If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
– Frederick Douglass
A close relative of mine visiting from the United States last week was berating me about criticisms I’ve expressed over the decades with respect to what he called Belize’s “creation story” or “creation myth.” He felt I had been doing a disservice where a vital part of our national narrative was concerned. He was, of course, referring to the Battle of St. George’s Caye history.
In my old age, I try to avoid opinionated discussions with younger family members, because I have found over the years that such conversations become too heated, and end up as quarrels. As such, they serve no purpose.
We were drinking a little wine at the time, and it appears this was a complaint he had wanted to make to me for a long time. I saw how dangerous such a conversation could become, and I did my best to humble myself and be calm, but while the conversation did not become explosive, it definitely became hostile.
One of the problems I have in conversations with academically educated people is that their reads are hampered by their lack of a street data base. I understand their intellectual arrogance, because it took me a long time, coming out of academia, to learn some things on the streets. If you are academically educated, you always assume you know some things which may be more subtle and complicated than you can appreciate.
People survive in the streets in different ways. Remember, to a certain extent the streets are like an underworld. You have people who are thieves, burglars, con men, gamblers, muggers, thugs, drug dealers, obeah practitioners, pimps, prostitutes, and so on. These are not occupations you learn about in school. Many of these criminal types, however, have a natural intelligence which educated people often discount and disrespect.
My problem with the 1798 narrative first presented by the colonial power structure when they introduced Centenary celebrations in 1898 is that there is a massive, incontrovertible contradiction involved with the Battle of St. George’s Caye. In September of 1798, Belize was a white supremacist settlement in which the majority of the people, and they were black people, were enslaved. But the Centenary narrative claims that whites and blacks fought “shoulder to shoulder” against a Spanish invasion.
Many of the Belizeans who now survive in the underworld, as street people, as criminal types, are descended from those people who were enslaved in the settlement in 1798. September of 1798 was supposed to be a glorious victory for the home team. But the masses of black people in Belize in September of 1798 didn’t win anything at St. George’s Caye. Some of you “Baymen’s clan” may say that the right to talk English instead of Spanish represents a significant victory for the black masses. That, in essence, was what the late Emory King declared.
If the black majority had won anything in September of 1798, their socio-economic situation today would be different. The people who won on September 10, 1798, were the European slaveowners and a small percentage of free coloreds and free blacks who allied themselves with them. I don’t have a problem with their hooraying. Where I have a problem is when some educated apologist tries to convince me and the Belizean people that the St. George’s Caye victory amounted to some kind of national liberation. Bull s—t. Those who were slaves, and they were the vast majority, remained slaves. They remained slaves for four more decades!
In fact, white supremacy remained the order of the day for so long that, twenty one years after Centenary celebrations were financed and introduced by the power structure of Belize in 1898, descendants of the 1798 slaves violently overthrew that white colonial power structure and took over Belize Town for two round days. This is known as the Ex-Servicemen’s rebellion of July 1919. It is not taught in the schools of Belize. Our rulers obviously consider the history of such an incident to be subversive.
There is a small, prejudiced, elite class in Belize. This was how it was in Cuba before Fidel Castro. The Cuban Revolution freed up the masses of the Cuban people to develop and express their gifts and talents. Under Castro, Cuba demands respect. This system is condemned in Belize as atheistic communism.
In Belize, the masses of the people are oppressed. The children of the oppressed are condemned to ignorance, disease, and prison. We Belizeans praise this system and call it Christianity. We also extol the Battle of St. George’s Caye incident which is supposed to have established the foundation for this entrenched bigotry and injustice. To repeat, I don’t have a problem with the hooraying. I have a serious problem with your telling me this constitutes national liberation.
If you glorify that narrative, what it means to me is that you are proud of what Belize is today. I love Belize, but there is little I see socio-economically of which I should be proud on October 4, 2016. The bigotry and injustice which are responsible for the human suffering we see every day in this country are, ultimately, products of the mindset of the slaveowners and their collaborators in the settlement in 1798.
So, you all whipped the Spanish. When are you going to start conquering poverty, ignorance, and disease? When are you going to dedicate yourself to freedom, justice, and equality? When are you going to teach our children about the real Jesus Christ instead of the one you use in your churches to justify rapacious capitalism? When are you going to take July 1919 out of the colonial closet?
Power to the people. Power to the people now, and power to the people forever.