As I watched the budget debate in the House this week, I was struck by the behavior of some of our mostly male-dominated, elected leaders, ironically being corralled by a lone female House Speaker trying to keep their behavior in check. On the UDP side, some of these hardcore politicians appeared polished while others not so much, which made me wonder why a leader would choose to have some of the latter on his ticket as representatives of his government?
The less polished ones came across as thugs hurling abuse at the other side, went off topic and made no sense while acting as attack dogs for the party (I assume). They ranted about corruption and continued their projections, ad infinitum, at the other side, while deflecting blame and defending themselves in a rather twisted manner. Witnessing this spectacle playing out on television, I found myself vacillating between disbelief, anger, shame, concern, and incredulity. To be fair, I have also seen similar behavior from some on the PUP side in the past so they are not off the hook in my criticism of politicians behaving badly; the behavior is all too familiar!
I listened as one politician castigated Kareem Musa for daring to think differently from his father. Must we not as individuals evolve and change our opinions, our behavior and belief systems as we learn and grow? Heaven forbid I should still hold the same views of my parent’s generation. I would still have the mindset of a strict, austere Victorian era-mentality, living in a world that has left me so far behind in these our modern-day sensibilities; a society that has moved so far away from how our parents grew up, raised us, taught us, and guided us within the boundaries of their knowledge and society at the time.
This is not to say we must change our core principles and behavior, but one must adapt to changes in our society; one must evolve or get left behind. I posit a few simple questions to prove my point: do you type on an old-fashioned typewriter like your parents did, or do you use a computer that is much more efficient? Did our parents (or their parents) have any clue about climate change and its devastating effects on the environment? How many people’s lives have changed due to scientific discoveries within the last 100 years? Truthfully, I know that I eat healthier foods and exercise more than my parents ever did so to accuse Kareem of disloyalty to his father for daring to think differently is an absurdity mired in ignorance. I remain impressed that Kareem sat there in quiet dignity waiting for his moment to do the people’s business, but that’s another topic for another time!
Old-guard politicians need to stop making fools of themselves in the public arena by sinking to this level of stupidity because this hardcore, hard-hitting mentality no longer resonates with this generation. We are tired of it, but many politicians remain stuck in a generational mindset that is no longer effective, so drunk on their power monopoly that they underestimate the will of the people. To paraphrase Michelle Obama, you don’t have to go low; you can go high! And when you are in our House debating issues that affect our lives, go high and stick to the topic. This is not your moment to unleash your rage, or score brownie points, or grandstand. You are there to do OUR business, which brings me to the point of my writing.
If we are to move forward as a nation in a dynamic, global arena that is rapidly changing and evolving, we as a nation cannot remain stagnant, sitting in this cesspool of bad behavior by politicians in which paying for votes get you elected and make you feel emboldened. Belizeans, your vote is your most precious right; it puts the power back into your hands; it gives you power over politicians who are, or might be, abusing you; the privilege is yours to put them in or take them out. On voting day, show up! It is your opportunity to choose your elected officials and to keep them accountable not just for their behavior, but also their use of the public purse.
If you are lucky enough to live in a country where you have the right to vote, let your vote be counted. This is not about rabid loyalty to party and individuals; this is about your country; it is about YOU and YOUR vote to effect change. It’s about the lives of you and your children not just for one day, but for the future. Use your vote purposefully; don’t sell it! We as a people need to up our game by cultivating global leaders who can represent us at home and abroad, manage our interests and finances, and behave effectively and dignified anywhere in the world as soon as they step off the plane.
Belizeans, we need to get excited about a new generation of progressive, assertive thinkers entering the political leadership in Belize, and this MUST include the voices of women. I am heartened to hear some, but we need more, inspiring women rallying to the cause of progressive agendas: gender equality and violence against women and more; there is so much more we need to do. This week I read a post about a Mayan woman giving birth in the jungles of Punta Gorda, men carrying her in a make-shift hammock to get her to safety, simply because this and previous governments have neglected to give them a 5-mile road in and out of their remote village. Yet we are spending millions on a referendum.
THIS should anger all of us and not just women! It is shameful and heartbreaking, but only when women take control will things change for us. How much does it really cost to send some dump trucks full of sand and gravel to give these people a road? Men should not be making decisions (or not) that impact us; it is our responsibility to demand to be heard. Do you notice in Belize how men behave at a party? As soon as they arrive, they leave the women sitting in isolation and go huddle together at the bar, hanging out with their bros, talking man talk. I hazard a guess they are not discussing how to solve the world’s problems. But what does that tell us about our society? To be clear, I’m not trying to disrupt their bromance, but my point is…women need to come together just like men, stop tearing each other down, and get to work TOGETHER. Let us be the change we want to see and stop admiring these problems from afar. A woman alone has power, but together we have impact; there is power in the pack!
This is a time of transition in Belize and change will only come about if all of us put aside party politics and stand up for what is right and what we truly believe in. To the smart women who are competing for space in this male-dominated, hardcore political game, I say be assertive, stand your ground, demand a seat at the table. If they don’t allow you a seat, create your own table! Change might not happen overnight, but if we keep pounding away at it, eventually it will happen. We should not be our parent’s generation blindly following along with party politics. Our country’s future depends on all of us being free-thinking individuals armed with our right to vote.
A new generation of progressive thinkers will change Belize and it MUST also include the diaspora. Despite what these hardcore politicians tell you, the diaspora is not the enemy or a threat as some would like you to believe. The diaspora might not be physically there, politicians might make it difficult for us to come home to vote, but this current government has disenfranchised many of you at home from voting too so we feel your pain. Nothing will stop us from fighting for our families, for Belize and for the future of our country. NOTHING and NOONE! Some politicians might want to count us out and marginalize us, but we are not going anywhere. Our voices will be heard. It takes courage, commitment and the will of The People to effect change. We are with you!
Let us move forward together, but first we must hit the reset button and vote NO to the ICJ on April 10th.