On Saturday afternoon a national television station showed images which appeared vulgar and could have been considered a display of public immorality. This was live television featuring Belizean principals. The likelihood is not high that there will be any outcry about this incident. All the focus of Belize’s religious righteous is on this week’s Supreme Court case which seeks to change a law about private morality.
Belize ran into a serious problem with an attack on our public morality when American cable television became the norm in Belizean homes about twenty five years ago. For many years it seemed that movies with X-rated and pornographic content could not be regulated by any local authority, and the children of Belize were thus exposed, within the assumed protection of their own homes, to extreme behavior, which included homosexuality and lesbianism.
At some point, Belize’s Carnival had become an annual display of public immorality, featuring lewd dancing and behavior. We can’t say at what point Carnival got out of control, or if this was a result of our moral guidelines having been destroyed by cable television. Even though Carnival included little children behaving almost as lewdly as their older counterparts, it took some years before there was a rise in public complaints about the children’s attire and their gyrations.
Islamic societies have a big issue with what they see as the breakdown of public morals in the West. Some Islamists take it to the extreme of mandatory covering of almost all of women’s bodies and even their hair. Belize is not a Muslim society, but this used to be a society where the accepted moral code mandated public decency. Belize is a Christian society whose public decency and public morality have been under attack for some decades now. Many Belizeans, it seems to us, have become pagan in our public behavior.
A private party among consenting adults is one thing. A party in a public place where people pay to enter may be ignored. But when people in a public place have their images transmitted into homes where children are watching, it amounts to a violation of those children’s innocence. And, it brings up the questions of where we are and where we are going as a society.
A loosening of morals was always the danger of the tourism industry. Anybody from Acapulco, Havana, or the Caribbean tourism areas could have told us that BEFORE we began to embrace the tourist industry after the UDP came to power in 1984. Vacationing tourists seek out locals who can obtain drugs and sexual favors for them. We become prostitutes in our own country because the mantra of the industry is SERVICE, and the foreigners can pay prices which undermine the morality of our people.
Supposedly, it is the leaders of our various churches who should be monitoring the public behavior of our citizens. The church leaders said almost nothing publicly when Carnival and cable television became pornographic in Belize. Perhaps they spoke out in the churches.
On the UNIBAM issue, the church leaders have now rushed out publicly to condemn what may be, at its core, a matter of private morality. For decades, these same church leaders watched in silence as Belize’s public morals sank into the abyss. To be fair to them, the church leaders are arguing that if the law against homosexuality is struck down in Belize, then the private immorality will spill over into the public realm, because the next UNIBAM moves will be for the right to same-sex marriage and the right to raise children. Public morality is more important than private morality, is what the position of the church leaders are saying on the UNIBAM matter. So, where were these same church leaders when Carnival and cable television began to run amok in their attacks on public morals?
Belizeans really didn’t hand over to the churches the power to educate our children. Historically, the churches were the only ones who had schools, and Belizeans sent their children to the church schools by default, as it were. We have argued for 44 years at this newspaper that Belizean children experienced mis-education at these church schools in some vital areas. But, Belizeans, as a people, never had power over Belizean schools.
Where Belizeans had power was over how we raised our children insofar as their private morals were concerned. In our lifetime, beloved, we lost that power over private morals. Belize was swamped by tidal waves of public immorality, and our children have been the sacrifice.
Morality is not an area where we are accustomed to editorializing. If you listened to the preaching, Belize was supposed to be a big-time religious society, and we on Partridge have always considered ourselves to be sinners in need of redemption. When church leaders become too comfortable in their relationship with the socio-economic power structure, however, what happens is what we have seen happen here before our very eyes. Belizeans have lost power over our children’s private morals, because our society allowed public immorality to become the order of the day.
Power to the people.