“The centrality of oil to the modern world is well known. Oil is integrally related to virtually every aspect of our way of life, from transportation, communication and the mass production of goods, to food, heat, light and military power. Access to oil is therefore essential to modern living, as well as being crucial to maintaining military dominance – as was amply demonstrated in both World Wars.”
– pg. 2, WAR, BIG OIL, AND THE FIGHT FOR THE PLANET, Linda McQuaig, Anchor Canada, 2005
During the thirty years or so when I would converse seriously with the late Dr. Leroy Taegar from time to time, he impressed upon me the fact of the awesome power of the rulers of the world and the fact that, because of the awesomeness of that power, these were people who routinely thought of things in terms of fifty years, or a hundred years, or even more. In other words, the big people could afford to be patient, whereas we, the oppressed of the earth, because of the tenuous nature of our existence, are in a haste where our quests for survival and improvement are concerned.
The realities Taegar impressed upon me were uncomfortable realities, because what they did was weaken my spirit of resistance and my resolve in the struggle. How do you fight people who are in no hurry and do not even have to win a fight with you in order to remain masters of their own destiny, and yours? How do you fight people who can transform themselves into other than what they really are, and worse, can recruit and arm your own to fight against you?
The transnational oil companies are among the big people of this planet. Apart from their wealth, the oil companies are important to the strategic security of the First World nations where they have their respective headquarters. Petroleum and petroleum by-products are absolutely vital to the economies and the way of life in the First World. If petroleum and petroleum by-products were to cease to exist overnight, the changes in the United States, Great Britain, Europe, Russia, China, and other developed countries would be drastic and dramatic in nature. The leaders of the rich countries have a special concern for the welfare and continued success of their oil companies. They love their oil companies with a love which may be second only to the love they have for their armies, their navies, and their air forces.
When you see these little dibby-dibby oil firms fooling around in Belize, what you must know is that they are cleverly disguised fronts for the big boys; either that, or they will sell out to the big boys as soon as they find something worthwhile. In other words, in oil everything that may look small, is really big in the reality behind.
Last Friday afternoon I sat with Greg Ch’oc for the first time in seven years. He is a calm, cool Kek’chi, and a man who exudes a deep spirituality. Greg is trying to preserve the Sarstoon/Temash as a natural park for his people, and he describes the area as a customary land possession of the buffer Kek’chi villages. The evidence, meanwhile, has piled up that the oil people want the Sarstoon/Temash to do with as they will.
In Belize City I have watched as my own people, ordinarily referred to as “Creoles,” have been battered and shattered during the course of my adult lifetime. It is difficult for me personally to be optimistic about my people’s situation because the evidence is all around me of how weak we are as a people. I said to you last week that when I was a young man, I truly believed I had some answers, but now I’m not so sure. Now, in fact, it is often that I have to think the unthinkable: that we have been defeated, or that we have defeated ourselves.
I think oil was discovered in Belize in substantial quantities in the mid-1950s. The late Smokey Joe used to tell me that the oil discovery took place from the early 1930s, and he mentioned the Pomona Valley and specifically called the name of Standard Oil. But this was before my time. What I know is that oil companies came to British Honduras and were using dynamite to blow up portions of our reef system in the search for oil. This territory was a British colony at the time, and the colonial masters did not have to inform us British subjects of anything they were doing or allowing to be done in their territory. So, they did not inform us. It was through our fishermen that the ordinary people of Belize began to hear of the dynamite.
None of the Creole people who migrated en masse to the United States after Hurricane Hattie in 1961, knew anything about oil exploration and discovery in Belize. Many thought the place was a hopeless swamp, just an open sewer. They became part of big-city American life, a life dependent on petroleum and petroleum by-products.
All this did not matter to the Kek’chi one way or the other. The Sarstoon/Temash was totally isolated in those days. It took a whole day to travel from Belize City to Punta Gorda by boat. The Toledo villages were hidden in forest, and the Kek’chi lived a way of life which was ancient, and in harmony with the land and the forests and the creeks and the rivers. They were happy that way.
Today, the oil companies have come to the Sarstoon/Temash. All the indications are that the Government of Belize is on the side of the oil companies. When the present UDP Prime Minister was in Opposition, he represented the Kek’chi in Supreme Court. Now, it is lawyers from the PUP Opposition who will represent the indigenous people of Toledo. Oil is a game that lawyers play, you see. There is enough pie for both red and blue lawyers to share. The Kek’chi will likely be the sacrifice.
If all the Creole people took a stand with SATIIM, the victory of the oil companies would be delayed. But, not even all the Kek’chi people are supporting SATIIM. The oil people have brought goodies, and they have sown division.
Me, I support Greg Ch’oc one hundred percent. But, I am a dinosaur. I am not relevant to the present discourse. I was a child fascinated with the sea and the reef and the fish, you see, when the dynamite began back then in the 1950s. I suppose I am suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. I am still back there in the 1950s with Pa Bill, dreaming of the days before the dynamite came.
Power to the Kek’chi people. Power in the struggle.