In Belize’s culture and value system, it is apparent that we now rate people according to the amount of money they have and according to their pay scale. Simply put, the more money you have and earn, the more prestige you have.
The contradiction is that ours is a society which is always boasting about how much we believe in God and how Christian we are. The fact of the matter is that the Christ of the New Testament was very much a man of austerity, committed his only public act of violence against the bankers of his time, and specifically declared that it was very difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.
In our lifetime, Belize has changed a great deal. In the old days our people valued courage, dignity, ability, integrity, class, style and other qualities more than we rated money. Why this was so, and why this has changed, we can’t really say. For sure the influence of the United States, which began increasing by leaps and bounds after Hurricane Hattie in 1961 and self-government in 1964, has contributed to Belize’s modern materialism, hedonism, and love of money. We live just 600 miles from the largest economy and the most dominant culture in the world, and we have become Americanized.
The truth of our Belizean situation is, however, that while there is a small class of ostentatiously wealthy Belizeans here who can live the jet set life, shop in Miami, get medical treatment in Houston, and party in New York City and Los Angeles, there are many, many Belizeans who are living in deplorable housing conditions, who have serious difficulty finding three meals a day, and who pray for better for themselves and their children.
In the system of capitalism, the presumption is that there are winners and there are losers. We have never seen a capitalist society where the winners are the majority, but we have seen capitalist societies where a large percentage of citizens live well. The United States was one such society, but things have changed quite a bit. The wealthy in America have become even wealthier, but the ranks of the American poor have increased dramatically and alarmingly. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina exposed the fact that there are terribly poor Americans who are living Third World lives in the major cities of the most powerful nation on planet earth.
The energy in Belize since independence has been for us to become as American as we can where our lifestyle is concerned. Today, we have a ruling party in place whose Leader is living the life. In the midst of a passport and visa scandal of disturbing magnitude, he took nine days off in L.A. where he was seen on American celebrity television entering an expensive Italian restaurant to dine. If the Opposition party were anything other than committed to neoliberalism, perhaps they would have been able to point out that such jet set behavior appears somewhat inappropriate when you consider the living conditions of the majority of the Belizean people.
The Leader of the Opposition is not himself in a financial position, as is the Prime Minister, to live the life, as we would say. Our understanding is that he is an employee of the PUP, and receives a monthly salary. The Leader of the Opposition would therefore be operating from a credible position if he sought to speak for the poor and the roots of Belize, but the philosophy of the political party he leads was on display between 1998 and 2008, and nothing the Leader of the Opposition has said or done has indicated that he rejects that PUP philosophy which the people of Belize rejected in 2008.
What we have then, brothers and sisters, is an Opposition which is to the philosophical right of the ruling UDP. The PUP is more capitalist than the UDP. Because the roots and workers of Belize recognize this, the PUP has not been able to exploit all the UDP scandals which the Belizean media have exposed in the last few months. All things being equal, the PUP should have been placed where they could march militantly in the streets. This has not happened.
You can’t tell us that voting blue would be an immediate and automatic cure for our ills. Belizean voters have become too cynical for that. You will not accept any criticism because you have a firm constitutional position which is more important than the rule of any media house. We understand your constitutional importance, and we appreciate it.
In a recent press conference, the Prime Minister lamented the fact that the media seemed to him to have become the “lords and masters” of Belizean society. This is not the case, of course, but he is putting his finger on a Belizean third millennium political phenomenon. The younger generations are skeptical of the leadership of the dominant political parties. The electronic media and the social media contribute substantially to that state of affairs.
Still, what are we to say when in the same week that our Prime Minister is cheerfully doing a “Kardashian” out there in “La La” land, the Leader of the Opposition turns a press conference into a political rally where the PUP faithful seek to intimidate members of the professional media? We suggest that the Prime Minister is disconnected and the Leader of the Opposition is insecure. We mean no offence, but we speak truth to power. Is all.
Power to the people.