From one perspective, Belize City, the nation’s population center, finally ran out of hurricane luck on Wednesday night/Thursday morning, August 3/4 of 2016, after 55 years of relatively cool runnings since October 31 of 1961. On that night in 1961, for those few of you who don’t know, a ferocious Category 5 lady named Hattie visited, uninvited of course, the then capital city, and life, ma Cherie, has really never been the same.
For sure there’s been many a scare since Hattie, but no one since then ever made the impression Mr. Earl did this week. Back in 1978, Greta created substantial insurance opportunities for clever claimants, but she was a mere 80 miles an hour. Hattie was double that. In 1998, the terrifying Mitch was Hattie-like in power, and perhaps even worse, but Mitch veered southward to Honduras at the last minute. Richard in 2010 was supposed to be 100 miles an hour, but when we compare him with Earl this week, Richard was a boy masquerading as a man. Call me MISTER Earl.
Early in the history of this storm, we were minded of Greta, because we believe in projecting worst case scenarios in these matters. When who became Earl was a mere tropical wave of 40 miles an hour, the proverbial “area of disturbed weather” fooling around below Hispaniola in the Eastern Caribbean, a Greta prognosis was our worst case scenario. The thing was, even as an unnamed meteorological phenomenon, this storm always made it clear, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that its destination was Belize, and by the time anonymous became Earl, a named tropical storm, late Tuesday or early Wednesday, he was saying it loud: Belize City is what I want and where I am going.
Anyway, so as to shorten the story, Earl arrived on Wednesday night, and Belizeans overall were prepared for him. The preparation index in hurricanes is first measured in human casualties in the Third World. We gave up no lives to Earl. Fantastic. But Earl arrived hours earlier than the predicted midnight, to begin with, and he surely did wreak havoc on our homes, our infrastructure, our power and water, our trees, and the nation’s agriculture. Earl was supposed to blow only in the Greta range in intensity, but Earl at 80 was definitely worse than Richard at 100. How you figure?
There are a lot of things we could say about the Earl experience, but we will confine ourselves to this: Belizeans, basically traumatized the whole of Thursday, began opening up their hearts to each other on Friday. All over the city, and its northern extensions like Ladyville and Los Lagos, our people have been bonding with each other in conversation, and it is so healthy emotionally. Mr. Earl was one bad dude, and we need each other to get over him. This is real. One of these days, many years from now, as a people and as a city we will be grateful for the Earl experience: we have had to rediscover each other as human beings.
Tangentially, as we move on in this editorial essay, we need to look at a bit of our organizational history in order to be as unequivocal as possible. When the black-conscious movement which spawned Amandala began 47 years ago, we found early allies in Marxist-Leninist elements here. This was the case wherever there were black movements in this region and over the world: black revolutionaries were encouraged by the Marxist-Leninist element. In our particular case, one of our Marxist-Leninist allies actually threw off that mantle years later, seeming to become a neoliberal, and was elected Prime Minister for two successive terms of office.
At this newspaper, we were never Marxist-Leninist, because we were never ideological. But we learned a great deal from the Marxist-Leninist model. In 1977, the newspaper became a full-fledged business concern, in the sense that the organization we had served, had divided and fallen apart. Amandala has competed since then in the world of business and profits. If this makes you capitalist, then we are.
We say that so as to say this. It struck us this week in a dramatic way that our society goes topsy-turvy in the hours and days after a hurricane like Earl. Of a sudden, our carpenters, our electricity linesmen, our water service workers, our plumbers, our mechanics, our yard men, in fact all who are handy men, become of absolute importance. Suddenly, the politicians and the attorneys and the accountants and all the other pen-and-paper people who normally dominate our lives and charge the nation hundreds and thousands of dollars per hour in fees for their intellectual expertise, have no value in our reality. It is the men and women who work with their hands who will put things right for us after an Earl. It may be that this is the way Marxist-Leninists think. If so, then you will have to count us in their number. (What about our police people and our soldiers and coast guard? Big, big respect.)
As soon as things return to normal, the politicians and the attorneys and the accountants, and dare we throw in some clerics of the supernatural realm, will once again take over and resume their exalted, elitist lives in this precious baby we call The Jewel. Think about it, Belizean brothers and sisters. Could this be one of the reasons why we are such a poor and distressed society, because we place much greater value on work which is less concrete, less hands-on, less constructive, less dirty, and, we submit, less productive? We’re just saying.
Oh well, the discussion is purely academic. In Belize, we are locked in our colonial, Christian mode. We are conscious of little outside of our allegiance to monarch and our fear of the Almighty. At Kremandala, with roots support, we think outside of that box, and we have challenged the status quo, for 47 years.
This week a hurricane named Earl also challenged your status quo. More mighty than us by far, Earl ripped apart your status quo, and now you fight for restoration. After that restoration, our nightmare will again become the one Chichester. Do you believe the Lord is worse than Mr. Earl? Tell me in my ear, so that no one knows except for you and me.
Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie.