The “good old days” always seem better than today; until the present time becomes “the good old days” for another generation. Indeed, the human mind can with faith and optimism view every bad situation with a sense of hope — can see a “half-full” glass rather than an empty one. No matter how bad it gets, there is always, perhaps due to the need to survive, a way to consider the possibility that it could have been worse. Our need to hold on to hope for the future is rationalized in our culture’s words of ancient wisdom: “evry disapintment da fi di betta.” Maybe this springs from a faith inspired by religion that there is still much to be thankful for, and “God will see us through.” There is wisdom in all of this, as our people draw from religious lessons, and from lessons gained in life, from generation to generation, to give us the strength and the fortitude to face adversity, which we surely experienced a lot of, from slavery to conquest to colonial domination and exploitation.
So then, 2020 arrived, and there was always hope in a New Year. There had been some “haad time” and hunger, crime and violence, and a failing economy in 2019; and we thought it couldn’t get much worse in 2020. Besides, it was a general election year, so a weary people looked forward to redemption, a change in the game, an end to rampant corruption, and better days, with more jobs and less crime. A new government, any new government, had to be better than the one that had led us down to what seemed the abyss of corruption, poverty and despair.
Of course, the incumbents wanted to look on the bright side, the “half-full cup,” with all the infrastructural improvements, keeping poor people hanging on to survival with pantry and handouts, while a few chosen ones reaped the largesse of an economy bolstered by burgeoning loans that dwarfed the debt of the former Super Bond.
Well, the murder rate has gone down a little as 2020 nears its end; but it is doubtful that many Belizeans would not prefer that the murder rate had remained as it was in 2019, if it would also mean that there would not be the enormous loss of life from the Covid-19 pandemic, which has a death toll that is double the murder rate in 2020 and has not left us yet. There were about 142 murders recorded in Belize in 2019. That number has reportedly fallen to about 99 so far in 2020; but we must now also consider the 230 deaths of young and old from Covid-19. And that is not all the pain that has descended upon our nation due to the pandemic; the economy has also ground to almost a halt, with cruise tourism absolutely erased from the economic picture, and many other businesses suffering from reduced spending. Also, the productive sector in agriculture was also hit with diseases and “top-gallon” floods from nearby hurricanes. With high unemployment, many citizens are struggling to survive, and hunger/malnutrition is real and more prevalent than it has ever been.
The problem with death from disease is that it usually happens slowly, scattered all across the nation and over time, so that the full impact is not realized by those not directly affected until the number has become big and worrying. Today, however, many households are grief-stricken due to the loss of loved ones, with no end in sight. Two hundred and thirty deaths from Covid-19 means 230 more families and extended families dealing with heart-wrenching grief, and in many cases loss of income.
And the problem with economic stagnation is that it means many people are finding it hard to earn an honest living, and government assistance through the “Grocery Basket” is limited, so crime rates have increased, including violent crimes, and people, already living in fear of contracting the potentially deadly virus, are worrying about their own safety and the safety of their loved ones. Some citizens are lucky to still have employment and a salary to survive on, but many are desperate and barely hanging on to hope.
Looking back on 2020 now, after it began with so much promise, it would seem that it has been “the worst of times.” Better must come! Or must it?
A lot depends on us, and how we view and approach the future. “Better must come” because we must be better at handling our situation, at helping one another, at making good decisions, at rising to the occasion and doing the necessary work to make good things happen for our families, our communities and our nation.
In “the good old days” we would be looking forward to “turning a new leaf” and making a bright start, with all our “New Year’s resolutions,” and many would be starting the New Year with a BANG with the now traditional Krem New Year’s Day Cycling Classic. But there will be none this New Year. No matter how bad things may have seemed in years past, we looked forward to New Year’s Day with great hope and anticipation. “Back eena di day” it was a big horse race meet; and in the last three decades it has been the Krem Cycling Classic. But not this time. In fact, all competitive sports have been on “lock down” through 2020, and indications are it will remain that way for a while yet.
Nevertheless, we will still sincerely wish each other a “Happy and Prosperous New Year,” because that is what we all want it to be. And this year, more than any time before, we must mean what we say, and follow our words with deeds.
We cannot afford to be discouraged and disheartened at the calamity behind us in 2020. Our children, elderly and weaker ones depend on all of us who have strength to put our hands to the plow and keep our focus forward on making things better for all of us in 2021.
Bear in mind, as bad as it was in 2020, it could have been much worse; and if we lose hope and focus now, it could indeed get worse in 2021. Scientists and our health authorities have charted an effective battle plan for us to employ, but its effectiveness in stomping out the virus depends on ALL of us, not only some of us, abiding by the safety protocols – hand washing, mask wearing, social distancing, healthy eating, and vitamin supplements, especially D3 if we are not getting enough sunlight exposure, etc. This is no time for nonsense; this is serious business. One hand can’t clap; one bad orange can spoil the whole barrel; and our chain of defense against this microscopic enemy is only as strong as “the weakest link” who is unprepared or stubbornly refuses to maintain our collective stand against spreading the virus. Discipline must be our mantra in 2021; personal discipline, community discipline, and discipline as a nation. And helping one another must be our pledge; everybody must eat; and everybody must comply with the anti-Covid rules for our survival.
There have been recent reports of a mutation to the Covid-19 virus, making it even more contagious. So our work is surely cut out for us in this New Year. The vaccine, when it arrives, will be an effective weapon; but it will take a while to reach us, and a long time to cover the whole population. Till then, it is all of us against this viral enemy, which must be conquered before we can get our economy fully back on track, and return to happier days.
So, let the calamity that was 2020 be the training ground that prepared us to face the mighty challenge ahead in 2021. Leaders, lead! There is no time for selfishness and corruption and waste. The nation depends on your integrity and vision and courage, and your commitment and determination to set the example for the rest of us, and to demand discipline and uprightness from all who are paid tax dollars to serve the people. And make sure that everybody can eat to stay strong, and stay at home more, ‘till the pandemic has been eradicated from our population.
2020 was indeed a bitter pill; thank goodness it is over. And with God’s blessing and the will of the great Belizean people, let us ALL together make one steely strong resolve to “drive back” this Covid-19 and make 2021 the best year that we can remember. We can do this! Happy New Year, Belize!