As we Belizeans look around our country and examine our infrastructure, we see that our streets, bridges, roads, schools, parks, stadiums, auditoriums and so on are not in good shape. As a people, our morale is low. We are frustrated, puzzled, undisciplined, and argumentative. Law and order have been breaking down. We are afraid to go out at night. Overall, the quality of our life is unacceptable.
There are individuals and enclaves which are exceptions to these general rules. Perhaps the most notable such enclaves are the Mennonite ones. The Mennonites, however, live according to their own way of life, which they brought with them to Belize more than five decades ago. The Mennonites are a numerical minority, and there is no chance that the majority Belizean population will adopt the Mennonite lifestyle.
Belize is considered a Christian nation. There are many faiths which are active, all of them promising salvation in the hereafter if people believe in and practice their principles. It is assumed, we suppose, that life will be better on earth itself if people believe and behave, but the Christian faiths emphasize eternal salvation more than earthly well-being.
On the secular side, Belizeans live in a parliamentary democracy which is dominated by two political parties – the ruling UDP and the Opposition PUP. The rhetoric of the respective political parties claims that life will be better for us in Belize if their candidates are elected to office, as opposed to the candidates of the other party. But the reality is that not that much changes for the masses of the people where infrastructure and quality of life are concerned when we move from one party to the other.
Belize officially came out of British colonialism in 1981, 32 years ago. There was not much deception about British colonialism. It was understood that the British were the bosses, and it was understood that the colony of British Honduras existed for the purpose of enriching Great Britain. There was a minority class of natives in British Honduras who behaved as if they believed that the British were inherently and empirically superior to us as human beings, but the masses of the Belizean people harbored rebellion in their hearts.
In this part of the world, which we call the Western Hemisphere, there is a nation state called the United States of America which is absolutely dominant. The United States of America, however, because they fought a war of independence to free themselves from British colonialism in 1776, have henceforth conceived of themselves as a people opposed to colonialism and dedicated to democratic principles and practices. This is the rhetoric.
The reality is that United States foreign policy is, first and foremost, focused on maintaining the welfare and wealth of the United States, and increasing same. Insofar as their interaction with a small country like Belize is concerned, United States foreign policy is not supposed to constitute colonialism in any form; the Americans are not supposed to be interfering in Belize in any kind of way except, rhetorically, to help us improve ourselves.
The reality is somewhat different. Five hundred years ago, European nations like England, Spain, Portugal, France and the Netherlands, sent out their sailors and soldiers to conquer African and American territories and exploit their native populations. This process ended up becoming what we knew as colonialism, a “civilized” version of conquest.
Today, everything is more sophisticated. The First World sends out its bankers and businesses and investment companies to own and control productive activities in Third World countries. It so happens that the First World countries are one color, and the Third World countries are another, but there is not supposed to be any kind of racism involved. After all, five hundred years ago it was not really racism, you know: it was about civilizing pagans and bringing Christianity to them.
The Germans have a word/concept called realpolitik which refers to the hard, harsh realities of power in international relations. On Belize’s domestic scene, realpolitik has influenced Belizean leaders since independence in 1981 to accept the advice of Washington and abide by Uncle Sam’s instructions. Belizeans as a people are pretty much pro-American, but every now and then there is advice and there are instructions which reflect how big the United States is and how small we Belizeans are.
On Monday evening on national television a Belizean lady claimed that at the United States Embassy in Belmopan, an Embassy official played for her the recording of a conversation involving herself, a Belizean Cabinet Minister, and a third person. The Belizean Cabinet Minister rejected this story on national television on Wednesday night. He had previously sued the lady for libel because she claimed he had accepted cash payments to recommend Belizean visas for Chinese and other foreign nationals.
The question we want to ask is this: why were Belizeans not surprised to hear of such a U.S. Embassy recording, whether it was as the lady claimed on Monday night or not? The newspaper’s submission is that we were not surprised because there is a gap between the independent and sovereign rhetoric of Belize’s political leaders and the cold reality of American involvement in Belizean affairs.
What is always of concern for us Belizeans is Washington’s line when the Guatemalan claim to Belize is involved. Insofar as American interests and U.S. foreign policy are concerned, the most important thing has always been for the historically flawed socio-political system in Guatemala to be protected. Belizean self-determination, territorial integrity, and national dignity are of secondary concern to the United States. It is for this reason that Belizeans inside the United States are so important: they are strategically placed to inform the American people of the aggressive nature of the Guatemalan claim to Belize and remind the American people of the genocidal activities of Guatemalan regimes with respect to their own indigenous people.
When Belize celebrates Garifuna Settlement Day next Tuesday, it will be one more real statement confirming the righteous, just, and humanitarian nature of our Belizean society. We are different from those who claim us. You may consider this a message to Obama.
Power to the people.