lagos, Nigeria