“In building a nation, too much discipline is better than too little, and in preparing a child for citizenship, strictness is better than indulgence.”
The opening lines of this essay are uncredited but, that does not matter. There is a dictum which says, “The importance of a thing when said is not what is said but by whom it is said.” I beg to differ. The importance of a thing when said, is what is said. It is the song and not the singer.
Our poet, philosopher, politician, George Price said, “Building is a task for giants; little men tried and turned away.” Is it that we have produced only little men or that our giants have been engaged in other pursuits, why we are at the place where service to the nation is not the first priority of our political leaders; or is it that we have failed to recognize and to use the building blocks which are essential to construct a strong nation.
To begin with, what does a country have to have in order to build a strong nation? It has to have Peace and Order. It has been like a mantra for people to be going about saying, “What this country needs is Law and Order,” when things are not going well. But, the truth is laws have to be made and enforced in order to establish Peace and Order in a country. Laws and their enforcement are the instruments by which Peace and Order are established.
History teaches us that many great empires began with an indomitable leader who was able to bring together large numbers of members of warring tribes and establish Peace and Order amongst them by the force of arms and the promise of greater rewards. The Roman Empire began thus. So did the British. And so was the domain of Genghis Khan. In the beginning the laws were few and the penal system simple. Genghis Khan’s penal system was the simplest and the most effective. The penalties for breaking the laws were extremely severe.
Once Peace and Order has been established, the process of nation building is the same for small or large governmental bodies. They employ the same building blocks.
The legal, judicial and penal systems are the instruments of government by which Peace and Order are maintained.
Systems of Public Health, Public Safety, Education and Law Enforcement provide for the protection and development of the citizens which are the nation’s main assets. What the state spends on the services it provides its citizens is an investment in the future well-being of the nation. Every child is a potential asset or liability. The wise rulers are very conscious of this reality. It is the duty of the rulers to ensure that every child is prepared for the duties of citizenship and that he/she becomes a law abiding and productive citizen. But, that’s not all.
Every citizen should have a sense of ownership. He should feel that he belongs to his country and that his country belongs to him. What is more, he should feel that his country cares for him, which he will not feel if a member of the GSU kicks down his door at five o’clock in the morning looking for drugs, while his grandmother is lying in bed, with little or no clothes on. He will notice that only people who look like him are treated in this way and say that he is being discriminated against. Can you expect a boy like that to love his country?
The wise ruler knows that, above all, he must inspire a great love of his country in its citizens, especially in the very young. “The child is father to the man”. Only then when he grows up, will he be willing to put nation above party, and above self. Only then will he be willing to make any sacrifice for the sake of his countrymen. Only then will be willing to die that his country might live.
When Belize was a Crown Colony, we had Peace and Order, and a high level of discipline, without which Peace and Order cannot be maintained. There was discipline in our schools, in our homes, in the Civil Service and the places where ‘Prentice Masters’ exercised the same control as parents over their apprentices. The British were not building a nation. They were administering the affairs of His Majesty’s subjects. But, they put “blocks” in place for us to do so when we came to rule ourselves.
The most important block was left for us to discover. How to make individuals of such widely disparate cultural and other influences as Lebanese, Chinese, East Indians, Maya and European begin to think and act as one people, Belizean, and to give Belize their highest loyalty.
A few years ago I put forward in an essay, my reasons why I thought that a Pledge of Allegiance to Belize would be a good way to achieve the desired objective. I am still of the same view.
Great Britain and Rome did not need a Pledge of Allegiance but, Belize does.