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Wednesday, December 8, 2021
Home Editorial Let’s try unity

Let’s try unity

“Upon his arrival in 1504 in Santo Domingo, the capital of Hispaniola, the 18-year-old Cortés registered as a citizen; this entitled him to a building plot and land to farm.” (Hernan Cortes, en.wikipedia.org)

Mon. Nov. 8, 2021
The reparations discussion has been prominent in the news lately, especially after a motion was tabled in the House of Representatives by a sitting minister of government. And there has been a little backlash, or a gentle “call out” from one prominent organization that has been championing the cause of African descendants in Belize for decades. The peculiar nature of the situation brings to the forefront a matter that perhaps too often has been overlooked, as obvious as it should seem. Division of forces in times of battle is never a welcome situation. And it has nothing to do with debate and differences of opinion, which is all healthy. But, from our lessons of history, it is vitally important for us as a subjugated and oppressed people to establish one basic premise before attempting to embark on engagement with our perceived enemies or exploiters in this “dog eat dog” capitalist world. And that premise is that we MUST be unified in our approach.

Sometimes, when we are very committed to a struggle, our own zeal may cause us to expend energies in areas that end up making our goals harder to achieve. Especially when there is a struggle against a common enemy, unity of the sufferers should be of the highest priority, or we could find ourselves doing the work of the oppressor in realizing their age-old tactic of “divide and conquer.”

When the Spanish “conquistadores” ventured into the “New World” and found a shining city with paved streets and an organized society with a powerful ruler in control of a large army, they quickly realized that, even with their superior weapons, the sheer numbers would make it difficult to conquer the many thousands of so-called “Indians” they had encountered in what we now know as Mexico, and later on it was the same with Peru in South America. But, just as there were many wars in Europe among the different nations, so in the “New World,” the Aztec and Inca kings ruled over kingdoms that included some “vassal” states that were not happy with their subservient and exploited status. So, the Europeans took sides with some of the unhappy states and thus were able to launch successful attacks against the maximum rulers, aided also by intrigue, ruthlessness and deceit, and also by disease, and eventually conquered the Aztec and Inca empires.

The British, when they joined the European quest for riches from the Americas, utilized their skills of diplomacy in making alliances with native peoples where convenient, as with the Miskito nation of Central America, and thus became a thorn in the side of the already well- established Spaniards. And in our own history in the colony of British Honduras, our people know only too well the division created by sparking discrimination between the two African- based peoples, the so-called Kriols and the Garinagu. Today, both black groups are seeing their young people falling victims to violent homicides sparked by poor economic conditions and a lack of education and enlightenment about their people’s history and struggle.

When the PUP were in government following independence in 1981, they embarked on the nationalistic and visionary route of establishing a Belize College of Arts, Science and Technology (BELCAST). Many aspiring scientists and engineers who could not make it to university abroad saw a chance to further their education at home. But when the UDP came into government in 1984, they did not bother to ask the nation our opinion on the matter in any meaningful consultation; they just scrapped BELCAST and proceeded to institute a strictly business-oriented, American-style University College of Belize (UCB), which offered nothing in the way of sciences.

Over the decades since independence, it seems like one blunder after the other was meted out upon the Belizean people by leaders who unilaterally used the power vested in them by the British-gifted Belize Constitution to dig a deeper and deeper hole of debt for the tax-paying citizens to shoulder, while some politicians became multimillionaires. Blue – Red – Blue – Red – Blue. Our people have been tossed back and forth like “tunu ball” because of our tendency to “die-hard” political loyalty, which keeps us divided by party color, rather than taking principled positions on particular issues.

Since March, 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc upon the world economy, and Belize has been most vulnerable. But there have been a couple specks of good amongst the trauma and tribulations. For one, it showed clearly to even the least educated citizen, how much our government depends on the people to operate. “Only the people can save the people” was most clearly demonstrated when a desperate PUP government managed to convince the public service unions to accept a 10% salary cut, in the interest of saving the country’s economy from certain disaster.

The Nature Conservancy deal on the Blue Bonds, begun under the UDP and finalized with improvements by the PUP government, has recently come through like a saving grace for a struggling Belizean populace, who are comforted by the thought of our next generation having a fighting chance in life with no Superbond over their heads. There was some unity in that endeavor, and the nation is grateful.

Whenever we pull together, good things can result. We just need to keep our eyes on the prize, and remember who the enemy is, and it is NOT our fellow Belizean citizens, whether UDP or PUP.

On any matter of major national importance, it is vital for us to establish the premise that we are in this together, united in our goal for a better Belize. We can then put our differences of opinion and strategy on the table, discuss them, maybe debate, perhaps vociferously and even emotionally at times; but we must always remain conscious of our unity of purpose as Belizeans, and be ready and willing to embrace and support the consensus decision that arrives, for we will all have to live with the consequences.

An example of a big decision going forward is the matter of the proposed causeways for the Stake Bank cruise tourism project. Let there be open public consultation, discussion, debate, with no stone left unturned; and then, when we decide as a people which is the best way to go, that’s it. We all must then commit ourselves to do our best to give the decided route a chance to succeed. But, whether the verdict is causeway or causeway not, no singular special interest should unilaterally make a decision on a matter that will impact the lives of all Belizeans in such a big way.

On the matter of reparations, there is no need for quarrelling among ourselves. The “enemy” is the “slave master and his heirs and successors.” And the challenge is to repair the multi-dimensional damage done to our people over the generations, and which has facilitated the exploitation game that is still being perpetrated upon us, and to which we remain vulnerable when we are divided.

The game was all set for the Europeans to succeed, on the backs of enslaved people, the indigenous and then our African ancestors. Let’s try unity as a priority, in approaching our national issues here at home, and then maybe we can forge the regional unity necessary to effectively negotiate with “the big boys”.

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