Editorial — 25 September 2008
“Main Streeters have every reason to believe that the financial crisis is indeed a massive moral failure of America’s elite. Over time, the most powerful moneyed interests rigged the global financial system so that money managers, banks and a rarified class of institutional investors profited from massive high-risk schemes that beggared financial logic. They never fully heeded the potential costs to their clients or the public. Every investment has a risk-reward balance, but in the world Wall Street made, the reward went to its own, and the risk went to the rest of the world.”
– pg. 11A, USA TODAY, Wed. Sept. 24, 2008, article by Ted C. Fishman
We have said it to you before, perhaps not in so many words. It is possible for a nincompoop to ride the electoral tracks of one of the major political parties all the way to the Cabinet. For political success in Belize, unwavering loyalty to the political party is the sine qua non, not brains or ability or talent. An idiot can become a Cabinet Minister. If he is not only a party loyalist, but also a disciple in one of the major churches here, why, a jackass can join Cabinet. This is just the way it is.
All the post-World War II generations of Belizeans have grown up with the real and dominant presence of the United States just a few hundred miles away from us. Our working people have made great sacrifices to reach America, to stay in America, and to succeed in America. It never occurred to us that America could wobble, much less fall. For a couple days in 2001, 9/11 appeared to be America’s Armageddon, but then Washington savagely invaded Iraq less than two years later, in effect saying to the world – watch me work!
The United States has been living above its means for decades, enjoying an exaggerated standard of living based on foreign credit and military credibility. The American dollar was the currency which the world believed in. Nations with excess liquidity, like Saudi Arabia and the other oil kingdoms of the Middle East; the investment banks of Europe and Asia; the corrupt dictators of Africa, Asia and South America; everybody sent their money to the United States for safekeeping and assured dividends.
Many things happened to puncture the American bubble. American executives and investors sent their factories abroad in order to find cheaper labor and larger profits. American workers suffered. On Wall Street, the financial wizards of the United States began leveraging their liquidity to dangerous levels. The American dollar had maximum credibility and the American military ruled the world. But America was snorting and smoking more cocaine than any nation in the world. Their military became, to a large extent, a mercenary force. America was enjoying the perquisites of empire.
The history of the planet shows that empires rise, from time to time, and then empires fall. Some empires last longer than others, but they all fall. The man who began World War II, Adolf Hitler of Germany, predicted that his imperial Third Reich would last a thousand years. In fact, it lasted only twelve – from 1933 to 1945.
When did the American empire begin? It is hard to say, because when the world came out of six years of World War II in 1945, no one could see that the British Empire, which had lasted more than two hundred years, was coming to an end. Great Britain appeared to have won World War II. But it turned out that the real winner was the United States of America.
For sure, the U.S. has been the only superpower in the world for the last twenty years. The speed with which China has surged, however, has been astonishing. And now the Russian bear is beginning to growl again. On Capitol Hill in Washington this week, the American people are being asked to use their tax dollars to bail out the financial wizards on Wall Street who have brought the American empire to the brink of disaster.
What is happening in the United States, has serious and dangerous implications for Belize. The Cabinet of Belize has to take the bull by the horns, or the Belizean economy, especially in the financial and population capital – Belize City, will nosedive, and then crime and violence will become even worse than they already are. But this government was not elected with any strong sense of where they were going with the economy. The UDP were elected by landslide on February 7, 2008, to save us from the Musa/Fonseca toxins. Mission accomplished. Now what? What now?
There are things in government which they don’t teach you in school. There are challenges of Cabinet leadership which require more credentials than party loyalty. If the American economy crashes, then the bottom drops out of the tourism industry which has taken over the Belizean economy for at least a decade. Does Cabinet have a plan to absorb this specific shock, for example?
If we are to judge from the rhetoric of some of our Cabinet Ministers, they have a problem with seeing into and anticipating the future. All they can tell us about is the last ten years under the PUP. They only know to look backwards. Prime Minister Barrow has his work cut out for him. There are too many dodo birds around him. Needless to say, it is for sure we wish to be proven wrong. What now?
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Features — 03 April 2007 — by Frankie Rhys
OK, so what now? What happens next? The truth is that I have no idea, and neither does anybody else. We try to make predictions but we are really guessing, trying to make what is called “an educated guess.” This means that we base our guess on past events and on accumulated knowledge, but it is still just a guess. Every now and then somebody compiles a list of past predictions from supposedly knowledgeable people and “experts” in their respective fields. It is amusing to see how far off base most of those predictions really were.
I often wonder why Belizeans seem to be so passive towards the power structure. The crime statistics sure show that Belizeans are hardly passive towards each other, I mean look at the staggering number of violent crimes that occur in such a small country with such a small population. The killings, assaults, jackings and rapes in Belize City alone must be some sort of a record for a community of approximately 70,000 people, but when it comes to the power structure Belizeans seem extremely reluctant to challenge it with force. Some of the things that have gone on here would have resulted in a popular uprising if they had taken place in another country. A five-cent increase in bus fares in Jamaica, for example, has brought the island to a standstill.
Maybe it has something to do with our history. Certainly we had slave revolts – four major ones, to be specific. The slave owners lived in constant fear of violence as they did in every other slave holding territory, but by and large, slaves ran away from Belize rather than revolt. Although escape was not easy, it was more than possible. Our location on the mainland, surrounded by Spanish colonies, may have made escape the preferred means of resistance.
The Spanish colonial administration let it be known that slaves who escaped from the Belize settlement would be granted their freedom. This had nothing to do with the Spaniards’ love of black people: it was simply a convenient tactic to weaken the British presence on the Central American mainland. Be that as it may, so many slaves took advantage of the offer that the slave owners in Belize left many written documents in which they expressed their fear of financial ruin because of runaway slaves. The majority of the Caribbean possessions were islands, making escape extremely difficult. The slaves there had to stand and fight. They had no other option!
Yet we did have rebellions, and not only during slavery. There was violence in 1894, 1919, during the 1930’s, the early fifties and again in 1981, but there never seems to have been a sustained attack on the power structure. There were quick bursts of anger, followed by what can only be characterized by sullen acceptance. What didn’t occur in the past, though, is the kind of self-destructive internecine violence that we see today. It’s as though we are willing our own demise as a people. The crooks are stripping us blind and we respond by killing each other!
This article is certainly not a call for violence against the system. I’m sure that some will try to twist it that way, but I have long ago stopped caring about what those people say. The plain historical fact is that there has never been a “peaceful revolution.” It doesn’t exist. It is the ultimate oxymoron. The dictionary defines “revolution” as “deep and sudden change (by force) in the government of a country.” I often wondered about “the peaceful, constructive Belizean revolution” during the 1970’s. The person who thought that one up deserves a prize for one of the greatest con games in Belizean history!
The hard facts of history show that people who have the guts to stand up and fight for justice are the only ones who stand to benefit even a little from their efforts. The facts also show that most revolutions only swap one set of masters for another. It is almost a heads they win, tails we lose situation. With all the knowledge and the scientific advances we have made in recent history, it appears that we have not, can not master our inner demons. The better things have the potential to be, the worse they get! Humans have to be at war with someone. If that someone proves to be a difficult target, we go to war with ourselves.
I saw a young man on the news last night. This young man graduated from school last year. I taught him. He is a likable young man and I have talked to him on a number of occasions during the past several months. He just couldn’t find a job no matter how hard he tried. Why? Because there are not enough jobs out there for our increasing number of high school and university graduates. A young man or woman who can’t find a job is a walking powder keg. Your opportunity to do anything without money is zilch, zero. A person in that situation becomes depressed, so depressed that anything, and I mean anything can happen. I have been worried about that particular young man for a long time now, because I know what can happen to severely depressed people. None of it is good.
That’s what apparently happened here. It makes me very sad, because it is happening over and over. It is going to get worse. This society is producing large numbers of young people with high school diplomas and college degrees. The economy can’t absorb more than a fraction of them. They are tossed out into a world that can’t help them, and the “social safety net” – migration to other countries, has closed. They were made to believe that their education was the door to “success” and when they realize the truth, they become depressed.
They become angry. It is the educated, disillusioned and angry youth who lead revolutions. Think about that while you pray for peace this holiday season.