Personally, I don’t want to go to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for a ruling on the claim Guatemala has been making on Belize. When this whole Special Agreement (compromis) thing came up in 2009/2010, some of my activist friends immediately went public with a complete denunciation of the ICJ proposition. Personally, I did not do what they did, because I felt that it may be that the ICJ will end up being our best option, or our only option. That was my position then, and that is my position now.
I wish that Mr. Goldson was still alive, so that I could hear his 2017 opinion. You know there are pro-ICJ Belizeans who have said that in 1967 Mr. Goldson was in favor of the ICJ route. But, that was fourteen years before Belize’s independence with territorial integrity in 1981. I also wish that Leroy Taegar and Odinga Lumumba were still alive. I would have liked to hear their opinions.
When Belizeans went to the streets to reject the Thirteen Proposals in 1966 and the Seventeen Proposals in 1968, our population in Belize was significantly different in composition from what it is today, and I would begin with ethnicity. But it should also be noted that, on the individual level, our thinking as a people was much different, because we had not been penetrated by American cable television, which arrived here in 1982. Our private and public morals were stronger back then. Senior citizens actually used to view (censor) movies in private airings before they were allowed to be shown publicly. We were a relatively innocent people.
35 years ago, cable television began to introduce a lot of pornography and homosexuality here, and into private homes at that. Moreover, the damage done by Internet accessibility to users of personal computers cannot be assessed scientifically. Then, there is the social media, which sometimes disseminates the most horrific and scandalous video material amongst us.
In 1966 and 1968, the population of Belize City reacted spontaneously and viscerally to the Thirteen and Seventeen Proposals, respectively. Belize’s Premier, Hon. George Price, decided after those two outbursts that he had to go a different route to independence other than the one the British and the Americans wanted him, were pressuring him, to go. In 1966 and 1968, Belizeans took a militant stand, and Mr. Price, a skilled, consummate politician, followed the cue which the people of Belize had given him. Mr. Price became militant on the regional and international stage where Belize’s drive for independence and territorial integrity were concerned. As the years have gone by, people like myself realize just how militant Mr. Price and his People’s United Party (PUP) became, because the achievement of independence and territorial integrity in 1981 was a very macho move.
In 2017, there is a lot of pressure coming on Belizeans from “our friends” abroad for us to go to the ICJ route. One problem for me is that I am always wary of easy solutions. And that is what the ICJ represents for me – easy solution. At the same time, I am an old man, and I don’t know how strong our younger generations are when it comes to fighting. Rejecting the ICJ would mean fighting for The Jewel. Are we ready for that?
Around the same time of the Thirteen Proposals, if I remember correctly, Mr. Goldson began calling in the House of Representatives for the establishment of a Belizean army. It was more than twelve years after his call to arms that the Belize Defence Force (BDF) was formed in 1978. Still, when I spoke about fighting for The Jewel at the end of this previous paragraph, I was not referring to conventional military warfare, even though that can not be absolutely excluded.
That is the first thing the pro-ICJ element always introduces into the discourse. Belize can’t fight with Guatemala, they say, so Belize has to figure out some other way forward. In the words of Richard Widmark in The Last Wagon, this “sounds reasonable.” But, all the history of the world tells me that human affairs are often totally unreasonable. The world has always been a dangerous, cruel place.
The question I want to ask in the essay is: where are Belize’s young people? And, where do they stand right now? If you look at a photo of the last UBAD executive, elected in 1972, at least eight of the ten officers were in their twenties. Michael Stephen, may he rest in peace, may have still been a teenager. As president, yours truly was 24, 25. So where are Belizeans that age today? It is for sure they are not involved in any kind of political education or political activism. And I’m not talking about PUDP business.
It is often said that it is old men who send young ones off to war. What I’m saying here is that my Belizean generation chose militant activism in 1969 because there were battles that had to be fought. We made decisions for ourselves. We were engaged in the fight for progress, rights, national dignity, and sovereignty.
48 years ago, when I was 22, I wrote in KNOCKING OUR OWN TING: “In this paper, I will try to interpret the historical events of 1798 from a black man’s standpoint. I would hope that the black, brown, red and yellow people of our society would begin to realize that white racism and exploitation constitute our common enemy and that our independence is yet to be won. It will be won by any means necessary once all of us get together on the basis of Liberty or Death.”
I haven’t seen anything since then to change my mind. According to Emory King, the great propagandist for the “glorious Baymen,” the Battle of St. George’s Caye was important so that we could be talking English instead of Spanish in Belize today. Well, it seems to me that in 2017 we’re talking both English and Spanish in Belize. But that is not the point. The point is that where the critical human areas of education, health care, and sports and culture are concerned in Belize, there are Belizeans at the base of the pyramid for whom nothing much has really changed since 1798. I’m serious. I see these people every day.
I suppose it is possible for you to say that I’m seeing this glass half empty when it’s really half full. Fair enough. Still, Mr. Government, you can’t get away from the fact that the claim is existential. That means life or death. I’m saying I don’t want to hear what old politicians and old attorneys have to say. I need to know what young Belizeans are thinking. It’s their turn to march.
Power to the people.