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February 17, 2018
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February 18, 2018

What Rubin “Hurricane” Carter& Malcolm X can teach us about Breaking ” Learned Helplessness”


Posted: Saturday, February 17, 2018. 3:58 pm CST.

By Charles Leslie Jr.: On July 25, 2016, I wrote this article “Learned Helplessness Is Inhibiting The Second Belizean Revolution”.

According to Wikipedia, Learned Helplessness can be defined as: behavior typical of an organism (human or animal) that has endured repeated painful or otherwise aversive stimuli which it was unable to escape or avoid. After such experience, the organism often fails to learn escape or avoidance in new situations where such behavior would be effective. In other words, the organism seems to have learned that it is helpless in aversive situations, that it has lost control, and so it gives up trying. Such an organism is said to have acquired learned helplessness.


My dad was a boxing fan in the most real sense. He had boxing books all over our house. He even had one that covered the entire origins of boxing – Did you know that the earliest known depiction of boxing comes from a Sumerian relief in Iraq from the 3rd millennium BCE?

“Hurricane” was quite a successful middleweight boxer. In 1966, at the peak of his career, he was arrested and charged with a triple murder.

He was convicted and sentenced to 3 consecutive life terms – WOW!

He was innocent and he proclaimed that fact from day one. Didn’t matter. He was still jailed.

For 19 years he had to endure probably one of the most brutal conditions known to man. Prisons don’t break only the body, it obliterates the mind and spirit if you are not strong.

Knowing that he would eventually be freed due to his innocence, he had to contemplate a harsh reality – would he be released with a broken mind and spirit? Would he become so dependent on the ‘system’ that he would simply become a statistic, going in and out of prison because he could no longer do anything for himself?

“Hurricane” decided that, no, he would walk out of prison a free man: in body, in mind and spirit.

He developed a strategy:

  • He acted as a FREE man while in prison.
  • He did not wear the prison uniform, he did not carry a prison ID badge – he was Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, not a prison number.
  • He did not eat with other prisoners.
  • He did not do assigned tasks.
  • He did not go to his parole hearings.

Of course, he was placed in solitary confinement for disobeying. However, he was not afraid of being punished, he was petrified of losing his dignity, identity, and sense of ownership.

  • He refused entertainment in his cell: no TV, radio, pornographic magazines: he knew his mind would grow soft and become dependent on these pleasures.
    • Once you become dependent on things, and someone has control of those things, they can take them away from you to control you via deprivation.
  • He became a diligent reader. This toughened his mind. This process actually allowed him to write his autobiography and gained national attention for his cause.
  • He taught himself law, which helped him to fight for his own release from prison.
  • He tutored other prisoners.

This strategy helped him to turn the dead time in prison that can drive the average person insane, and used it for his own purpose – to toughen his mind, retain his dignity, identity and sense of ownership.

“Hurricane” was released from prison in 1986. He vehemently refused to take legal action against the State – he wanted no compensation.

That would acknowledge he was a prisoner. He walked into prison innocent and FREE, he stayed in prison innocent and FREE, and he walked out innocent and FREE.


I don’t think I have to do much of an introduction to the late, great, powerful orator and human rights activist, Malcolm X.

Malcolm X (1925–1965) was an African American Muslim minister and human rights activist. He was a courageous advocate for the rights of African Americans. He was a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans. He has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history.

Malcolm X was considered a realist. Growing up on the streets, and being in prison, allowed him to looked at the world exactly as it was.

When he was released from prison, he desperately wanted to know what was the source of the problem for African Americans.

He realized that the US government and the system in general did not deal with the deep-rooted problems. It simply glossed it over.

What did Malcolm X find?

He started to dig deep, deep below the surface. And he found out something quite interesting about what he believed was the root cause: African Americans could not do things completely on their own.

They depend on government, liberals, on political parties, on politicians, on everybody but themselves.

Belizeans have gone through and are going through similar social, economic, cultural and spiritual circumstances.


If we, as Belizeans, could end this dependency we would have the power to reverse everything these crooked, corrupt, greedy traditional politicians have done.

I strongly believe that the PUP and UDP have gotten deep, deep to the root cause of the problems affecting Belizeans – dependency.

Unfortunately, they realized that it was an opportunity to get into power, remain in power, get filthy rich, and control the people at the same time…

…instead of empowering Belizeans, and creating policies, laws, initiatives…and a system that would have risen Belizeans out of this state of dependency, which would have allowed Belizeans and Belize to have been a powerhouse in this region…especially, since we have many resources for such a small country.

Belizeans are descendants of slaves.

Slavery is not only free labor resource for the masters, it also creates dependency in the slaves – food, housing, land, jobs etc…

…there is a reason the establishment political parties and traditional politicians in Belize use treating and handouts to win elections.

They know you become dependent on those things, and know that if they threaten to or take away those things, they have control over you – especially your mind.

We live in a country now, that has developed a culture that offers all kinds of entertainment and crutches to help us deal with the harsh realities of life.

I know, it is hard to resist.

Many of us have given in, some of us have realized what it does to the body, mind, spirit and started to resist.

Those who can’t resist are trapped in a prison and having a very difficult time escaping.

They continually look outward for help – this is why we are called a “beggar nation.”

This has, collectively as a nation, severely limited our options and mobility.

It is why we as a people, and our leaders, have nothing inside to make important decisions, why they can’t create a unified vision for our nation, and instead, revert to enriching themselves and turning us against each other – just look at all the hate that is spewing already before March 7th Municipal Elections.

We must start to move in the opposite direction.

We are a lot stronger than we think we are.

But, we must do it on a daily basis. Weaning ourselves from dependencies, listening less and less to the media and traditional politicians, and more to our own voices, while we build new skills.

We must become self-reliant.

We must turn self-reliance into a habit. And once you reach that point, anyone that wants to put you in a position of dependency will horrify you.

On March 7th you have a chance to resist. To start becoming self-reliant. Vote for anyone who is not a part of this established, traditional system, a system and its caretakers that have exploited your dependency to control you, get rich off you and leave you in poverty.

Your vote can keep a bipartisan criminal enterprise in place, or it can send it whimpering. You do have a choice.


If you do not have a choice from the traditional politicians in your town, then spoil your ballot, write, in big bold letters, CHANGE THE SYSTEM!.

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

Charles Leslie Jr.  is the Chairman of the Belize Unity Alliance and the 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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