The fact that the Right Honorable George C. Price died in the week of Belize’s thirtieth anniversary of political independence, underlined how much things have changed here for those of us who grew up after World War II with the PUP and the NIP. In 2011, Belize has become an almost completely materialistic society, and here we were burying a political leader whose legend arose from the fact that he sought nothing material for himself.
In 2011, you can’t go to a Belizean voter and sell him a dream or a vision: you have to bring money and matériel. We think the change in Belizean voters’ attitudes may have begun in the 1970’s, when the marijuana market in the United States began to make some people and some politicians get rich in Belize.
Mr. Price’s father, William Cadle Price, was a man of means and property in British Honduras, but he was not a wealthy man. The wealthy natives in British Honduras in the days of Mr. George Price’s youth were the mahogany contractors, like Bob Turton and Ben Stuart. But, wealthy natives were not adored in British Honduras. They were spoken of with respect, even reverence, but they were not adored. Money was not the ultimate value in the colony for our people. A man’s name meant something; a man’s word held value; and a man’s manhood was most important. These things have changed in Belize. It’s no longer who you are: it’s what you have.
As September ends, Belize enters a period of political campaigning for national municipal elections next March. There is much that is distasteful about party politics in Belize, but, unless you are a casino gambler, politics is just about the only game in town where the stakes are high and the excitement is addictive. So that, it is perhaps too often in these editorials when we find ourselves analyzing and speculating where political campaigns are concerned. But, this is a service which our readers desire.
In Belmopan, on the occasions of Independence Day – Wednesday morning, September 21, and Mr. Price’s state funeral service on Monday morning, September 26, the leaders of the two major political parties, one after the other, addressed gatherings of dignitaries in speeches which were broadcast nationwide on radio and television. Both these leaders are multimillionaires – the UDP Leader a Belize City lawyer from a civil service family, and the PUP Leader an Orange Walk businessman whose family fortunes began in the sugar cane industry.
It appeared to us that the UDP Prime Minister, Hon. Dean Barrow, though personally known for his materialism, did a fair enough job of creating the impression that his government shared some of Mr. Price’s social justice values. The PUP Leader, Hon. John Briceño, gave Mr. Price his personal accolades, but we do not believe he managed to link the 2011 PUP with the PUP of Belize’s Baby Boomers’ youth.
Remember now, that we pointed out to you in the second paragraph that politicians can no longer go to Belizean voters and try to sell them a dream or a vision: you have to bring money and matériel. The fact, therefore, that Mr. Barrow may have clothed his administration in some of Mr. Price’s social justice aura, will not decide the elections of 2012 and 2013. But Mr. Briceño should not have allowed him to get away with his scheme so easily.
In our lifetimes, something happened in Belize wherein the country took on a lot of wealthy indicators, such as tall buildings, late model vehicles, power boats, and so on, but it was at the same time that moods of violence and despair began to spread and dominate amongst the masses of our people. There were some of us who had fought against various policies of George Price’s, but we could never have foreseen how hellish Belize would become. The question we now have to ask is, who and what are to be blamed, so that we can try to reverse those trends which are taking us to condemnation.
For sure we cannot blame Mr. Price for this. It is necessary, however, that it be recognized that, as time went on, there were men who had drawn near to him who were known sinners. By the same token, there is greed which has infected the ruling UDP, and that greed began way back in their first term (1984-1989), when they were excusing themselves on the grounds that they were “opening up” the economy.
Mr. Price’s death marks the end of an era. We Belizeans were innocent back then, but, more important, we were real. Today, this is a con game, and it’s all about the money. There was one point back in the 1970’s when Mr. Price explained it like this: Progress brings problems. So it seems. So it seems. Amandala