“In the East, the main object is to have a well-ordered society so that everyone can have maximum enjoyment of their freedoms,” Lee declared, suggesting that the curtailment of one freedom sometimes best assures the advancement of others. In his view, economic success and social order fully justified whatever state controls were necessary, even if a leader sometimes had to act in an arbitrary, even dictatorial manner. “We have to lock up people without trial whether they are communists, whether they are language chauvinists, whether they are religious extremists,” he bluntly said in 1986. “If you don’t do that, the country would be in ruins.”
– pg.19, AMANDALA of Sunday, April 12, 2015, excerpted from an article by Orville Schell published in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Every now and then you will hear informed people refer to the late Lee Kuan Yew and the economic miracle he accomplished in Singapore, a former British colony, but informed people will not always explain that the foundation of Singapore’s success was and is an extreme and rigid discipline.
In Belize, another former British colony, we are blessed with many more natural resources than Singapore, but there is a raging indiscipline in Belize which is evident as soon as you have to enter the streets. The way drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians behave here is in a most disorderly manner. Our societal discipline in Belize is a major obstacle as we try to develop our young nation-state. Perhaps enough has been said about the corruption of elected politicians and other public “servants” in Belize. This column will focus more on the indiscipline of the individual citizen.
Those of a colonial mentality will be quick to blame self-rule and the replacement of British supervision as the reason for Belize’s present lawlessness. If this is so, it did not have to be so. Belize could surely have moved from colonialism to self-rule without moving from order to disorder.
If we accept that we are suffering from a loss of discipline, and if we concede that that loss of discipline is costing our society a lot of money, then we should expect that this would be a subject much debated by our trained minds. Disorder is costing Belize a lot of money in that businesses, even homes, have to be paying out huge sums of money in security costs, of both a personnel and technology nature. I would also argue that one of the main reasons Belizean money keeps rushing across the border to Chetumal and other destinations in Quintana Roo is because we Belizeans are fleeing from our own Belizean lawlessness and seeking the comfort of Mexican discipline. Belizean businesses lose hundreds of millions of dollars to Quintana Roo annually. Our lawlessness in Belize is helping to keep us poor.
In the streets of Belize City, I generally drive in a slow and defensive manner. I can’t be sure of what the other drivers, and the cyclists and pedestrians, will do at any given time. In Belize, people do whatever it is they feel like doing, and then they will raise a fuss if anybody criticizes their irresponsibility. One reason for this is that the law itself is inconsistent and discriminatory here. A classic example of this is the tinting law for vehicle windows. Those of us who are not UDP sacred cows were threatened with police action if we did not pay to remove the tinting from our vehicle windows, which we had paid to tint in the first place. So, we did so remove our tinting. But, the authorities did not really enforce the law, so that those drivers who never removed their tint are better off for having defied the “law.” They kept their tint in place, and never paid to remove it. Stupid, law-abiding people like me who now see that the law is not being enforced, would have to pay fresh money to return to tint status. Belize is crazy.
I don’t know if all the grown Belizeans who defy the authorities every day by climbing over the pipe fence separating the two sides of the Northern Highway near the northern approach to the Belcan Bridge because they refuse to use the overhead bypass (constructed by a previous UDP administration) which runs from the Save-U Plaza to Pallotti, are PUP members, supporters, or sympathizers, but the situation out there is another classic case of how Belizean authorities and the Belizean people are constantly engaging in some kind of haul-and-pull business.
Lee Kuan Yew got away with his authoritarianism in Singapore, indeed was lauded for same, because he achieved economic results for Singapore. In Belize, the Opposition PUP has been saying that UDP Prime Minister Dean Barrow is a dictator, but the evidence shows that he is running a lawless society. That Belizean lawlessness is a serious socio-economic problem. It may have been that Lee Kuan Kew did not have to face elections as regularly as Mr. Barrow does, or it may be that the Singapore people are by nature less quarrelsome and compulsively disobedient than we Belizean people are. I don’t know. I know that Belize is disorderly. I see that every day. Singapore is not. My thesis is that if Belize remains disorderly, Belize will not develop.
There is money which has been pouring into Belize from “developed” societies in order to promote what they describe as “human rights” here. There are air-conditioned offices staffed by Belizean executive types who drive SUV’s which are financed by these grants from abroad. These various initiatives cleverly seek to impose values on us which are contrary to our history and our common sense. The foreign-financed offices for decades have been pushing birth control, for instance, in our under-populated country. They insist that we should not use corporal punishment to discipline our children; we should not use capital punishment on our convicted murderers; and we must increase our tolerance for sexual deviates.
The money from the developed societies is spare cash which they accumulated during slavery and colonialism. They now send the money they made by brutalizing and exploiting us in the past to confuse us in the present. They are already rich and comfortable, and we are trying to figure out how to get there. The rich countries wish for poor countries like Belize to be their playgrounds. Where they are concerned, our competitive advantage, you see, lies in sex, sin, drugs, drink, and so on.
Lee Kuan Yew and the people of Singapore saw things differently. They found a way out of poverty. I don’t know what is the way out of poverty for Belizeans, but I know that lawlessness and indiscipline are not the answer. We can’t continue to be having everybody do whatever they feel like doing. Belize is in a state of confusion. The Belizean people long for order, justice, and equality.
Power to the people.