Posted: Tuesday, April 20, 2021. 4:24 pm CST.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
By Dorian A. Barrow, Ph.D., Florida State University: As the Blues Singer John Lee Hooker says “It serves me right to suffer. It serves me right!” They have us now on rice, beans, corn and alcohol and on top of that they want to reduce some of our salaries by 10%. One can begin to understand why some are saying that Belize is now stressed, depressed and still in a virtual mess! There are growing feelings of severe despondency and dejection after a year-long severe COVID-related recession of our economy and as we face what could be another 11-days of disruption in the society’s usual way of functioning, it may be an opportune time for us to reflect on how the three major systems – the political, the economic and the socio-cultural – of our society works and the crisis that can happen when they come in conflict.
According to system theorists such as Pearsons, Luhmann and Habermas, in differentiated societies like Belize the political-administrative system (as a separate control center) assumes a superordinate position vis-à-vis our socio-cultural and economic systems since it is what steers the performance of the economic system for fiscal skim-off and through its social welfare performances steers our socio-cultural system in return for mass loyalty. Hence in times like these of intense difficulty, trouble and danger, and when difficult and important decisions must be made, our political system become vulnerable and may stumble into a state of crisis. Hence our social evolution (which in Belize takes place in three dimensions: development of productive forces; increase in system autonomy – power; and change in our everyday life structures) is projected unto the single plane of the expansion of power through the reduction of environmental complexity. Our unions are most powerful at this point in time primarily because they are the ones as a group that has stepped up and ceased this opportunity to try and reduce our current environmental complexity – this constant feeling of sadness and despondency that is stopping us from doing our normal activities. I get the distinct sense that they are helping us in approaching that turning point in our history when an important change will take place indicating either recovery or us becoming a failed state, which is exactly what will happen if the fiscal skim-off from our economic system continues to be inadequate to sustain the political and socio-cultural systems.
The unions are helping us to transform questions of validity into questions of behaviour. Two of those salient behaviours that individuals and groups in our society are currently experiencing are those of stress and depression. Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. With over 40% of the labour force either out of work or underemployed and can’t put enough food on their tables or service their loans or mortgages or can’t buy books and uniforms for their children to return to school for in-person learning, you can begin to appreciate the level of stress the nation is experiencing.
Many are so stressed out they are depressed, experiencing that feeling of severe despondency and dejection. This long and severe recession in our economy is leading many to feelings of sadness. Students strapped in front of a computer day after day after day of online learning have led to some of our students losing interest in school, their education and careers. Though depression does not result from a single event, but from a mix of events and factors, the insistence of the political-administrative system to cut salaries of public service workers and teachers isn’t helping, in fact it may be contributing to this sense of an impending crisis in the future.
A crisis is any event or period that will lead to an unstable and dangerous situation affecting an individual, group, or all of society. Any such crisis will inevitably lead to further disruptions and breakdowns in our society’s usual pattern of functioning. This possibility is especially worrying since a crisis cannot be resolved by a society’s customary problem-solving resources or skills because the difficulties, troubles and dangers become even more intense. Crisis is an inflection point and things can go either way – recovery or death! The hope, therefore, is that our unions can help to bring back our society’s three major systems – the political, the economic and the socio-cultural – into the type of equilibrium that will lead to future stability and growth. At this time they seem to be our only hope!
Feel free to challenge any or all of the points raised in this piece and let’s get the critical dialogue on issues affecting our sustainable development going.
Dr. Dorian Barrow is currently working at Galen University as the Dean of the Department of Education. He has a long history of involvement in education in Belize, having served as a Lecturer at the University of Belize, and as Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Education. Dr. Barrow is an eminent professional who is well respected both locally and abroad. He is serving as an editorial member and reviewer of several international reputed journals and has authored many research articles/books related to education. Apart from education, he is also a sports enthusiast.
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