You know, there are different ways of looking at life. What works for you, works for you. It’s quite popular for some people nowadays to say that you can be anything you want to be. In the old days, some people used to put it like this: reach for the stars and maybe you’ll reach the moon.
Personally, I look at things somewhat differently. I think it’s important for oppressed people, especially those with sensitive personalities, to know their place, so to speak. For sure this sounds defeatist, but it’s also realistic. What works for me, works for me.
Once you come from a certain background, your margin of error is limited. That is why we have so many human shipwrecks in our community. One or two mistakes, and you’re wasted. And that is why our parents used to beat us seemingly without mercy. It was because they knew that our margin of error would be limited, and they therefore sought to ensure that we kept our tail between our legs, as the saying goes.
Sometimes I think I am one of the individuals that rich people call “bleeding hearts.” As I drive around my community, it hurts to see those of my people who would be referred to as “losers.” At this stage of my life, I am considered a modest success, but I can’t spend any time congratulating myself. I know that with a little change of luck here and there, things would have been disastrously different for me.
I was born and raised in a society where there were people who were better than other people. Clearly, the British colonial masters were “better” than all us natives, but amongst us natives ourselves, there were people, and they were invariably people of higher color, for whom the rules of the game were different. There were natives who got away with things, while there were other natives who were punished excessively.
A classic case of special natives getting away with things in British Honduras took place during World War II. There were two natives of high color here who decided to throw in their lot with Hitler’s Germany. They committed high treason, and by their deeds contributed to the deaths of thousands of people and serious damage to the British war effort.
In this part of the Caribbean, Nazi Germany had submarines, called “U-boats,” which sank a lot of the merchant shipping moving between the United States and Great Britain. I want you to know that there were powerful people in the United States itself, such as Prescott Bush, the father of the first President George Bush (1988-1992) and grandfather of the second President George Bush (2000-2008), who essentially were friends and allies of Nazi Germany. World War II began in 1939, but the United States did not enter the war, on Britain’s side, until 1941. Between 1939 and 1941, there were Americans like Prescott Bush who were doing business with Hitler and wanted America to stay out of the war. American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was, however, a vitally important friend of Britain’s, and American goods and arms were keeping Churchill afloat when the Germans were bombing London to smithereens in 1940. Our two Belizean natives were caught supplying diesel to German U-boats in the seas around British Honduras.
They could have been hanged, but they came from families of high color, so they were not even jailed in Her Majesty’s Prison here. That would have been too punitive for local royalty. Instead, they were sent to Jamaica for confinement which one has to assume was of a minimum security nature. After the war, they were returned to Belize, and resumed their lives of privilege and prestige in Belize.
We usually say, all men are born equal. It’s not true. Human beings are born with different levels of ability. What we do seek in an ideal society is for there to exist equal opportunities for our citizens, regardless of ethnicity, color, religion, family background, and so on.
The fact of the matter is that Belize is an unjust society, and the fact that Belize is an unjust society, makes it a dangerous society for a lot of us. Life is about working to fulfill dreams we conceive when we are young. When a society is unjust, the dreams of the majority of its citizens become nightmares. When our dreams become nightmares, then we frail humans break down in different ways.
About twenty five years after World War II ended, a couple of brothers whose ancestors had come to Belize as Caste War refugees, dreamed of making beer. Without a development concession, they succeeded in making a beer which most Belizeans felt was superior in quality to the one manufactured by the Belizean with the development concession. But, the development concession Belizean was from “Baymen” origins, and so the dream of the descendants of Caste War refugees ended up becoming a nightmare.
It’s a dilemma. You can’t achieve if you don’t dream and dare. But, Icarus flew too high. How can you not admire people who pursue their goals against the odds? The sad thing is this, for people from the ‘hood, the margin of error is tight, and if you crack or crash, your own people start dumping on you. Who were you to think so high? Ha, ha, ha.
The story of Marion Jones is not classically Belizean, because her father was an American, and she was raised and trained in America. But, there are pure Americans who have done worse things than Marion Jones, and they are not going to be sent to prison. Try Lance Armstrong for size.
I’ve experienced things in my life which were devastating. I’m not defeated, but I am definitely bruised. I guess when I was young, I didn’t know my place enough. Whether we are the personality type who reaches for the stars, or the type who is more cautious, the one thing we can do is try to enjoy the ride. In some ways, life is a theater of the absurd. There are things none of us knows for sure. One of these things is when we should gamble, and when we should fold. Keep on.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.