“Europeans found stories when they found North America five centuries ago, though they seem not to have realized it. Superficialities are what they saw and wrote about. Meanwhile the white men looked for gold and diamonds, at first; then land to call their own and quarrel over; and always, piously, souls to win for Christ. But rarely if ever did they search for the stories behind the painted faces and tattooed torsos, the exacting mimesis in dance, or the absolute necessity of consuming it all in the bear feast – the stories that explained a way of life incredibly different from the white man’s world.”
– pgs. 38, 39, The Way Of The Human Being, Calvin Luther Martin, Yale University Press, 1999
“How like a young child the government man must have seemed to Paul John. ‘He looked upon us as sophisticated children – smart, but not wise,’ mused a thoughtful scientist about another man and friend, Ishi, the California Yahi who journeyed through the skin of the world into white civilization in 1911 and passed back out again five years later. ‘We knew many things, and much that is false. He knew nature, which is always true.”
– pgs. 50, 51, ibid.
Morality, ethics, a dignified value system, all these things assume, or presume, a certain standard of living. What I mean is, and what I argue is, if a human being is starving to death, should we judge him by the same rules if he stole a piece of bread, as we would judge a multimillionaire Wall Street banker who was stealing more millions? Shouldn’t leniency be extended to the starving thief? The fact of the matter is that in the neoliberal capitalist system of the world, the starving man who stole a piece of bread would likely be treated more harshly, for several reasons, than the crooked Wall Street banker. The most important of these reasons would be because the Wall Street rich man would be able to hire high-powered attorneys, whereas the piece of bread thief, defenseless, would have the judicial book thrown at him. It’s a crime to be poor, even though it is otherwise proclaimed in the Holy Bible, which categorically declares that the poor are blessed.
Bring it home to Belize, and bring it quickly. The white collar criminals do not go to prison here, all of us in Belize know that. The blue collar sinners pack the jailhouse. And what “white collar” means is rich and privileged. What “blue collar” means is working class, unemployed, or just plain poor. In Belize, by the time of the nationalist resistance scholars consider as having taken shape in 1950, there were some native families which had become comfortable and secure enough financially where they could essentially share and believe in the moral code of the ruling British colonialists, while condemning those of their native brethren and sistren whose moral code was lax, for the reason (or excuse) that they were financially marginalized. So, here we had this class division in the urban centers, of which the old capital was clearly the dominant one: you had the prim and proper “royal Creole,” and, on the other hand, you had the roots hustler trying to survive, trying to survive.
There are people strict in their religious beliefs who will insist that a thief is a thief is a thief, regardless to who, when, where, or what. There are many such hard line religious people in Belize. In fact, they say they are Christian. But, Christ was merciful to the wretched of the earth, such as adulterers and Samaritans and the like. He was at his roughest with the bankers who defiled the temple. He railed against the fat hypocrites called Scribes and Pharisees. How you figure those who use His name?
Some people strict in their religious beliefs may condemn you as relativist if you try to differentiate a single mother stealing cheese to feed her hungry children from a greedy politician breaking his sworn oath by selling passports to Korean criminals. I try not to get into debate with people strict in their religious beliefs, because I know such a debate will quickly become an argument, and once a debate becomes an argument, no real purpose is served.
The bottom line is, life is real. And all that philosophizing I’ve been dealing with in my first few paragraphs was only to set the table for analytical discourse about two terrible crimes which took place in the last few days. An American lady tourist was murdered at a Succotz riverside resort last Friday morning, while the Thursday night, just hours before, some American visitors/tourists sleeping in their yacht near Middle Long Caye were attacked at gunpoint, assaulted, and robbed.
I heard figures broadcast on the news which claimed that Belize’s tourist industry employs 14 percent of our work force and contributes 23 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Since the State Department of the United States, the country from which most of Belize’s tourists come, quickly put out a travel advisory earlier this week to warn American citizens about coming to Belize, it is for sure the Succotz murder of the lady tourist, a Chicago television producer, was a very serious blow to Belize’s tourism industry, and in the midst of the high season. The attack at Middle Long Caye was not fatal, but the trauma was similar: innocent foreigners visiting Belize were attacked, one murdered, and the perpetrators were likely Belizean natives. Very bad business.
On occasion, my children have taken me to a few of Belize’s nature resorts, if we may call them that, over the past ten years or so. It is not possible, however, for me to relax in these accommodations the way the owners of these establishments intended for their guests to relax. This is because I work on the Southside, in gang territory. I can’t afford to relax. Vigilance has become second nature for me. But when foreign guests come to Belize from the “concrete jungles” which are the big American cities, this is what they seek here – nature’s peace and quiet, and they have enjoyed nature because they really feel safe here. Things fell apart last week. The victims of last week’s attacks, both the homicide and the maritime home invasion, experienced moments, periods, of absolute terror. Truly, these were humanitarian tragedies.
The reason the tourist dollar does not enter the Southside to alleviate our hunger and poverty is because we have not been able to control our Southside crime and violence. Supposedly, if we could continue “holding it down” on the Southside, as has been the case over the last six months, we would become eligible for some tours. There are tourists who would like to see the natives in our “natural habitat.” Perhaps this may only be speculation on my part.
Mr. Price was not a fan of tourism. The reality is that tourism is a seriously fragile industry, precisely because of the danger of incidents such as those at Succotz and Middle Long Caye. I agree with Mr. Price: we cannot, we should not base our Belizean economy on tourism. Listen, suppose we had a case of ebola? The bottom would drop out of our tourism in an instant. We’re just saying. We have to make sure we have other means of economic survival which are not so unreliable.
I’ve thrown out several ideas in this column, and they may not all seem directly related. In a situation such as Belize’s, where we are battling the fact that our economy is not providing enough food, goods, and services for our people, we should have continuing national debates. The two-party political system we have results in the ruling party’s being authorized to use our national resources to attend to the needs of only half, at most, of the electorate. Belizeans, then, have to look to our intelligentsia to probe policies and establish whether they are good, viable, for the nation-state.
Personally, I do not include religious fanatics in my list of Belizean intelligentsia. I’m not saying religion does not have a role to play in our Belizean lives. Surely it does. I’m saying that if you insist on bringing up the supernatural when what we are discussing is food, goods, and services, then such a discussion, in my mind, automatically becomes derailed. It was in their revolutionary separation of Church and State back in 1776 that the Founding Fathers of The United States of America laid the foundation for what we now know in 2016 as the world’s superpower. Check stats.
Power to the people. Remember Danny.