When are we going to talk about structural violence in Belize?
Posted:Thursday, September 15, 2016. 9:47 a.m. CST.
By Charles Leslie Jr: Belize has inequality. Once you have inequality you will have conflict. Research shows that there is a new phenomena that has not been recognized in the past, called Psychosocial Stress and Structural Violence.
Most Belizeans understands absolute deprivation. Which can be explained as: if you are poor, more than likely you won’t eat well, you will live in a sub-standard home and chances are you will live in an environment that is toxic to your body and mental well-being. Example: Southside Belize City.
However, this new phenomena addresses what is called Relative Deprivation. It is significantly more insidious. It has to do with our social nature and how we look at ourselves in the social hierarchy. You must understand that we, human beings, are deeply social organisms.
Belize, like the rest of the western world is based on the capitalist system, and with it, all its tenets. To pinpoint a relatable perspective; when we see other people doing better than us, and have a higher class status, which is what capitalism creates – wealth division – it messes us up real terribly.
According to the Statistical Institute of Belize, homicide and injury purposely inflicted by other persons constitutes for an average of about 130 Belizeans losing their lives every year. This is what is called behavioral violence.
Here is the new phenomena called Psychosocial Stress and Structural Violence. Take the 40+% of Belizeans who live in poverty stricken environments and they develop diabetes and heart disease, the #1 and #3 killer of Belizeans – which kills an average of 241 Belizeans per year – which has a direct link to low socioeconomic status. However, this isn’t considered absolute. The Relative Deprivation, or Psychosocial Stress, or the way you see yourself and think about yourself, has incredible inhibiting effects on the way your body and your mind works.
Due to your low socioeconomic status, and the high cost of healthy food in Belize, chances are, you will consume unhealthy food; mainly imported, processed foods. You will develop high stress levels due to the fact that your low socioeconomic status may only afford you to live in the most deplorable areas, which will cause stress on the heart.
Now, what if this person died at 50, when they could have lived, possibly, to 80, because they are in a position of poverty and low socioeconomic status. The fact that this person is living in such a situation, cuts short that person’s life by 30 years.
Over the past 34 years our Government has borrowed and spent over One Billion United States Dollars (1175.80 USD Million in 2015), yet the wealth inequality and Belizeans living in poverty and low socioeconomic status, has only gotten worse. There is absolutely no reason for more than 40% of Belizeans to be living in poverty, where many of them are losing decades off their lives.
Structural Violence can be compared to someone lying on the ground dying, and you have a bottle of water, but chose to simply walk away. Is that an act of violence? Yes. The massive amount of corruption in the past 34 years of post independent Belize, for example, has literally robbed money that could have developed the manufacturing sector, which would have provided thousands of quality jobs lifting thousands out of poverty and boom the economy. It robbed money that could have gone into our education system, which would have given Belize a skilled labour force second to none in this region. It robbed money that could have gone into our health system, which could have given Belizeans the best health system money could buy, and also bringing in medical tourism thus boosting our economy even more.
All of the Belizeans getting their lives cut short, by decades, due to health reasons from lack of quality jobs, proper education and proper health, which forces them into low socioeconomic status, is called Structural Violence.
Let me explain something to you my fellow Belizeans, Diabetes and Heart Disease are only two health-related diseases that kill Belizeans. Check out these numbers below:
– Violence kills an average of 131 Belizeans per year.
– Health related issues kills an average of 706 Belizeans per year.
– That is a 439% difference.
Gandhi said poverty is the worst form of violence. And poverty exists in this country because of two very specific reasons: GREED AND CORRUPTION, and if you can’t figure out who those greedy corrupt people are…you haven’t been paying attention.
Ask yourself: Are you better off today than 10, 20, 30 years ago? Are you going to leave Belize in this condition for your kids? Are you ready to talk about Structural Violence?
Leaders of successful nations don’t focus on building the nation, they focus on building the people, who in turn, build the nation.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
The article was written by Charles Leslie Jr., former independent Chairman of Placencia Village (2010 – 2013). He holds an Associates degree in business, accounting and economics and has over 20 years business experience.
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