We can see now that Barack Obama has served the interests of the American power structure quite well indeed, and for this reason the intensity of domestic hostility to him, such as that of the Tea Party movement, appears unjustified, or misplaced. For sure some of the hostility to Obama has flared up because of moral and religious opposition to his positions in favor of abortion and homosexual rights. But the United States is a nation with a racist, white supremacist history, so that some of the hostility to Barack is also derived from a serious discomfort with the notion of a black man leading the most powerful nation on earth.
In Belize, our abiding concern has to do with how we survive and grow as the only black, English-speaking nation in Central America, and one whose territory is claimed by the most powerful Central American republic – Guatemala.
In today’s column, I would like to consider the varying roles dogma and pragmatism have played in the political careers of four NIP/UDP Leaders – Philip Goldson, Dean Lindo, Manuel Esquivel, and Dean Barrow.
I would define “dogma” here as what a man believes, and “pragmatism” as what a man considers to be possible. With such definitions, it should be easy for us to see that dogma and pragmatism can come into conflict.
At the point where the Hon. Philip Goldson risked jail to expose the Thirteen Proposals in 1966, he was overcome by dogma. He threw caution, and pragmatism, to the winds. The likelihood is great that it was at this point that Mr. Goldson realized, if he had not done so before, that both the British and the Americans were willing to dispose of Belize and the Belizean people via the Guatemalan satellite-state route. In such a scenario, Mr. Goldson believed, only the Belizean people could save themselves.
With respect to the first UDP Leader, Hon. Dean Lindo, we can say that this was a man who nursed none of the underdog dogma, for lack of a better description, which may have cost Mr. Goldson his leadership of the Opposition. Mr. Lindo was a cold pragmatist who understood the geopolitics of Belize’s situation. This is to say that he appreciated the reality of American hegemony, and he accepted the fact that the Belizean people were, by comparison, weak. Mr. Lindo did not believe in any “Charge of the Light Brigade,” which is what Mr. Goldson was attempting in 1966. If Mr. Lindo was a neoliberal thinker, then such a dogma was no doubt derived, to some extent, from his pragmatic assessment of Washington’s preferences.
The Hon. Manuel Esquivel believed in the same dogmas in which Mr. Lindo believed, which is to say, anti-communism and free market capitalism. Dogma and pragmatism led Mr. Esquivel to the same place where they led Mr. Lindo, that is to say, into the arms of Washington.
The problem with lying in the arms of Washington is that, for as long as any of us can remember, Washington and Guatemala City are regional allies. How can a Belizean leader subscribe to any dogma which is the exact same dogma as that of the two forces which are most threatening to his nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity? The answer is that he can do so, apparently, when such a dogma coincides with geopolitical pragmatism.
Let us now look at the present leadership of the Hon. Dean Barrow. Mr. Barrow is not the visionary Mr. Goldson was, but Mr. Barrow is not the neoliberal Lindo and Esquivel appear to have been. Mr. Barrow may be the most pragmatic of the UDP leadership lot, because it has become a case of his doing whatever it is he feels he has to do. There are socialist aspects to the present regime which would have been unthinkable during the eras of Lindo and Esquivel.
Let us now return to the United States, a nation whose foundation dogma, in real terms, was white supremacy. The people who built the United States were white Europeans who seized the territory from people they considered “red savages” and worked the land with slave labor by people they considered “black savages.”
White supremacy as a dogma in this region has been under attack from the time of the Haitian Revolution in 1791. So the United States has had to be making constitutional adjustments over the centuries which have had the effect of granting full citizenship and voting rights to the red savages, the black savages, and various non-white immigrants. As a nation, America became pragmatic enough to elect a black president when that appeared to be the most intelligent thing to do. Still, the demon dogma of white supremacy lurks beneath the socio-political surface of the United States.
Belize is an African and Maya nation, substantially. Guatemala is a nation ruled by a neo-European elite. Guatemala’s dogma is neoliberal capitalism. This is the dogma which Washington and Guatemala City wish for Belize. The evidence around us has indicated strongly, however, that neoliberal capitalism is not such a dogma as will produce benefits for the majority African and Maya Belizeans.
Over the last few months I have been saying to you that we need to move beyond party colors and personalities, and seek to understand philosophies. For instance, what is a form of bailout of the citrus industry by social security funds supposed to mean in philosophical terms? Is this a kind of socialism, or is this just one more case of poor people’s moneys being used to defend rich people’s investments?
If it is a case of the latter, what kind of philosophy is that? For sure the bailout represents politico-economic pragmatism at the highest levels of Belize’s power structure. The people of Belize need to be educated about these matters.
Power to the people.