There’s a lot of money being spent by the ruling politicians, but the air conditioning at the Bliss Center for the Performing Arts, and there’s nothing else even vaguely like it in the population center, has not been working for many months.
I saw an advertisement or read an e-mail last week where a couple plays are going to be produced in Belmopan this week or next week. These will be plays written by foreign playwrights.
A few weeks after the PUP won the general election of 1979, I visited the new Education Minister, Said Musa, in Belmopan. I said to him that I’d like access to the then Bliss Institute for a couple months or so in order to produce a major work. His Permanent Secretary, the late Everal Waight, told Mr. Musa in my presence that there was a problem, because the lady Solie Arguelles had some dates for her dance group tied up at the Bliss, and, he said, Solie liked this sort of thing, dancing, that is.
I suppose I am an “ignorant” kind of person, so I immediately dropped the subject. It was incredible to me that Solie would have “stripes” in the new government after she had arguably been the lead campaigner for Mr. Price’s UDP opponent, Manuel Esquivel, in the recently concluded general election.
Above, I have cited these three different situations in order to give you an idea of how things work in Belize where culture is concerned. Those of you who are regular readers of this newspaper know that over the years it is in the area of sports that I have made the most noise. But, sports and culture are close cousins. And if the Belizean power structure had not resisted black consciousness so rigidly in 1969, my life would have turned out differently. I was supposed to become a creative writer, not a journalist or sports advocate.
If a group of “think tankers” were to sit down together and “brainstorm” about how to pull the heart and soul out of a people, the chances are they might decide to attack that society’s sports and culture.
Sports and culture did well in British Honduras during colonial times. The British felt no need to repress these inspirational aspects of our personality, because we Belizeans did not present a real danger to their rule. They were hanging us within 21 days whenever they convicted us of murder, so we were essentially intimidated. To be truthful, it may be said that we Belizeans were repressing ourselves, because the Bliss Institute of colonial days was controlled by “respectable” Belizeans, which is to say, the pro-British Creole bourgeoisie. I don’t believe the Lord Rhaburn combo ever performed in concert at the Bliss. I am positive the original Messengers never did. The Bliss was for Mozart and Mantovani.
In any case, it was on the football field that a kind of “revolutionary nationalism” may have first begun to express itself, with respect to sports and culture, that is. To my mind, that was when the Dunlop football team of the late 1950s “represented.” The power structure organization which divided and broke up Dunlop was the dominant British corporation in Belize – the Belize Estate and Produce Company (BEC). So, the British were keeping an eye on the revolutionary potential of Belizean sports.
You must always remember this: the Seventeen Proposals of 1968 made clear exactly what the intentions of the United States of America government were with respect to Belize’s future. Yes, Belize theoretically became independent in 1981, but Belizean sports and culture have been systematically undermined. Our sports and culture are not accorded their rightful place. Along with this malaise came the gangs, and the overall result is that in the Belize of 2014, there is no night life. There is more danger than love at night. We live our lives in 2014 Belize glued to the television and addicted to the telephone. We live indoor lives and we are afraid of the dark.
Personally, I should be grateful that I ended up making a living as a writer. I remain disappointed, however, that the landscape was so desolate that I was never able to survive as a creative writer. It may have been that I was not good enough, but then the evidence is that I succeeded in telling tales of robbery, rape, and murder, these being the stuff of journalism.
On a personal note, again, after I entered Professor Peter Bien’s class in Comparative Literature in my first term at Dartmouth College in the fall of 1965, I would always remember his lectures on James Joyce’s Ulysses. Of all the things Professor Bien said, what has stuck in my mind was his declaration that Joyce thought journalists were the absolutely lowest rung on the writing ladder.
I say, again, that I am grateful to have made a living as a Belizean writer, but I always took James Joyce’s opinion to heart. I have always longed to move a little higher on the writing ladder. My experiences in Belize have suggested that there was a glass ceiling in place here for such a writer as I – hostile to the white supremacist status quo. I have therefore resorted to consoling myself on the grounds that there were mighty people whose interests lay, manifestly now, in the destruction of the roots Belizean soul.