It is impossible to discuss the nation of Belize at age 30 without considering the role of Rt. Hon. George C. Price in the independence process. Look, the man put in a ton of work. He bumped and jumped in his Land Rover (sin air condition) on rocky roads and rough picados; he sat in “crenky” doreys; he rode crotchety horses; he spent many, many of his weekends “on the road” after he became Leader of the ruling People’s United Party (PUP) in 1956. Rt. Hon. George C. Price put in work.
Thus it was that he built a little nation, and, in the beginning, he built it in his image and likeness – humble, self-effacing, and perhaps even timid. The key thing was that he went all over the country, and that was at a time in the colony when travel internally was very difficult. The people in the countryside stood by him when there were crises, because they had met him somewhere and at some point during the anti-colonial process. There had been personal contact: very important.
It is impossible to say what the first United Democratic Party (UDP) term, from 1984 to 1989, would have been like if the Hon. Philip Goldson had become Prime Minister. Unlike Mr. George, Mr. Philip had become a dedicated family man. Following their marriage in 1954 and before their separation in 1972, Mr. Philip and his wife, Hadie, had six children, and wife and family were a very important part of his life. No doubt there were many times Mrs. Hadie Goldson felt that Philip was sacrificing too much for party politics, but that is how most political wives are. The fact of the matter was that Philip Goldson’s dedication to home meant it was impossible for him to put in the time on the road that the single man George C. did. George Price became, because of all his work, the political soul of Belize, while Philip Goldson, because of his bravery, became our sentimental hero.
Belize had begun to accept Central American immigrant populations in the late 1970s because this was what the United States and Great Britain, through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), desired. When the UDP took power in late 1984 with Hon. Manuel Esquivel as Prime Minister, the Belizean economy was opened up to more sophisticated immigrant populations, including Americans, Indians, Taiwanese, and Chinese both from Hong Kong (which was going to revert to Chinese control after being administrated by Great Britain) and from Mainland China.
Mr. Price would have been characteristically cautious, ditto Mr. Goldson, with the alienating of our real estate tracts and passport documents, we think, compared to Mr. Esquivel, Mr. Curl Thompson, Mr. Dean Lindo, Mr. Henry Young, and his free market accomplices. The 1984 UDP government was a pro-United States government. It was not as if this love for America was a tradition alien to Belizeans. The original PUP of the early 1950s, influenced by the multimillionaire Robert Sydney Turton, was pro-American. The Dean Lindo led-UDP of 1973 to 1979 was definitely pro-American. It’s just that a strong, experienced leader, like Mr. Price, or perhaps Mr. Goldson, might have seen through the spray-the-weed-with-paraquat directive from Washington which was quickly followed by the introduction /spread of crack cocaine, and then gangs patterned off L.A.’s Bloods and Crips. Whatever.
Today, thirty years after independence, Belize is a wide open country. It seems sometimes as if some young Belizeans are prepared to do anything to make money – jacking, bank robberies, contract killings, drug trafficking, human trafficking, prostitution, homosexuality, whatever. The gambling casino sits in the middle of it all on the sea front, and another casino arises just north down the street. Between the two casinos, the aging ex-servicemen, who sacrificed for British Honduras in a more disciplined area, fight to hold on to their building. A block west of them, the immense Renaissance Towers structure gives us a sense of where we are going – high end tourism.
For us at this newspaper, the thing that we cannot understand is that the people of this nation say, insist actually, that we are Christians. At the time of the first serious rupture in Christianity, near the end of the fifteenth century, perhaps the major dispute had to do with the fact that the people of Europe wanted to read the Holy Scriptures for themselves, whereas a privileged and corrupt clergy prevented them from doing so. The Bible had been kept secret by the Church.
In 2011, all of us can read the Bible if we so desire. There are words of advice and wisdom there which can help us make sense out of life. When you walk or ride around Belize City, say, there is so much wealth visible in the form of buildings and automobiles and power boats. But the mood among the people of Belize City is distant, withdrawn, sullen.
As trivial as it may seem, Belizeans, in marking our thirtieth year of independence, let us make a conscious effort to reach out to each other as human beings. Get yourself a Bible, and read some of the words of the Christ. You can read these words directly for yourself, and they are spiritually uplifting. You don’t need an electronic preacher to hype the Gospel and make it sound like some thunderous oration. Jesus was a quiet character. He was a good guy. Check Him out on the matter of how we should be living with each other. Happy Independence Day, Belizeans. We love you. Amandala