How did we get to this place in Belize? This is a reflective question I keep asking myself as I watch and listen in horror as the death toll keep climbing in Belize. I know the helplessness and frustrations of those who want to make a difference; the paralysis of those who live in the carnage daily and the failing and inept judicial system that creates no justice for the average Belizean. Back in the day murder was unheard of, and the ones that did occur was normally limited to domestic violence that got bitterly out of hand.
When I grew up in Belize, Belizeans were known as docile people, a description I had issue with because it seemed to describe people who did as they were told. Today I long for the days when we are back to a peaceful fun loving people; back to a community spirited people.
As I reflect on the society I grew up in, I remember a peaceful, happy society where everyone got along and people were poor but were satisfied with what they had…
My idealistic happy society was challenged by a colleague recently, who argues that not everyone in Belize grew up with this nostalgic, fun loving Belize I have in my mind and it is because of this misconception of the society we lived in, we blindly help to create this monster we are facing today. So I decided to reflect on a society of what was and still is many Belizeans’ reality.
A child is born innocent into this world like a blank canvas we can use to create the future on. The environment we expose children is normally a predictor for the outcome of that child in most cases, not all. So lets look at children in Belize. Families should be strong protective barriers and places of comfort and refuge from the outside world. Many would paint a successful family as two parents who are financially secured who offer their children opportunities and exposure to create success in their future and help define who they will become as adults. The family unit is important. Let us take a serious look into Belize’s family structure.
Many of our children are products of outside marriages. Many children are products of men who are already married with children and many children are products of relationships where the mother and father didn’t really have any relationship more than a sexual relationship. The child is born into a contentious environment. The father has no relationship with the child or is forced into a financial relationship with that child and unfortunately many times, the relationship does not mature beyond that. The mothers many times are subjected to poverty because in many cases, women jobs are lower paying jobs and they lack the financial support of the fathers of their children. Women sometimes hang on to dysfunctional relationships out of financial necessity or develop another relationship with a second father to a second child, then maybe a third and the cycle continues. Belize also has a lot of failed or failing marriages. Couples are legally married but dating outside their married relationship creating further contention within the homes where children are. Children see these dysfunctional relationships and accept it as normal and so a cycle of dysfunction is created and the idea of family is distorted into shallow sexual encounters and we end up creating unhealthy, sometimes traumatic atmospheres for our children.
Many times failed or failing marriages, broken relationships, dysfunctional relationships with mounting financial burdens create families that are stressed, violent and neglectful to children. The idea of the protective family that fosters the child growth is retarded by the reality of the situation.
Many of our kids in Belize also have no positive male role models in their lives. Many men in Belize spend the weekends drinking with their friends or chasing their sweethearts and do not use the weekend to bond with their children and build strong family foundations. Many men have limited or no relationship with the children scattered around Belize with different women. If they have several mothers for their children, another area of contention is created as the women live in constant odds with each other.
Many of our young girls are caught up in sexual relationships too young with older men. Men target these young girls in full view, with silent approval and with the full knowledge of communities. Young girls engaging in early sexual activity leads to pregnancy, poor choices in men, poor education and the perpetuation of the brutal cycle of poverty.
Poverty forces women and men to work longer hours to provide basic necessities. The children many times are left unsupervised or in the care of children not much older for hours on end. This cycle of poverty and abuse shatters the image of a nostalgic Belize and paints a picture of a neglected population that brought us to this mess we are witnessing today.
Mental health problems created by years of emotional abuse are reduced to “crazy” in our society and we refrain from seeking the help and expertise of mental health professionals. We do not use counselors effectively to treat many of the underling problems our youths face. We really don’t have a handle and understand how these environments can create serious mental problems we see prevalent in our society…
As a society we are contributing to our demise. We somehow think spending an hour in church; one day a week, reciting pre-formulated prayers and dropping money in the collection plate makes us Christians with a guaranteed space in heaven. We drive or walk to church oblivious to the poverty and neglected population. We stay on our knees crying out to Jesus and God questioning the wrath we see on our society. But did God cause this wrath or did we?
The Catholic Church is of the richest and most prominent churches in Belize. If you also include the Anglican, Methodist, Nazarene, Mormons, Evangelicals, all these entities have church buildings or schools in all these poverty stricken areas but don’t seem to move their congregations to act outside of the school or church and reach out into the poor surrounding neighborhoods. Our prominent politicians and Bourgeoisie all attend these churches in Belize; yet it seems they all suffer the same level of apathy in response to poverty. Belize churches can be best described as “preaching to the saved” when they really should be seeking new souls to save. Mein we gat church da Belize but no moral compass it seems. Our churches are sitting idly, telling people to anticipate the Rapture, scaring congregations with tales of a fiery pit; judging other people souls to hell but yet do nothing to address poverty, the major issue affecting our community and one of the most consistent and prominent message from Jesus.
Matthew 25:34-36 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Where is the Christian in action? The Christian who realizes God has empowered you with eyes to see the despair, noses to smell it, a heart to empathize, hands to reach out, money to feed and a conscience to know better. The Christian who knows that small acts of kindness is more important that prayers and condemnation. Where is the Christian of action I ask again?
How does a country rich in resources, mineral and land have so much poverty? The answer may lie in the blatant and wanton corruption occurring; the outright stealing of public funds and resources by those entrusted to protect it. The consistent misappropriation of the taxpayer dollar diverted into the pockets of custom officers, immigration officers, traffic officers, magistrates, police officers and just about every revenue-collecting source in Belize. The Ministers who are misusing and abusing their authority through nepotism and cronyism. Public officers spending most of their workday, NOT working. The failure to hold people accountable for the positions they have and the crimes they commit; the open affiliations with gangsters and drug dealers by our highest officials. When will these behaviors become so reprehensible that we will no longer tolerate it?
Sad to say, we do not have nation builders as our elected officials. In the past 30 years, we have elected the same jackasses who continuously play musical chairs in the House of Representatives. In the past 30 years, both parties have promised to clean up the dirt and corruption plaguing our society and have failed miserably doing so. What do we expect when they they refuse to clean up the dirt in their own parties and keep putting their names up for elections. The politicians know we live in a society of no accountability so they fear no repercussion for the outright lies they tell Belizeans. They lack integrity and the only God they worship is money. Our politicians fight each other and divide us to become elected to benefit their personal businesses, family members, friends, and personal wealth. I imagine it would be difficult to build a nation, create opportunities, and create an outlet from poverty when the main concern is self-interest and self -preservation.
I want Belizeans to remember this: No political party in Belize is all evil or all good. As Belizeans we need to stop buying that divide nonsense they keep selling us. There are good and bad people in all political parties. We need to let go of party affiliation and start building the nation of Belize. We can no longer pretend to be a Christian Society if we do not act Christ like; we can no longer pretend we care but ignore poverty and suffering daily; we can no longer pretend we want change when we openly affiliate and celebrate with high level criminals destabilizing our country; we can no longer pretend we don’t have serious problems. The future of Belize will need every Belizean to become community minded, nation builders with a purpose higher than self-interest. We need to have a strong identity of people who are willing to protect our most vulnerable citizens…our children.
I pretend not to see what is in front of me
I make up excuses and reasons why it doesn’t involve me
I hear of an acquaintance, a friend, a name, but it is not me
I hear a knock next door and I see my neighbor carried away, it is not me
I want to do something but doing nothing is okay with me
I cry and pray everyday it is not me
Now it comes knocking for me
I look around at reflections of me telling themselves- at least it is not me