During the international anti-colonial era in the 1950s, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah famously advised, “Seek ye first the political kingdom.” If some Pan-Africanist(s) from abroad visited Belize in 2016, there are certain House and Cabinet optics which would fool him. After such a visitor experienced the murderous urban civil war, or black-on-black violence in Belize City, he would have to confront a massive contradiction, the contradiction between the ruling politics of Belize, on the one hand, and our bitter, bloody socio-economics, on the other hand, a socio-economics which soon becomes even worse. Our socio-economics at the pyramid base is about to become worse because of elitist politics at the pyramid’s apex. You may call it Belize’s BTL blues, Mr. Scott-Heron.
We speak of Belize’s “untold wealth” in our national anthem, but the present day Belizean reality in consumer terms is cruel poverty. When Belize entered self-government in early 1964, we knew that we were a poor people financially, but things were looking up, as we would say. Things were looking up because of the expanded sugar industry, the new lobster and garment industries, and because of increased and legal opportunities for our working classes to travel to the fabulous United States of America.
There was minimal crime in 1964, and there was great social cohesion on the micro scale, which is to say, at the community level. Premier George Price of the ruling People’s United Party (PUP) was trying to create a militant national consciousness, but he faced organized political opposition from the public service class, which had enjoyed privileges under British colonialism.
The UBAD movement (with permission from Mr. G. Michael), which essentially lasted from early 1969 to early 1973, has not been properly analyzed outside of this newspaper, partly because it represents an embarrassment to today’s ruling party – the United Democratic Party (UDP). It was the UDP, not the UBAD, which sought and found the political kingdom: it was the UDP which now presides over the worst bloodletting amongst our youth in the history of the settlement of Belize.
Perhaps the most important thing to note about UBAD, all these decades afterwards, is that there were young men and women in the UBAD leadership whose family background was such that they could have played the “Baymen’s Clan” game, had they so desired. If we look at the 43-year history of the UDP, the political party which divided and destroyed UBAD at the UDP’s birth, we believe we can fairly say that the UDP’s leaders have played the Baymen’s Clan game for 43 consecutive years.
In 1973, there would have been a question mark surrounding the new UDP’s ability to play such a Baymen’s Clan game successfully in the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts. It would take too much time to discuss the reasons for such a 1973 question mark in this essay, but we can surely say in 2016 that the UDP has been successful in the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts. Politically, of course, the UDP has also been very successful in Belize City, which represents their stronghold, but Belize City also represents that aforementioned socio-economic catastrophe for Belize, and for the UDP.
The official, existential Baymen’s Clan narrative for the settlement of Belize is that in September of 1798, black slaves fought in support of their white masters and a free colored class to turn back a naval invasion of the Yucatecan Spanish on behalf of the King of Spain. The ruling UDP lavishly celebrate this narrative every September.
Now, the captivating essence of free market capitalism is its supposed rewarding of human effort and talent and brains and guts without discrimination or preference. The ruling UDP unabashedly subscribes to capitalism’s theoretical construct. The Belizean reality, however, is that when the anti-colonial era began here after World War II, a privileged Baymen’s Clan class had long emerged and was well established which was “loyal and patriotic” to Buckingham Palace. There was discrimination and preference, then, in British Honduras.
The PUP, at its birth in 1950, represented the antithesis of the Buckingham Palace order. At least, back then, the PUP did so represent. The 2016 PUP reality may be different, but that is not the primary concern of this essay. Our concern is that aforementioned socio-economic catastrophe (Belize’s BTL blues), and the alarming, immediate prospect of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) formula – increased taxes, loss of jobs, and greater suffering in the land. This being the socio-economic landscape in Belize as we write, how is it that the PUP is still unable to mount a credible political threat to the UDP? Is it, mayhap, that the PUP has also become Baymen’s Clan?
Since Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales threatened military action against Belize on the afternoon of Thursday, April 21, this year, things have slowly cooled on the western and southern borders between Belize and Guatemala to the point where most Belizeans are now becoming focused on Centenary instead of the Sarstoon and the Chiquibul. This is, beloved, as the Baymen’s Clan of the UDP want it, and as the self-described “Friends of Belize” want it.
It should not be this way at all, we submit. Belize should be taking advantage of the apparent relaxation of tension on the borders to prepare ourselves for the next round of rhetorical threats and military buildups. Relevant to our foreign policy situation are the serious problems in Belize’s socio-economics. The masses of the Belizean people have not been mobilized for the protection and defence of The Jewel, and, what is worse, the masses of the people are wondering how loyal and patriotic their elected government is to our national welfare. If the Government of Belize is loyal and patriotic to Buckingham Palace, then who is loyal and patriotic to the humble people of Belize?
In the international financial world, you know, these mathematics wizards keep developing all kinds of sophisticated instruments in order to rob the people and enrich themselves. In our uneducated state, the people of Belize felt that we were blessed with Mr. Price and Mr. Goldson, men we believed to hold the welfare of the Belizean people as their first, sometimes only, concern. The man Manuel Esquivel was a doctrinaire neoliberal who bowed to Washington, but he did not run a gangster government. Since Esquivel, the Belizean people have been asking questions. Our governments are supposed to protect us, not rape us.
Questions from the Belizean people have reached a crescendo during Belize’s BTL blues. Who is to blame for the terrible bills? Why are they telling us this is a victory for us? Why is the boss of BTL, strictly speaking, unqualified?
There’s one thing we know for sure. The people of Belize have been ripped off, are being ripped off, and have some foul-tasting medicine to swallow. There is really no pain visible amongst the Baymen’s Clan. Life continues in a merry fashion. On their radio station, they run jokes about all the different foods they eat and all the different beverages they drink. They laugh. Ha, ha, ha …
Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie.