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#453546 - 12/15/12 02:21 PM MCAFEE AND LISA MERZ IN OUR HOUSE
Marty Offline

Editorial, Amandala

The recent episodes involving U.S. visitors John McAfee and Lisa Merz provided graphic examples for Belizeans of tourism’s damaging effects when it spins out of control. McAfee’s wealth was compromising the morality of our young ladies, and Merz’s importance to the San Pedro Ambergris Caye economy resulted in a Cabinet Minister’s interfering in the legal process in order to get special treatment for her.

Those of us Belizeans who reside in this house, our house, do so because we don’t want to or because we can’t, go to the United States. We know that the United States is the world’s superpower, the largest economy on planet earth, and we know that, by comparison, we are a very small and perhaps marginal nation. As a result of having achieved political independence in 1981, nevertheless, we Belizeans have the right to decide whom we want to invite and accept in our house.

During his years in power, Mr. Price was careful with this tourism thing. In the Caribbean, former British possessions like Jamaica and Barbados were going crazy over tourism. In Cuba, however, the region should have learned a lesson. Tourism can undermine a small country’s nationalism, compromise its integrity, and mock the dignity of its citizens. In Cuba, out-of-control American tourism had ended up sparkling a violent revolution, which triumphed in 1959 and, in retaliation, declared itself communist.

The problem with tourism is simple. Successful nation-states are built on a work ethic and a basic morality. It is expected that adult citizens put in an honest day’s work, and it is expected that adult citizens give maximum respect to the family concept. Tourism encourages none of these things when it spins out of control. Citizens of host communities and societies find that they can make relatively easy money providing illegal and immoral services for visitors, and the more wealthy of these visitors are not here to encourage family values.

In 1970, an officer of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD) famously declared on the rostrum at Courthouse Wharf that “tourism is whorism.” The quote appeared in a TIME magazine article and was mistakenly attributed to UBAD president Evan X Hyde, who is the publisher of this newspaper. This newspaper traditionally supported Mr. Price’s cautious attitude towards tourism, but the industry, perhaps inevitably, became an important aspect of Belize’s economic life. The newspaper, when confronted in the last few years with the specter of offshore drilling for oil, considered such offshore oil drilling to be incompatible with the established tourism industry here, and, because of this and other reasons, we firmly opposed offshore drilling for oil in our house.

Shortly after the UDP returned to office in 2008, Prime Minister Barrow announced a $30 million loan which would be used to upgrade tourism facilities. This newspaper felt that Belize already had its share of tourism facilities and infrastructure, and we editorialized to the effect that such a loan should be invested in something like deep sea fishing, instead of tourism.

We had personally witnessed the dramatic changes in Placencia when tourism hit the peninsula hard in the late 1980s, and core families which for generations had been fishing families, began to slide into the category of tour guides. This had happened in San Pedro Ambergris Caye two decades earlier. Some people have to continue fishing, you know, because the tourists have to eat, and what they enjoy eating most of all in Belize are marine products. But, beloved, fishing is hard, hard work. Entertaining visitors is much easier, and you make more money, and the money is in U.S. currency. Which sane person would not prefer more money for easier work?

In the midst of this, there have been some visitors to our house in the last four decades who have made significant contributions to Belize. This newspaper has pointed out that some of the expertise some visitors have brought here has been a blessing. We don’t have a lot of contact with these talented visitors, but there are a lot of people like Sharon Matola and Dr. Melanie McField who came here from abroad and are now valuable and indispensable fixtures in Belize.

Out there in the rich, developed world there is a debate which has been going on for four, five decades. This is the debate which is considered as having begun with Rachel Carson in the early 1960s, and now features urgent international conferences to discuss global warming, climate change, and the like.

Five plus centuries ago, Europeans spread out into Asia, Africa, and America, and they dedicated themselves to developing the natural resources of these three continents and amassing wealth for themselves, by any means necessary. The European way of life, even as it became sophisticated and technologically-oriented, was alien to indigenous Asians, Africans, and Americans, and it was downright hostile to their way of life. The Europeans and the neo-Europeans went from success to success, until finally they developed the atomic bomb seven decades ago. First they tested these bombs in remote, uninhabited areas of planet earth, and then they tested them on human populations, and they came to realize that they now had the power to destroy mankind. We had entered the nuclear age.

Some intelligent Europeans and neo-Europeans no longer wish to live the way mainstream Europeans and neo-Europeans are living in the developed world. They want to live in places like Belize, and they believe that there is much that is good about The Jewel, much that should be cherished and preserved. These are good visitors to our shores. They want to be with us, they want to teach us, and they want to learn from us.

Other visitors, however, want to indulge their appetites for drink, drugs, sex, and so on. When we Belizeans cater to this, we often become hooked on the very same drink, drugs, and sex. The thing is, our visitors are rich enough to indulge themselves and to continue doing so indefinitely. Meanwhile, we Belizeans become prisoners of expensive habits we can’t really afford, and in our own house. This is a danger of tourism when it spins out of control.

Power to the people.


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#453563 - 12/15/12 05:38 PM Re: MCAFEE AND LISA MERZ IN OUR HOUSE [Re: Marty]
Danny2 Offline
Well said.

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#453564 - 12/15/12 06:51 PM Re: MCAFEE AND LISA MERZ IN OUR HOUSE [Re: Marty]
bywarren Offline
Tourism is no different than any other resource a country has to use to its benefit and the benefit of its people. It is misguided to suggest that tourism is detrimental to society just as it would be to suggest that any other resource is responsible for any of society’s ills.
If a country has a resource such as agriculture, it would be wrong to blame the land for causing a shortage of food for example if that resource was not responsibly used with proper farming practices to insure that the land would continue to produce.
Just the same if a country has mineral resources and does not develop those in a responsible way so as not to be harmful to the environment for the purpose of short term gain.
When a minister whose elected responsibility should be to insure that the laws of the country are upheld so as to allow the resource of tourism to benefit the country interferes with the legal process in a way that could arguably be described as preventing authorities or punishing those who are given the responsibility of upholding laws that are there to insure that tourism benefits the country and its people, then who is really the whore.
To pick any resource or industry that a country has and put blame on that as being detrimental to society when the country and its people have the ability to manage that resource is looking for excuses as opposed to looking in the mirror.

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#453565 - 12/15/12 07:35 PM Re: MCAFEE AND LISA MERZ IN OUR HOUSE [Re: Marty]
Danny2 Offline
Again, well said.

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#453570 - 12/15/12 08:21 PM Re: MCAFEE AND LISA MERZ IN OUR HOUSE [Re: Marty]
Renters Blues Offline
Apartheid in Belize

It takes a while to sink in…the veneer of peace and beauty has to wear off first, but the stark reality is that Belize operates by a system of apartheid. The “us against them” mind set prevails throughout the country. There is division between the Haves and the Have Nots. Those that have it are protecting against those that want it, with those who want it are openly declaring they deserve to get it and will steal it when they want it.
In a recent town meeting in Hopkins Village, the statement was made that the crime problem is caused by the arrogant people that are changing the culture of Belize with their new money…openly tempting and forcing people that don’t have “it” to steal from the large houses that have” it “and the “stuff” in them. How dare the rich people build these horribly opulent estates, and then have the audacity not to be living there for part of the year? It was clearly stated in the same meeting, ” the local culture deserves and needs the “things” that are left in the houses…much more so than the owners.” Therefore, the theft, burglary, and destruction of property that occur are not acts of invasion, much less criminal behaviors; they should be expected as a matter of entitlement. In another example, the principal of the San Pedro High school advocated to the student population against stealing… unless it is against the gringo, who, of course, can afford to replace what is stolen and should not have come to Belize to change the culture with lots of money.
As a result, the crime culture is spiraling out of control. Robbery by injury to the head has become the popular model. An increasing sentiment has become” just carry a gun, get a big dog, and anticipate violence or theft to happen to you at some point in time.” It is a matter of expected life in San Pedro that it is possible that you WILL be robbed, burgled, or stolen from during daily activities. Editorial letters in the news publications are asking, “What happened to La Isla Bonita? Where did we go wrong? How can we change this?”
As long as the apartheid mentality grips Belize, the problem will remain systematic and not be solvable. The change must come from within. It must come from the families that protect the criminal, with knowledge that at some point the crime wave may turn towards them. It must come from the educators who teach the children not to become criminals, and it must come from the leaders that create and enforce a civilized living environment for all the people that have chosen Belize as a destination or as their home. Citizen, nonresident, and visitor are all the same in a perfect world, but are vastly different in the apartheid system that exists in modern Belize. This country can heal itself. South Africa is fighting to correct the inhumanity of apartheid every day, and Mother Belize can surely do the same.

It has been stated that tourism is causing the society to spin out of control. I agree, a dependence on tourism changes the structure of the day to day economy of any small society. More money comes into the town, more money is spent, and so more money is made by the workers and businesses. The economy changes as a result.
That being said, to lay the blame for rampant alcoholism, prostitution, and drug use on tourism is irresponsible. The enforcement of the control of these activities is a major part of keeping any society under reasonable control. These activities exist everywhere, the difference is that civilized groups are disciplined enough to monitor and control these damaging influences.
Using that foundation, the situation with Ms. Merz in San Pedro shows a tolerance for this behavior. In the reports of the incident, Ms. Merz was angry AT THE DRUG DEALER for selling lousy drugs and the situation escalated from that point!! When the Ministry of Tourism shows a bias for this activity, he is saying that it is OK for influential people, and it undermines all sense of law and order.
Again, the culture must heal itself from within. Instead of changing the current guard, maybe change the old guard. Mother Belize can adapt and move forward in a positive light.

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#453579 - 12/15/12 11:34 PM Re: MCAFEE AND LISA MERZ IN OUR HOUSE [Re: Marty]
Diane Campbell Offline
If we create a healthy-wholesome tourist product then we'll get healthy-wholesome tourists.
If we offer low-life activities we get low-life customers.
Simple.

Mayor-Danny and his team have their heads on straight - pull up the pants, take out the trash and keep it quiet enough for a good night's sleep.

Methinks we're on the right track - we'll have a few dumb moves from time to time, but all in all I think this island is still the closest thing to heaven I know - and that we're headed the right direction in terms of correcting the things that are not as good as they should be.

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#453581 - 12/16/12 12:18 AM Re: MCAFEE AND LISA MERZ IN OUR HOUSE [Re: Diane Campbell]
Tracker Offline
Could not have said it any better, viva La isla bonita.
_________________________
If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns.
A bullet fired,cannot be called back.
A.C.G.C.

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#453588 - 12/16/12 03:09 AM Re: MCAFEE AND LISA MERZ IN OUR HOUSE [Re: Tracker]
Ernie B Offline
It's still my favorite place !
_________________________
Gun Control is Hitting Your Target.

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#453593 - 12/16/12 04:17 AM Re: MCAFEE AND LISA MERZ IN OUR HOUSE [Re: Marty]
seashell Offline
Just send every tourist to Banana Bank Lodge for orientation before they are allowed on A.C. and it should all be good.


Edited by seashell (12/17/12 03:22 AM)
_________________________
A fish and a bird can fall in love, but where will they build their nest?


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#453644 - 12/17/12 01:56 AM Re: MCAFEE AND LISA MERZ IN OUR HOUSE [Re: Marty]
ScubaLdy Offline
What is Banana Bank Lodge?
_________________________
Harriette
Take only pictures leave only bubbles

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