The Japanese have something they refer to as wa. It is best translated in English as “harmony,” which is what contributes to peace and tranquility. The Japanese are a people with a large population packed into relatively small islands, so, over the millennia they have developed an elaborate set of rituals and manners in their culture which reduce the occasions for inter-personal stress and conflict. Everybody is respectful to everybody else. As crowded as it is, Japan is harmonious, filled with wa.
In Belize, we have the opposite to wa in our way of life. Perhaps this can blamed on the fact that we have always been a small population in a relatively large land space. We are not always bumping into each other every time we turn, so perhaps we feel we don’t need all the courtesy and manners.
In the old capital, however, which is our most crowded community, there is an absence of some guidelines which would reduce stress and conflict. It may be that we city Belizeans enjoy living on the brink, so to speak, but it is for sure some of us would enjoy wa, especially if it reduces our fuel bills.
It was during his 1993 to 1998 administration, if we remember correctly, when UDP Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel built his overpass to move pedestrians from the general area of Save-U/Farmers’ Market north to the Pallotti/Cleopatra White area, and vice versa. Mr. Esquivel was not a popular politician, which seems strange to say, because politics involves making people like you. He was a mechanical person, considered a “cold fish.” When the PUP came to power in 1998, they encouraged the pedestrians, who in the overpass matter are mostly young students, to ignore the overpass and do whatever they wanted. Maybe it was because Mr. Esquivel had given the finger to Belizeans by running his 1998 administration months over the five-year term of office; it was as if Belizeans were retaliating.
The UDP were returned to office in 2008, but the Esquivel overpass continues to be ignored. The thing is, it was built to serve a purpose, which is, to ease the vehicular and pedestrian congestion in that area. There are rush hours which occur there, especially weekday mornings when people are pouring in for work and school in the old capital. The Belizeans pour in from Coral Grove, Buttonwood Bay, the several Belama Sites, Bella Vista, Vista del Mar, Ladyville, Lord’s Bank, Los Lagos, Burrell Boom, Sandhill, Biscayne, and points further north.
The morning rush hours are made worse because school and passenger buses park on the road and disgorge their pedestrians as the rush hour is building to a peak. Politely ignoring the overpass, the pedestrians – students, teachers, workers, and others, then take their slow time walking across the newly named Philip Goldson Highway, from the northern side of Save-U to the other side of the highway which will take them to Pallotti, St. Catherine’s Elementary, Nazarene High School, E. P. Yorke High School, the University of Belize, St. John’s College, and so on and so forth. These pedestrians create a bottleneck in the traffic which is racing into the old capital, and then that traffic begins to back up the highway for miles and miles. The bottleneck causes time delays, wasted fuel, and disturbance to wa. The bottleneck is predictable, and it is avoidable, specifically at the location where it takes place. But this is Belize: here everybody does as he and she “feels like,” and the hell with it.
Thinking about it, we wonder what else you can expect from a country which officially refers to “roads” as “highways,” and ignores the only trained traffic expert we have in the country? We can see where Mr. Torres is becoming frustrated, even though he is a man of Japanese-like patience. Mr. Torres is so frustrated he interrupts radio shows which are discussing other topics because the willful mistake irks him. And, you know, he is right.
The reason communities, societies, and nations make rules and guidelines is so that there can be order and understanding among citizens. If we all agree on certain rules and guidelines, then we will behave in an orderly manner and reduce the stress on our neighbours, whom we are enjoined, by Holy Bible, to love as we love ourselves.
Belize does worse than call roads, highways. Belize City abuses its prize football field by using it for music concerts, fairs, and so on. Belizeans, we are a confused people. And then, we wonder why Chetumal came from nowhere and forged so far ahead of us. It must be that what we like to do is to fuss and fight. Across the border, they have had their share of fussing and fighting, so they seek the wa we told you about in the first paragraph. Wa is good. Wa is nice. Try it some time, Belizeans.