Poetic Justice and Divine Intervention

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Wednesday, October 21st 2015

By Belizean Anthropologist Joe Awe:


When you had a bicycle all your life and suddenly you get a motorcycle, it’s the most amazing thing in the world.

When you eat noodles everyday, then, suddenly you can afford rice and beans and chicken twice a week, it’s the most amazing thing in the world.

When you are wearing tennis shoes for 3 years and suddenly you get a new “Jordan’s”, that’s the most amazing thing in the world.

When you have tragic and horrendous systems that are only dramatically exposed during severe natural disasters, you got the larger piece of the stick Jack!

Allow some expression, please. I was speaking to a dear friend of mine, who, like me is devastated by the images that have come out from the flooding situation all over the country, but more viciously, in Belize City. I told him, that the housing situation in the city is atrocious and it seems that it has always been that way, but my most horrific concern was the garbage situation. He told me this: “people landfill their yards with garbage”… stunning silence.

Let us not think that this piece of writing is organized to condemn one side or another. No. This essay is written to question and to hopefully get some answers to life, as we now absolutely know it now, especially in the city.

My training is in cultural anthropology. My deepest desire is to understand everything I can about poverty and inequality, especially in a former colonial system and developing nation. Belize, my Belize, is such a perfect place to study this.

What I have decided is this: There is a frustrating design of structural violence that persists in Belize. This inequality is embedded in the economic system of the country but worst, in the policies – whether knowingly or not. One example is the study that was done by a professor from the Caribbean on the situation with gangs in Belize. One of his most bold statements in the study is that the laws of Belize are anti young men. This is a grave charge and as far as I am concerned, that study was done and some people who write policy, more than likely received it, but as far as I am concerned, they may not have read anything about it. There, the culture exactly that is destroying my students – reading – its worst than malaria to most of them. This is not good and it has to change. After all, these are the same youth who will vote and run the country some day and they just don’t read.

The Amandala newspaper, in one of their recent editorials made mention of this heart-wrenching poverty and inequality in 6 of the city’s 10 constituencies and this flooding seemed to have “attacked” 4 of the poorest. With all due respect to the victims, for the opposition parties this was divine intervention. It is my opinion that at least one of the parties vying for office now will not attack this situation (pay attention to it) because in some of these constituencies they had the chance to help the communities too. What they will attack is the response. Again, pay attention.

A very poor country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti was struck by a disastrous earthquake in January of the year 2010. The wreckage was astronomical, so was the loss of life and the cost of the loss. Billions of dollars flowed into Haiti. Thousands upon thousands of health care personnel honorably made their way to the country that was the first free black nation in the western part of the world.

Billions came in and sadly no more than 15 million was spent on the recovery. Humans have an organized, bloodless, cold and virulent kind of corruption embedded in the hearts. It seeps into anyone too close to the shot calling. Lets see what will happen to the City in the aftermath of this devastation. Political parties will come. People from the Southside will take. That’s not what is important. What is important is what the next government will do with poverty alleviation measures. They must certainly remember that it’s not only Belize City that has the dire poor, so their decision-making will be interesting to pay attention to in the coming months after elections.

In the book, The Bottom Billion, the author discusses a study done by the World Bank in an African country. They loan the country 1 million U.S. dollars for a health care initiative. The African country’s officials had no idea that these monies were marked. After the initiative, about 18 months later, the Bank made a search of the marked money. They found out that 1% of the money went to the health care opportunity and the rest, as you may have already guessed, were found in the accounts of the corrupt government officials and that of their cronies.

Certainly I am not saying that officials in Belize are so brazen with this type of corruption (although a lot of people who I respect defy my thought), these are the type of structures that have some African countries dirt poor and may be, if my friends are right, what has the people in Belize City living in the less-than-human standards that our newsfeed so overtly notified us of the poverty we thought only existed elsewhere in the world.

For the UDP, this is divine intervention. This is the time to spend lots of money to ‘help’ people all over the city affected by the deluge that struck over the past 4 days. Certainly, it put a slight damper into their plans for the money they have to spend, as now they have to quickly reorganize their budgets.

For the PUP and the other BPP, this is divine intervention because they can both blame the party in power for allowing people to live the way that was exposed in this natural disaster of 2015. They can now argue that people have great roads of cement but matchstick houses and garbage-filled yards. They can now argue of millions and millions of dollars spent on poverty alleviation exercises – while they may have receipts for every cent, where are the goods?

For the people of Belize City and elsewhere where the structures of inequality will continue to persist (unless we stop doing “business” the same way), the generations that will come after these ones will also be inundated into the putrid, raw poverty Belizeans witnessed all over our Belize media and the social media.

If I would have told you 3 weeks ago about the poverty that truly exists in Belize City and elsewhere in the country, you probably would have listened, think a bit, and continue your way. Elections are coming in a couple weeks. Like poetic justice the images will simmer in your heads. Just remember, like the people now suffering, the structural violence that persists, is also coming for you.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Belize Media Group.

This article was written by Joe Awe, a Belizean activist, entrepreneur, anthropologist, mayanist, tourism lecturer at a local junior college who is also one of Belize’s top tour guides.



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