Editorial — 13 November 2015
Preening peacocks, pressing poverty

And a certain rich young man asked Him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou Me good? None is good, save one, that is, God.

Thou knowest the commandments. Do not commit adultery. Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Honor thy father and thy mother.

And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.

Now when Jesus heard these things, He said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: Sell all that thou hast and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me.

And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful, for he was very rich.

And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, He said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God. For it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

– LUKE, Chapter 18, Verses 18-25

In Belize, our proximity to the wealthy United States, plus the fact that our migrant worker/relatives inside the States were sending clothes and various American commodities to us, resulted in our developing expensive, American tastes. Overall, we could not afford such American tastes on Belizean salaries, so our national psyche became one marked by a certain level of dissatisfaction and frustration. The irony was always, however, that Americans were working longer hours and more days per year than we Belizeans were. But, we wanted what Americans were enjoying. When we reached the United States, we got the sense: in the words of B.B. King, you have to pay the cost to be the boss.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina’s destruction of New Orleans exposed the fact that within the great United States itself, there was a disgraceful, unacceptable level of poverty and suffering inside one of America’s most famous cities. In Belize, it was not that Belizeans did not know that even worse poverty and suffering existed in our old capital and, indeed, in our country, but it took last month’s rain floods to reveal how terrible our housing and living conditions had become.

The fact of the matter is that our ruling politicians routinely preen like peacocks here, and the most casual of scrutiny will reveal that they have become addicted to wasting and embezzling millions and millions of taxpayers’ dollars. The ruling politicians and their cronies throw away a lot of money on brand new American vehicles, they grab all the choice real estate and sell it to foreigners for big bucks, and the United Democratic Party (UDP) government, now in its third term, has blown millions of taxpayers’ dollars in advertising subsidies for the party’s newspaper, radio station, and television station.

The political parties do not really need to have their own media systems. The Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) did a poor job of exposing UDP waste with respect to the Guardian newspaper, WAVE Radio, and WAVE TV, and it was because the PUP clearly intended to do exactly the same thing to subsidize their Belize Times newspaper, and their Positive Vibes radio and television stations once they returned to power.

Perhaps things would have been worse under the PUP, if we are to judge from the garish nature of their party newspaper, which they have been paying for years to print in fancy colors in southern Mexico. Sending their newspaper’s printing business across the border meant that the PUP had no control over when their newspaper hit the streets. Sometimes the Times arrived from abroad on Friday, sometimes on Saturday, and sometimes as late as Monday. But, the people in the PUP responsible for the newspaper apparently were addicted to the pretty colors. Ordinarily, circulation for the newspaper belonging to whichever political party is in Opposition, is not a problem, because the Belizean public enjoys reading scandal about the ruling party. But the haphazard nature of the Times’ availability was a problem the PUP bosses did not solve. They were afflicted with a Belizean disease: the thing looked good, so it was all good.

Our economic system being as neoliberal capitalist as it is, it must be all right for Belize to have a class of people who are ostentatiously wealthy and extravagant in the presence of painful, crushing poverty all around. But, we submit, how can we encourage the proliferation of PUDP politicians who do not have a problem with flaunting First World lifestyles when the masses of the Belizean people are suffering the way they are? Preening peacocks, pressing poverty.

Someone needs to present the figures, stark figures, to the Belizean people. Belize is a nation which is living above its means, is heavily in debt, and refuses to face the facts. It is possible, we suppose, to blame poor people for their situation. Those who are more fortunate will say that poor people do not know how to save, they will say that poor people have too many children, they will say that poor people spend too much money on having fun. All these arguments in order to justify oligarchical and corporate greed have been around for a long time. Okay, so the economic system is neoliberal, and that means it is free and everyone starts out equal. At this newspaper, we don’t buy these arguments which are intended to blame the poor for their own poverty. But, it is what it is.

Our target in this essay is waste and embezzlement. It’s going on right before our eyes. The ruling politicians get away with this became they throw seasonal crumbs to their supporters. Next month you can expect the ruling politicians to throw crumbs to the party faithful for Christmas. These are taxpayers’ dollars which are squeezed out of the Belizean people to spend on political perks. How do you think those poor Belizeans who are outside the UDP circle of favorites feel about this?

Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie. Fight for Belize.

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