Posted: 01/03/2007 - 10:54 PM
Author: HOLMAN H. D. ARTHURS
P.O. Box 2199
Belize City, Belize
February 20, 2007
The words of my childhood friend to me will always ring in my ears, and will direct the rest of my life, however long or short I will have on earth.
He said to me and I quote to the best of my recollection: “Bwoy, a mi tek wa ride behind semitry, and I didn’t know people in Belize City live like that. Ago anyway on mi bike.”
I honestly did not know for years the extent of the depravity, deprivation, desolation and inhumanity my friend was describing, because truthfully I have never visited the southern area of the cemetery. I have seen the outlines of the structures in the cemetery, but from a distance.
My visit to this dark area of our city was accidental. I was watching the evening news on Channel 7 TV when the narrator said that during the night, a house with a family of eight had collapsed; but none of the occupants was injured.
The family, the narrator explained, was now homeless. The family consisted of a mother and father and six children, ranging in ages from sixteen years to nine months. Moved by the plight of this forlorn family, I told my wife that we had to offer help in some way. I felt it was our moral imperative as citizens of Belize to offer some assistance, however small.
The narrator said concerned people could call 602-1052, which we did.
The mother answered the phone and directed us to Antelope Street. I did not know the location of Antelope Street, but we were told to park beside Carter’s business and the father would come out to meet us. He came in a short while and offered to accompany us to the site of the fallen home.
He was quite pleasant, calm, and appeared dedicated to the welfare of his family. He said he had tried hard in life and he just was not making any progress, and at times he had an urge to end it all. I told him that one day the sun will shine on the life of his family and all will be well if he only persevered.
We made our way up Antelope Street, and utter devastation and indescribable degradation appeared on every side before me. These are people caught in the grip of withering, searing, suffocating and unspeakable poverty.
Poverty is a horrible cancer and a social crime.
In my youth I was exposed to poverty, but nothing in my experience prepared me for these dismal and Dickensian horrors. It was literally in the jaws of hell. It was rainy, and lagoons dotted the landscape. The children were either naked or half naked - some played in the fetid swamps.
The air was heavy with the pungent smell of decaying organic matter.
I am very much influenced by the philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On the question of poverty, he said “As long as there is poverty in the world I can never be rich, even if I have a billion dollars. As long as diseases are rampant and millions of people in this world cannot expect to live more than twenty-eight or thirty years, I can never be totally healthy. Even if I just got a good check up at Mayo Clinic… No individual or nation can stand out boasting of being independent. We are interdependent.”
There is a fundamental oneness in human existence, and what affects one, affects all.
We are all equal; social elitism and superiority are mental cancers.
These are people who live in the most primitive, disgusting, deplorable and appalling conditions conceivable. The conditions remind me of France on the eve of the French Revolution (1789).
This is a sociological volcano. Now I have a better idea for this crime wave we are experiencing. I do not condone crime, but no one does anything without a reason, however warped and distorted.
Everyone must help these unfortunate poor relations.
To be silent, to do nothing in the face of this social outrage, this enormity, this monstrosity, is to be an accomplice to genocide. This area is a microcosm of the plight of the poor. This is a monumental disgrace of the first magnitude.
These people live worse than feral animals. They have no running water, no indoor plumbing, no kitchen, no cooking utensils, no toilets, no food and no facilities to take a bath. This is a roll back to the Dark Ages.
My son and his wife, who are both in the U.S. Air Force, have sent me a box with about 100 pieces of children clothes, which I have distributed to the children of this human tragedy.
I am appealing to all Belizeans, both at home and abroad, especially in the United States, to send your help both materially and monetary, to Her Honor the Mayor, Zenaida Moya. She is the best Mayor in the history of our City. She is honest, dedicated, hardworking and intelligent. Belize needs more cooperation and less political fulminations of the Mayor.
The people want bread and land, as well as education and skills to fit in this society.
I travel for miles and miles along the highways, and all I can see are unused, idle and uncultivated land. And every time the poor seek a piece of land, they are either swindled by these unconscionable vultures or told by these gangsters that no land is available. Where are your viperous eyes?
Are the members of this Government suffering from political glaucoma? Do they not see the large tracts of idle land in Belize?
The land belongs to the people of Belize, like the oil resources. Nature has given the land as a gift so that all may live decently and in reasonable comfort and ease. Life is not only the exclusive domain of the Musa clan and their cohorts. This government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich, has done absolutely nothing to alleviate the suffering of the poor.
It has offered only political palliatives during the last six years.
It is impossible for the poor to live without help in a state with crushing high prices and an extortionate price system which protects the rich but crucifies the poor.
The people need homes, not high mortgages and a river of foreclosures. “Something is rotten in the State of Denmark – Belize”.
The Government of Belize has brought a Trojan Horse – extreme poverty, and placed it in the middle of the City.
This Government has been long on rhetorics – but short on performance, except in the matter of its cronies and rich supporters.
This is a crime ridden – crime sodden Government! It gave away illegally $30 million dollars in one day to one of its supporters, and in six years it has not spent $30 to alleviate poverty and suffering of the poor who live in the cemetery. Mr. Prime Minster – it would appear to me that your conscience has fled your body.
How can you call yourself Prime Minster and allow babies to be brought up in land surrounded by a landscape of filth, garbage, rotten organic matter, and sleep comfortably in your palatial home on Princess Margaret Drive?
You want power but you lack humanness – “The Milk of Human Kindness”.
You have only the shape of a human being left.
I am offended by the bestiality I have seen before my eyes in the cemetery. Your government seems to reflect the philosophy that only the rich are entitled to happiness, and the greatest good in the community goes to those with the greatest wealth.
Those who seek power should have an empathy with those who live in the cage of poverty and have compassion in their heart.
No child should be sentenced by society to a life of hunger, pain, suffering and torture – to a life without food, bed, clothes and education. There can be no better investment for a country than milk for babies and food and education for the youths.
The Government of Belize should institute a program whereby poor babies are given milk and cereal and the poor families are given food.
The Government should renegotiate the oil contract with the BNE, giving the Government of Belize 60% of the gross revenue from the sale of the people’s oil and 40% of the gross to the BNE, free of all taxation.
With this revenue the Government of Belize would be able to give poor families at least $300.00 per month, plus food and free public primary education.
Food and education are a right to mankind – not a gift.
Soon the torch will be passed to the students attending high school, and the University of Belize. They should learn about the problems of poverty not only from books, but by actual visits to the ghettoes of Belize, and by taking pragmatic measures to alleviate the poverty in the ghettoes.
The rapists and brigands whose voracity illegally dried up and depleted the Development Finance Corporation and the SSB funds; the unreconstructed guttersnipes in aristocratic garb who unpatriotically feasted on public funds; the bankers, lashed by the fierce and furious gales of unquenchable greed, aided and abetted by a conspiratorial administration – you are preeminently responsible for the genocide by indifference and neglect of the poor.
The highest good for you, the greatest happiness is not the welfare of all, but self gratification –self aggrandizement.
I once more appeal to Belizeans at home and abroad, and friends of Belize to help these poor unfortunate people living in the cage of poverty.
Finally, I once more reiterate my appeal to help the poor, neglected, trampled, suffering brothers and sisters, and children of the many ghettoes in Belize.
Belizeans and friends of Belizeans living abroad can send money and material help to the Honourable Zenaida Moya, Mayor, 60 North Front Street, Belize City, Belize and Belizeans at home can offer help directly to the poor.
HOLMAN H. D. ARTHURS