A lesson we get from the simple adage, “Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean, and so between them both they licked the platter clean”, and the saying, “Different strokes for different folks”, is that when it comes to tastes— things people like, we are not all the same.
There are people in the fully developed world who hate the concrete jungle that surrounds them; they want to live in a real one, one with pristine forests and animals and birds, one with sparkling streams that empty into uncontaminated rivers that empty into a sea rich with reefs and fishes and other marine life. There are people who have everything the person living in the concrete jungle desires, and every morning they wake up wishing that this was their day to get on a jet plane heading to a land where there are skyscrapers and concrete all around them. We cannot say which of these two people we think is misguided, because, to each their own — one likes fat, another likes lean.
However, when it comes to the basic needs, we are all the same. The reason that what a person earns, what their take-home pay can buy is important, is because in the capitalist state (and we are very much that), for there to be happiness in the land, there are certain goods and services and opportunities that persons should be able to access. Generally, for a person to be happy, they must have access to good food and fresh water, good shelter, good education, good health care, and healthy recreation. In countries where people have these things, there is much happiness. In countries where people have these things, there isn’t much crime.
Most Belizeans don’t have these necessary goods, services, and opportunities, and as a consequence there is much unhappiness and much crime in our country. Belizeans desperately want these necessary things, and to that end they have put their faith in a new government to lead them. Belizeans have been putting their faith in governments for decades, and they are forever disappointed. No government has been able to take us to the state where all Belizeans have access to the things that are necessary to make them happy.
Belizeans are as blessed as any people anywhere in the world, because we are all made in the image and likeness of God, so the reason why some have plenty and some have very little or don’t have anything has nothing to do with our innate abilities. There has to be something wrong in the way we go about carrying on our business, and we have to find out what that is, what is holding us back, and do something about it.
Is it that many of us have interests that far outpace our pursuit of material wealth? Is it that our country is unjust? Is it that our leaders are corrupt, and/or lack vision? Why is it that the chance for a decent life for so many of our people is on par with their chances of winning the Boledo or the local Lotto?
On the matter of the acquisition of material wealth, some research will have to be done, but it does seem that roots Belizeans — the Creoles, the Mestizos, the East Indians and Chinese that came as indentured servants in the 1800s, the Garinagu, and the Maya, — dream less of becoming mighty rich than many Belizeans who came in the last century — the Lebanese, the Mennonites, the Indians, and the Chinese who became Belizean by way of economic citizenship.
If a poll were done, would we find that roots Belizeans are the backbone of the environmental organizations, that these groups consistently and fervently put the protection of the environment over amassing huge bank accounts? No group in Belize has stood up to environmental degradation as strongly as the Maya in the Toledo district have, and a testament to this fact is their majority decision to communally control the lands where they were born and make their livelihoods.
At the base of the capitalist system is private ownership of land (property), and communal ownership does not fit that mold. Individuals in the communal system will not outpace the group, and the group will have the power to prevent overexploitation of the resources of the land, by persons within and without.
Does our country favor different groups? Is our country unjust? There is no question that skin color/hair texture plays a role in the financial performance of individuals and groups in Belize, but since we are unable to completely overturn a system that has been in place for the past 500 years, we must look to factors over which we have more control.
Is it that some people just understand the economic system better than others do? Successful people/groups in Belize know the value of cooperation. Many in the roots Belizean group, the Creoles, have adopted a saying: “The only ship that doesn’t sail is a partnership.” That may be a truth for partnerships, especially if all parties don’t understand the rules of such associations, but when that approach/attitude extends to condemnation of cooperation, cooperatives (which it has), we see a part of the root of the group’s failure. The evidence is clear that success lies in the whole working together.
Our leaders — is their failure to deliver for us because they are corrupt? If we look at the uprising in 2005, and the recent strike against a new government that is following one that proved totally inadequate to address the problems of governance in our country, there is a clear indication that the people in this country believe that our political leaders are/have been very dishonest stewards of our assets.
As it stands today in Belize, there are people who have much and are grabbing for more, but all that most Belizeans desire is a decent standard of living. Those grabbing for more enjoy the best that two very different worlds have to offer. Largely because of roots Belizeans’ love for the environment, those persons grabbing for more still enjoy the wonders of one of the world’s great jewels, Belize, and they also jet-set in Miami and other big cities with the rich and famous in the world. All that might be okay if their excesses didn’t deprive so many of access to the basic goods, services, and opportunities that are essential to happiness.