In the United Kingdom (UK) earlier this week, the Deputy Prime Minister admitted that there was a yawning gap between the life chances of the disadvantaged and the affluent. Essentially, he was forced to admit that in the UK, once you are born poor, you stay poor. An alarming study had revealed that, among other inequalities, only 7 percent of their children attend private schools, but these schools provide 70 percent of the High Court judges.
Back home in the old colony, we know of no such clearly defined and targeted study, but we daresay that there are two societies in this here Belize. Charles Dickens calls it a tale of two cities. For some itís the very best of times, but for the majority, it is the very worst of times. In these cities, the differences could not be sharper.
In one city, some people have everything Ė extravagant houses, fancy rides, fences sky high. Their kids go to the most prestigious and private of schools, and for them the future could not be brighter. They have influence, they have power. They hobnob with the politicians, many times at their convenience.
In the other city, for some it is the hidden city, the invisible city Ė the poverty is crushing, the hunger naked, the despair wrenching. The houses in this swarming city are run down. Nice cars are few and the children struggle to stay in school. For them, the future could not be gloomier. For many, there is no future.
In that city, the latter city, the inhabitants know there are some dogs in the other city that eat better than they do Ė that is, the dogs are guaranteed their meals, and on time. In fact, for some in the forgotten city, who have done stints at the Kolbe Foundation, it is actually considered nicer there Ė three meals a day, some praying, and if you are close enough to some guards you may even get a little break or two outside.
We have said before in this space that the poverty is not confined to the Southside. There are pockets of visceral poverty in the Northside of the old capital, and in the north, south and west of the country, even at La Isla Bonita. Itís everywhere. 43 percent of our country is considered poor, or almost 1 in 2 persons canít find $5.50 a day to put food on their table Ė a full 134,000 of our population. Thatís the sad reality.
These are inconvenient truths, we know. Messy truths. But the world is a messy place, and we have to live in it.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle have failed this teeming metropolis of poverty. Successive governments have paid lip service to the problems.
When out of government, some of these politicians make their money being defense attorneys in court for the children of their constituents, recently almost entirely on murder charges. While in government, in addition to a considerable chunk of taxpayersí money that they collect as salary and allowances, a good number make money genuflecting to the special interest. The publicís interest? An afterthought, if any.
But still, every five years or so we hinge all our hopes and aspirations on these same gentle fellows, and occasional lady. We are a stubbornly optimistic people, you see. It canít get much worse, we say. It has to get better. We believe devoutly in the words of Scripture, ďweeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.Ē
The problem is that it appears that the enduring religious belief of these people in high places is that the poor will always be with us. Why bother. In their world, paupers breed paupers, poverty breeds poverty. They rationalize that ďthere are different types of people.Ē Only a few are sufficiently gifted and able and deserving.
Inside that cabal, the prevailing mindset seems to be that only the children of the privileged and powerful are sufficiently gifted and able and deserving, and only those few are able to govern. So it is mostly their children that study law and so on and so forth. It is their children whose studies abroad are paid for or heavily subsidized by the state. Government changes, but nothing really changes.
Inside that cabal, politics is a family business. Only the brothers, or the children, or the nieces and nephews can manage the affairs of state. These positions are exclusively ours, they say.
The point is that for the vast majority of our people in the forgotten city, they are on their own. They will have to do this by their lonesome. Itís a sobering reality. But it is what it is. We have to dig deep. We have to lift our families, one family at a time. We canít wait for the politicians to do this for us. We have looked to the demigods for too long. The teachers try, but they also canít do it on their own. As parents we have to help them.
We will have to start taking responsibility for our homes, for our children. We canít have our children watching 5, 6 hours of television when they should be studying. Thatís unacceptable, thatís counterproductive; thatís a recipe for failure. What time do they have for reading and for homework?
And our men will have to be present for much more than pleasure. Where is the father when an 11-year-old has to hustle to feed his momma and nearly half-a-dozen siblings? Some studies show that children living with single mothers are far more likely to be poor, to drop out of school, or get into trouble with the law, than children in two-parent households. The Gayle report brought that poignantly home. Check it out. It should be required reading.
We know that when our men canít find jobs or jobs that will pay them a living wage, they are stripped of the ability to fulfill that most fundamental of manly duties. And the inability to be a man, to take care of business, is a vexing reality. We know: itís not easy. But we got to put the excuses away, Jack. If we donít man up, and show up, then who will? Who will be there for our children? For our sons? For our daughters? In the absence of fathers, anything goes. And that anything has oftentimes meant a life of crime and poverty, and a river of blood in our streets.
We donít mean to be preaching so. But thatís just how we see it today, Thursday, May 24. We can hardly stomach the nightly news anymore. We are sickened seeing our young men killing each other. Saddened by our mothers crying daily. Enraged by politicians taking the people for ďcunu munu.Ē
Only the people can save the people now. We must revere only God. It is written. Amandala