Tuesday, May 28, 2013

On youth consciousness: Comments on Belize’s democracy

In a recent article from the publisher, Evan X Hyde renders a motivational epilogue to young people which I enjoyed reading (see May 24, 2013). Indeed, the editor also recently made similar remarks on the role of the youth for a more democratic Belize (see May 17, 2013).

I center these comments on the phrase “Consciousness of being versus being conscious.” – A phrase which still puzzles me ever since I first heard it during a session with a brilliant historian at UB. It speaks of a difference between two levels of thought life. It is between lower levels versus higher levels of thinking. One refers to a level of thought which accepts circumstances at face value. This is being conscious, being alive. On the other hand, consciousness of being refers to a level of thought which examines why we are faced with such circumstances in the first place. The higher level seeks to deconstruct and problematize the assumptions we take for granted. Regrettably, it is this higher level which our current education system lacks.
Education Power, Courtesy REACH
Karl Marx asserted that when the working class realize that they are exploited they would become their own liberators, and thus the liberators of humanity. The extent to which this is possible is very arguable and indeed futile. Am I advocating for a communist Belize? Undoubtedly, the idea of communism excites me, but cannot satisfy me.

Yet, there is a level of truth, if truth exists, to this frame of thought. It suggests that reality is not as fixed as it appears to be. Reality is a process. It is a process of power relations where dominant ideologies reign. Equally though, it is a reality in which those power relations are changeable. I would like to suggest that our socio-political reality is masked by many faces and protected by many weapons. It is the critique of such ideologies and practices which is the ultimate strategy for a more just and democratic society.

The question is: do Belizean youth have this level of consciousness? Hyde cautiously assumes that young people “know that they have the potential political power in their hands." I only hope this would be or becomes the case.  

Young people, I also assume, may have some level of knowledge of our socio-political realties. But many times these realities seem detached from our daily existence leading us to be an uncritical citizenry. At home, some of us still face the pressures of party politics, which makes us believe in the lesser evils of either Blue or Red. At school (especially the lower levels), we are told Belizean democracy is working perfectly right; we get to elect our leaders. All we want is to live comfortably, freely, and enjoyably.


Surrounded by the fanfare of the politricks it becomes difficult to lift ourselves from conditioned ways of thinking. These are ways of thinking which perpetuates the status quo. The ‘public sphere’ -the space for participatory democracy is overshadowed, over scripted with the lines of deceptions from politicians play, sorry I mean -pay.

Blue and Red exist but have they always existed? And must they continue to exist? What is thing that we call democracy? Do we need it? Do we want it? And, do we have it? These are the questions that lead us onto a higher level of consciousness and practical levels of action. 

Perhaps, this is where the advice by Evan X Hyde for youths to maximize the social media is a positive strategy. I see my comrades trying - but the fish ‘aint biting. We are too happy, happily oppressed. 

Youth Justice, Courtesy REACH
Is there more to this Belizean reality? “You young people are the future”, so we’ve been told. Rarely are we told: we are the present. We are the change. We are many. We are powerful. If only - we were consciously united. Consciousness of being versus being conscious….

Rolando Cocom

15 comments:

  1. Quite interesting stuff, not so well versed in Belize lifestyle but talk governance - democracy, the law and its a good read.

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  2. Good stuff Rolando.

    Your comment at the end about youth realizing that they are the present, and not just the future takes me back to the panel discussion at USP where everyone was appealing to the youth to do something.

    I wanted to ask: what about the adults and the elderly? How dare they bequeath such a mess to future young Fijians. What a cop-out.

    Wadan

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    1. I certainly had the panel discussion at the back of my head. In fact, I have more critical position on the viewpoints which were expressed there. While I enjoyed the young man's address, I felt that he shys away from the real issues and becomes a conservative pacifist. I wouldn't encourage young people to physically go against the military regime but I would advocate at least more radical pacifists strategies for young people. Additionally, even the comments about the non-importance of understanding history by some of the young people at the forum were eye brow raising. The body language of the past coup leader also deserves more critical comments. Also, some people seem to have been forgiving/cheering on the past coup leader. Their rationales ought to be explored. There are many dynamics involve which I felt needs to be further discussed and debated in the Fiji context.

      Moreover, the point on the role of adults is well due. I decided to keep it short. But indeed developing a participatory democracy must begin with the assumption that we all have something at stake in politics. We all have something to contribute.

      There is however, an overwhelming number of young people, in both our societies which ideally can become a real source of inciting change.

      We (members of society) are all to some degree or the other influenced by dominant ideologies which renders resistance needless or at worst pointless. There needs to be commitments against all the adversity. But there is an even greater need for commitment among people - unity. Social networks in resistance is a major key for its success. People need to believe in the resistance - that it's worth it and that it's possible, -together!

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  3. You wrote an excellent article Rolando. It stirred lots of thoughts.
    It firstly moved me because I am active in party politics in Belize and secondly, because I graduated from the same History Program as you did.

    The issue of being conscious and having a consciousness of being among youths have hardly been explored and for the most part ignored in Belize scholastically. However, I don’t believe for a moment that the “Real Politiks” of Belize has ignored the difference. The game loves youths who are “being conscious” and either streamlines or marginalizes the youths who have a consciousness of being.
    What do I Mean? This discussion borders the psyche of the youth. What motivates the youths? Being conscious is simply being aware of your decision and having a reason for your decision. As you mentioned in your article it is superficial and does not explore the realities of politics, the economy or the societal problems.
    This is what I have observed from my own experience. Youths are loyal and loyalty is an integral part of the youth psyche. This can form the basis from which the youth actively observes the realm of politics in Belize and uses loyalty to make decisions. This can be deemed to be “being conscious”. The Youth analyzes the situation and realizes that there is one party that has provided scholarships, land, jobs and even handouts to the youth’s family or family members or even the youth himself or herself. Being conscious here would mean allegiance to the party based on the benefits he or she perceives if the party is elected. And this is an observation of both political fences. The political leaders embrace these youths as they follow based on blind allegiance and ignore the corruption of either party. In this case the youth still demonstrates he or she is at the low end of the hierarchy of needs as immediate rewards outweigh the overall well being of the society.
    Now the youth that has a “consciousness of being” is a threat to the “real politik” system of Belize. This youth does not see the benefits of politicking as reasons for loyalty or blind allegiance to any one party. A piece of land, scholarships and other items of politicking are seen as the rights we all should have.
    These youths, if they have a family that is on either side of the political spectrum will be reeled in by the hierarchy of the party. They see the youth as a threat and use their consciousness to reinvigorate their party or allow the youth to make an attempt at making real change by trying to change the party. For the most part this youth is sucked into the party and before he or she realizes he or she have become part and parcel of the thing they knew as wrong, example Patrick Faber and Said Musa.
    If this does not occur then the youth that is conscious of being is marginalized. He or she is not afforded an audience and is silenced. It is as though you ask the question, if a tree falls in the forest does it make a noise? In this case the political system has muffled and silenced that youth.
    The population of Youth in Belize that is conscious of being and self is minute. It would appear that it was intentional where the educational system does not provide the curriculum for the Belizeans to learn about self and about the foundation of self or being. The only educational hope of achieving the youths you desire is the present History program at the University of Belize. And even this hope is in danger when it is deemed not viable and the best Historian in the program deciding to leave.
    I agree fully with you that the youth must be challenged to know that they are the change and that they are the present. They must embrace their destiny now.

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  4. I must say that youths today are too caught up in the material world and not realizing the power each can demonstrate to any sort of discontentment especially spear headed or shoved down the peoples throat by the government.

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    1. Is it only youths who are caught up? I guess what you are saying is that it tends to be more so the case with us young people. Check out One Dimensional Man by Herbert Marcuse

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  5. Very nice and accurate reflection Rol.

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    1. For more of these type of reflections check out these writers: Evan X Hyde, Jospeh Iyo, Assad Shoman, Karl Marx, Theodor Adorno, Antonio Gramsci, Herbert Marcuse, Jurgen Habermas...

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  6. Rolando c, I think you are bringing out positive messages in this blog. Please check out our group's work on the url I gave below. We are a group of teachers and parents trying to get a high school for the Kekchi village of San Pedro Columbia, Toledo, an area from which over 400 children get bussed to Punta Gorda everyday. We fundraised and built a school, and now Ministry won't even come and look at the site. We have been getting a big run around, so we are doing a publicity campaign with a petition. Could you put a button on your blog to link your readers to the petition? A lot of international people have already signed, but we want to contact concerned Belizeans!

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    1. This definitely looks like a nice initiative. It's unfortunate that the Ministry is giving you turn arounds. Have you tried networking with persons from Tumulkin Learning Centre or UNICEF? I think you also need to post more info on your site on the type of curriculum you are proposing and the objectives you would want the Ministry to fulfil. Keep up the good work.

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    2. Link: http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Do_you_think_there_are_REALLY_enough_High_Schools_in_Belize_INTERNATIONAL_AWARENESS_CAMPAIGN_1/?cWaHMab

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  7. Hi Rolando,

    I found it difficult to read you article and to understand what you were saying so if I don't get it right, I apologize.

    You went in a number of directions from politricks, communism, democracy and the apathy of youth in Belize.

    Yes, it is difficult to break away from conditional thinking - that is the way we are controlled so we don't rock the boat, using all the distractions of social media to keep people entertained and passive.

    My wife and I have been involved in social and political movements both in the States and here. We were involved in formulating the People's Manifesto that the PUP stole and twisted to win the 1998 election so we are not without experience and disappointments.

    We have a lot we can share with you about democracy, communism, and socialism, learned from personal experience. We do believe that people, especially young people, have more power than they realize.

    No, we are not young but we don't believe that we are old in our thinking. It's like Malcolm X said "as long as you are struggling to change things you are never old, but if you are afraid of change then you are old no matter how young you are."

    In struggle

    george and candy

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    1. Appreciate the feedback.

      I like that you acknowledge the vagueness of the article which was intended to provoke thoughts.

      The reader is the writer. Words, concepts, symbols, are all interpreted dependent on one’s socio-economic, ethnic, ethical, and gender standpoint.

      The experience of "People's Manifesto" sounds interesting.

      Looking forward to future dialogues

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  8. Rethinking activism: Why is it that certain movement captures our imagination more than others? Not just marches against violence (every now and again); for increase in salary (which doesn't easily happens), not just marches for border protection (which may be very dangerous), not just marches for pro-constitution (which is one of the rare glimpses of religious-political activism).

    These are justifiable movements according to members - but why is it that these issues mobilized people as oppose to us uniting towards a sustained democratic participation in Belize and radical reform?


    Is it because this violence has not touched us yet?; Is it because we have other aspects of our life to attend to such as a job and family?; Is it because in this life we simply want to earn money and enjoy it?; Is it because we prioritize land before people?; Is it because we believe God will make things better or that that it is meant to be?; Is it that we find other meanings in life that makes life more enjoyable versus stressing about “no good” politicians?

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