Friday, October 31, 2008

Contemplating Walcott...

After weeks of hearing about floods and rising water levels and displaced and confused residents and after days of traveling on partially washed-out roads in crowded, noisy buses, I am left feeling a bit frazzled. I can only imagine what those who have been directly affected by this flood are experiencing.
While I understand that our country is strapped for funds and immediate relief efforts may be inhibited by this fact, I am so angry that those monies were not used properly and now, in time of disaster, we must suffer the consequences.
I am reminded of this poem by Derek Walcott entitled "Parades, Parades". This sums up my feelings exactly.
here's the wide desert, but no one marches
except in the pads of old caravans,
there is the ocean, but the keels incise
the precise, old parallels,
there's the blue sea above the mountains
but they scratch the same lines
in the jet trails--
so the politicians plod
without imagination, circling
the same sombre garden
with its fountain dry in the forecourt,
the grigri palms desiccating
dung bods like goats,
the same lines rule the White Papers,
the same steps ascend Whitehall,
and only the name of the fool changes
under the plumed white cork-hat
for the Independence parades,
revolving around, in calypso,
to the brazen joy of the tubas.

Why are the eyes of the beautiful
and unremarked children
in the uniforms of the country
bewildered and shy,
why do they widen in terror
of the pride drummed into their minds?
Were they truer, the old songs,
when the law lived far away,
when the veiled queen, her girth
as comfortable as cushions,
upheld the orb with its stern admonitions?
We wait for the changing of statues,
for the change of parades.
Here he comes now, here he comes!
Papa! Papa! With his crowd,
the sleek, waddling seals of his Cabinet,
trundling up to the dais,
as the wind puts its tail between
the cleft of the mountain, and a wave
coughs once, abruptly.
Who will name this silence
respect? Those forced, hoarse hosannas
awe? That tin-ringing tune
from the pumping, circling horns
the New World? Find a name
for that look on the faces
of the electorate. Tell me
how it all happened, and why
I said nothing.

from Sea Grapes 1971

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A, B, C, D and Misplaced Democracy

The term 'democracy' typically connotes the legitimacy of majoritarian rule; one person, one vote; and protection of minority beliefs. But such descriptions perform an injustice to the evolution and expansion of democratic principles. Today, an office is democratic if it upholds the virtues of equal opportunity and gender equality. Today, a government is democratic, not only because it receives the majority of votes in the House for the laws it ratifies, but because it does so with integrity and the livelihoods of its citizens in mind. Democracy transcends its historical roots, blossoming into a tree with branches of equality, fairness and opportunity.

Of all the institutions that we should demand the principle of democracy to floruish is in our schools. With regard to this sacred principle, it is my sincere belief that our educational system has failed. I have previously lauded the system's capacity to produce some of the brightest minds in the world with meager resources. However, such a position permits a myopic focus on the 'best and the brightest', while disregarding the ones who fall through the cracks (and the reasons why they fall). One reason that I believe is worth due attention and prudent discussion is the stratified distribution of perceived intellect within schools - the inner segregation between those who are labeled 'smart' and those labeled 'not so smart'.

This system is a case of a misguided "separate but equal" fallacy. Some claim that although the D's remain in one class, they still receive the same education, are taught by the same teachers and use the same materials as those in the "A" class. However, the repression behind this system sows longlasting transgressions: the majority in the "D" class settle for mediocrity because of a misplaced comfort by being around those of "similar intellect". To say that this does not have an indirect psychological effect, especially in the development of personal and career goals, would be naive. The amount of students who are actually promoted from a D class to an A (or even a B class) remains negligible to the point of disgrace - to the point of exposing the innate bias of a system that facilitates genius on one side, and inhibits potential on the other. It is the educational equivalent of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

A democratic educational system must utilize the resources it has. This necessity is compelled by the fact that there are only few resources to begin with. One resource must then become the very same 'best and the brightest' group. If separated from each other and integrated with those of differing levels of perceived intellect, by the simple virtue of their own ability, these bright students may just inspire the ones who have never witnessed the spark that illuminates beyond their dark borders. The 'best and the brightest' must offer their tutelage to the ones who need it, recognizing that by doing so, it will also help to foster the altruistic notion that "I AM my brother's/sister's keeper" - a notion that is predominantly absent in the Belizean society. I sincerely doubt that mixing these two classes together will "hold back", as they say, the bright ones from achieving their goals. The same rules will apply: one class and one goal for achievement: those who fail to meet that goal will unfortunately be left behind. But let they not be left behind without a sense of fairness. Before these realize their abandoned fate and turn to "streets" where only vices await, they must first be given a glimpse of what they should aim to become and what we, as a society, expect all to become. That is Democracy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

When I get elected...

Among many other things....

When I get elected, I will ensure that the  the salaries of all elected officials are raised to a more regionally accepted level. This will attract better candidates and will then take away the "they don't pay me enough" excuse for under the table shenanigans.

When I get elected, I will ensure implementation of an "Honest Politician Law". Anyone convicted (I know this is a long shot) with their hand in the cookie jar will have to repay 4 times what they took and will have have their pension taken away.

When I get elected, I will have done so by not promising to pay anyone in my division's tuition, electricity, water or phone bill or  their rent. We must stop this cycle of dependency. It is the breeding ground for many of our social problems

When I get elected, I will have done so by making the sole promise of being an honest politician who will work hard for the people of Belize. Country before party, Always.

When I get elected, I will ensure that Government moves its bank account from the Belize Bank. Both parties say they hate the man, then they bank at his bank. Talk about hypocritical!

When I get elected, I will ensure that we have a real "whistle blower" law with real rewards for the blower.

When I get elected, I will ensure that all prisoners are put to work chain-gang style to clean our streets, highways, drains and canals. Look, we are feeding these folks, put them to work for us! We will also implement the hands off approach to thieving.  You get convicted of stealing once, first hand gets cut off... a second time, the other hand..third time, its your head. I guarantee you, the thief will stop after the first hand and if they don't at least we will know who they are.

When I get elected, I will ignore and immediately shread all letters from Amnesty International complaining about the above paragraph!

Guess I will never get elected.