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The myth of our inferiority

EditorialThe myth of our inferiority

“The last Crusaders fled the Islamic world in 1291, driven out by Egypt’s mamluks, but in Europe residues of the Crusades persisted for years to come.”

“The crusading spirit persisted in part because over the course of the real crusades, a new motivation had entered the drive to the east: an appetite for trade goods coming from places like India and the islands beyond them, which Europeans called the Indies. One of many desirable goods to be found in India was an amazing product called sugar. From Malaysia and Indonesia came pepper, nutmeg, and many other spices. Chefs of the High Middle Ages put spices in everything they cooked – often the same spices in savories and desserts: they just liked spices.

“The trouble was, the Crusades stoked an appetite for the goods but also separated European merchants from those goods by creating a belt of anti-Christian hostility that stretched from Egypt to Azerbaijan. European businessmen couldn’t get past that wall to trade directly with the source: they had to deal with Muslim middlemen. It’s true that Marco Polo (1254-1324) traveled to China in this period, but he and his group were just one anomalous band, and Europeans were amazed that they had made it all the way there and back.”

“Everyone who sailed regularly between Scandinavia and southern Europe had to develop rugged ships and learn how to manage them in the big storms and high seas of the North Atlantic; western Europeans, therefore, ended up very much at home on the water. With such accomplished mariners amongst their subjects, some monarchs began to dream of finding a way to skirt the whole land mass between Europe and east Asia and with it the whole Muslim problem: in short, they got interested in finding a way to get to India and the islands further east entirely by sea.”
  – from pgs. 199-201, DESTINY DISRUPTED, by Tamim Ansary, Public Affairs, 2009

On Sunday the 9th February 1969, we all piled into Arnold’s Land Rover and went to his farm at 26 miles on the Northern Highway to write a constitution for the organization. Most of the constitution work, patterned basically on the UNIA constitution, was done by Lionel Clarke. Clarke was elected President. I was elected first vice-president, Robert Livingston second vice-president, Wilhelm Arnold treasurer, Ismail Shabazz assistant treasurer, George Flowers secretary, Penny Casasola assistant secretary, Louis Belisle, Charles X Eagan, Galento Neal and Alfred Faber councilors.
    – pgs. 12, 13, THE CROWD CALLED UBAD, by Evan X Hyde, Modern Printers, 1970

This Friday, February 9, is the 49th anniversary of the founding of the organization which established this newspaper, Amandala, six months after UBAD’s founding, in August of 1969.

Next year July will mark the centennial of the epic Ex-Servicemen’s rebellion in Belize Town in July of 1919. UBAD was founded almost fifty years to the day after the Ex-Servicemen’s rebellion. And UBAD was founded just 19 years after the radical, anti-colonial People’s United Party (PUP) was formed in 1950.

At the time it was formed, the PUP was considered militant and revolutionary in British Honduras. So that, for UBAD to challenge the PUP less than two decades later on the grounds of militant and revolutionary commitment requires careful study and analysis.

The mainstream political parties which have opposed the PUP, however, never did so on the basis of any kind of militant or revolutionary thinking. The ruling party in Belize, the United Democratic Party (UDP), was born in 1973 as a coalition of the National Independence Party (NIP), the People’s Development Movement (PDM), and the Liberal Party. The National Independence Party had been formed in 1958 as a coalition between the National Party (NP) and the Honduran Independence Party (HIP). The PDM had been organized in 1969, the Liberal Party in 1972, the HIP in 1957, and the NP in 1951. So then, it may be said that the NP was the beginning of it all, chronologically and philosophically, where the UDP is concerned, and indeed the paternal grandfather of the present UDP Leader and Prime Minister was one of the founders and leaders of the NP in 1951.

There are flashes and pockets of  wealth and development in Belize, but the  broad majority of our native African and Mayan populations are struggling with poverty, which is to say, their housing, education, and health care systems are inadequate, to put it mildly. Incongruously, the political stronghold of the ruling party, the Southside of Belize City, has been experiencing civil war levels of murderous violence for more than a quarter century. There are people who are doing well in Belize, such as the Mennonites, the Chinese, the Indians, and a native elite, but the masses of African and Mayan descendant Belizeans are suffering, every day and for real.

When the UBAD and PAC organizations were formed in Belize in 1969, the initiatives reflected an impatience amongst some young university graduates with the ruling PUP’s approach to liberation and economic upliftment. A few years later, most of these young graduates were absorbed into the PUP, while the UDP Opposition Party which emerged in 1973, took the Opposition in a conservative, pro-business direction.

The young university graduates brought their militant and revolutionary spirit to the ruling PUP Cabinet between 1979 and 1984, but in 1984 the PUP lost national power to the UDP for the first time ever. In retrospect, it appears that at some point while the PUP was scrambling to return to power in 1989, which it did, the party began to move in the UDP’s conservative, pro-business direction, which is referred to these days as neoliberalism.

Under the leadership of John Briceño, the PUP has finally reacted to fifteen years of electoral defeats by moving back in the social justice direction of the original PUP. We have said to you editorially that it is for this reason that Belize’s national municipal elections on March 7 will give Belize and the region our first read on how the Belizean electorate views this PUP correction, as it were.

The PUP’s video commercial which caught the UDP’s Mesopotamia area representative, Hon. Michael Finnegan, playing up to the predatory British billionaire, Lord Michael Ashcroft in 2007, is a deadly blow to the ruling party’s image in roots Belize. But before he ever became the UDP’s Mesopotamia standard bearer in 1993, Finnegan had spent more than a decade playing up to the late Sir Barry Bowen, who had been Belize’s dominant business force before Lord Ashcroft entered the picture in 1985. Finnegan as a young man wanted to achieve upward social mobility, and he found electoral politics to be the mechanism for him to do so. He should be  congratulated for his personal success, but the depressing socio-economic conditions on the Southside after ten years of absolute UDP rule demand national analysis: how did we get here, and is Mr. Finnegan’s solution the solution?

Five centuries and more ago seems like a very long time ago, but when you consider that some human beings live a hundred years and more, you can put this in a better perspective. By “this,” we mean that in the fifteenth century Europe entered/invaded Africa, through Portuguese sailors, and soon after that Europe entered/invaded America, through Christopher Columbus, an Italian sailor who was in the employ of the Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella. In the beginning, it wasn’t really Africa or America where the Europeans wanted to go. Because of the explorer Marco Polo, and the Crusaders before him, where the Europeans really wanted to go was the fabulous Indies, the area we now call Asia.

The fact of the matter which intimately concerns us African and Mayan descendants in Belize is the reality that Europe conquered Africa and Europe conquered America. Our African ancestors were enslaved and our Mayan ancestors were subjugated and sometimes enslaved, by absolute force of violence. The Europeans also brought their Christian religions along with them to Africa and America, and they pushed/propagated their religions through the schools their missionaries opened.

After two or three centuries of outright slavery and subjugation of Africans and Mayans, the Europeans created a system they called colonialism. The formula was the same, however: African and Mayan descendants did all the work, and the Europeans made all the money. During our human misery and degradation, the Europeans went so far as to convince us that we were fundamentally lazy and stupid. In fact, that was not our problem: our problem was that we had been conquered in war.

There were some families amongst us which began to accept the European doctrine of our inferiority, and in many cases these families featured European ancestry. Such families were those which counselled us to accept our inferior status, and they supported collaboration with our European rulers. Such families preached a form of appeasement.

But there were other families which resisted and rebelled. It was these families which organized the original PUP in1950. To resist and rebel begins with the proposition that you consider yourself as good as those who have violated your humanity and imposed their will and rule upon you.

The original PUP achieved self-government in 1964 and political independence in 1981, but then the UDP took over in 1984, and, as we suggested earlier, the PUP tried to become like the UDP. In the 34 years since the UDP took over and the PUP began trying to become like the UDP, there has been an increase in the degradation and the suffering of African and Mayan descendants in Belize.

There was a time when it was possible for the white supremacist power structure here to brand such a perspective on Belize’s socio-economics as a racist perspective, but the white supremacists don’t need to say anything anymore. They have prominent African and Mayan descendants working for them who oversee the Southside “plantation.”

The one thing we want our African and Mayan descendant people to understand and believe is that nobody is innately better than us. Europe defeated our ancestors with violence, followed by religion, centuries ago. Ever since then, our people have been struggling for liberation and upliftment. Some of you actually thought Lord Ashcroft would help us with liberation and upliftment. That is why you were laughing and playing up to him, because you believe in the myth of your own inferiority. We reject the myth. We reject white supremacy. We reject it unconditionally.

Power to the people.

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