One afternoon early in 77 at his office in Belmopan, the Premier remarked almost casually to me: “You know, I am black. We are not white, therefore we are black.” I was in Belmopan getting some business straightened out and I was already a member of the PUP – through Mr. Rogers – so the Premier’s remarks were not any attempt to convert me to anything.
In 68 I was convinced that the Premier was some kind of Mayan racist, while by 77 I knew that he had seen the world; he had been travelling all over the world to drum up support for independence from the black, brown, red, and yellow nations of the Third World. In travelling, he had grown, yes, his knowledge had been expanded in meeting peoples of the world and he had begun to see what I had seen – that Belize was black, it had to be black, it would live or die black, because it was not white.
– pg. 6, Amandala no. 427, Friday, March 31, 1978, Preface to 6878 – DECADE OF CHANGES, by Evan X Hyde
What do you do in a democracy when your opinions are absolutely minority ones? Well, in my case nowadays, what I do is write columns and editorials in this newspaper and hope that someday the majority of you guys will see it my way.
When I was a young man and had minority opinions, some of which I still have, I was involved in a militant organization of young Belizeans which marched in the streets in expression and support of our opinions.
I had learned a little about revolutionary change while at university in the United States, and one thing those who knew about revolutionary change said was this: you cannot make revolution in a society which allows for democratic change.
Assad Shoman and Said Musa, young Belizean attorneys of Palestinian descent who had studied in the United Kingdom, had some opinions which were similar to mine in certain respects. But there was a significant difference between us, in that they could probably have been described as scientific socialists in 1968, whereas I could have been considered a black nationalist.
A society which allows for democratic change is one which features free and fair elections. This was definitely the case in Belize in 1968. In addition, the ruling party in Belize, the People’s Untied Party (PUP) was quite people oriented. The PUP had a revolutionary flavor and history dating back to 1950, but the middle and late 1960s had seen some developments which Assad, Said, and I felt had changed the regional and world game so drastically that the PUP itself was becoming old-fashioned.
In 1968, young people of color in the Third World were much more optimistic about our new nations’ futures than we are today. In 2016, there are so many of our nation-states which achieved political independence back then which are now struggling with all sorts of crushing problems. The European nations from which we freed ourselves politically, remain wealthy world powerhouses. They have been joined by China and India, but now we see that really promising Third World societies from back then, such as Brazil, Venezuela, Nigeria, South Africa, and many others, are facing serious difficulties.
In 1968, the Cuban Revolution was a beacon of hope for young people in the Third World, and in our region we have seen that, in the face of massive obstacles, the Cubans have succeeded in educating, their people, housing them, and providing them with health care as good as anything in the rest of the world. But for every Cuba, there have been many failures, failed states, in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
After a brief spell as leaders of an independent revolutionary organization called the People’s Action Committee (PAC), Assad and Said joined the ruling PUP sometime in the early 1970s. My understanding was that they intended to make changes in the PUP. By 1983, although they had become Cabinet Ministers in 1979 and had been major actors in the historic independence drama of 1981, it had become obvious to Assad that those who were resisting change in the PUP had triumphed. He therefore left the PUP in 1984. Said remained in the PUP, eventually becoming the party’s Leader, and Belize’s Prime Minister for two terms. Clearly, he himself had changed.
As I write on Tuesday, May 31, 2016, it is my understanding that both of these highly intelligent Belizeans support the idea of submitting the differendum between Guatemala and Belize to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for arbitration.
Personally, I do not agree with going to the ICJ, but I can see a situation developing where it is the only thing Belize can do. I believe that at the ICJ Belize would end up paying the bill which Great Britain owes Guatemala. The stunning, climactic political brilliance of the Rt. Hon. George Price was when he achieved independence without paying Britain’s bill. We Belizeans have had 35 years since 1981 to get ready for the cynical, aggressive, threatening initiatives which the third millennium, post-civil war Guatemala, supported by the British and the Americans, has been pushing. Belize did nothing to prepare its citizens for war, because we believed in the Brer Anancy model. And we believed in Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. These were and remain the majority opinions in Belize.
One of the reasons I do not believe in going to the ICJ is because I do not like the hype which is trying to convince us Belizeans that this offers a final, lasting solution to the claim. There is no such dream world in the future where we don’t have problems with the Guatemalan ruling classes. This is because they are white, and Belize is black. This is because they are rapacious neoliberals, and we Belizeans survived colonialism by practicing a kind of socialism where our love for each other was greater than our desire for material things.
Let me tell you something. My family doctor is a Guatemalan. Our maid is a Guatemalan. Guatemala is a stunningly beautiful country with great people. But there is a history there which is dirty, brutal, and bloody. This is real. One day, Guatemala will have to start becoming like Belize. It must never be the case that Belize becomes like Guatemala. That would represent disaster for the African and Mayan majority in Belize. That is my minority opinion.
Power to the people.