Crossing the mouth of the Bay of Amatique on the very eastern edge of Guatemala you catch swells coming in from the open ocean. Those waves may have been rolling in unimpeded for thousands of kilometres.
Looking to the northeast you can catch just a glimpse as you bob up to the crest of the next wave, of distant, low to the horizon, green against the sea blue. This streak of landmarks out the southernmost community of Belize. It goes by the name Punta Gorda.
When I first visited Belize it still went by its old colonial name British Honduras. Remember Aldous Huxley of Brave New World fame? He wrote in his Beyond the Mexique Bay (1934): “If the world had any ends, British Honduras would be one of them.” Well if Belize was an end of the earth for Huxley, the land south of it must have been the back of beyond.
No road touched the land facing out on to the bay south of the Rio Dulce. A dense green wall of remnant tropical rain forest and a maze of tidal channels impeded attempts of all but the hardiest of subsistence farmers to hack out an existence for their families there. Twice I managed visits into the area.
Dirt floored, stick-sided dwellings with palm-thatched roofs provided the basic shelter for residents of the aldeas or hamlets scattered through the region. Hammocks together with simple benches and tables all made from materials the forest provided the only furniture you would expect to see in them besides the mandatory clay-based hearth on a raised platform for cooking.
Even in corners of the globe like this, about as far from box stores and malls as is imaginable, there is evidence of the penetration of our world destroying consumer culture. Bottles and cans of brand name items, radios, CD players, logo plastered apparel and a host of other bits of the flotsam of our planetary consumer culture can be seen there as well as on Main Street Whitehorse. You can’t escape this all-encompassing reality.
Jose Gonzalez Faus, a Spanish Jesuit and author, refers to our acceptance of increasingly limited democracy, political systems that fail to effectively regulate the economy for the benefit of all as a dictablanda or a soft dictatorship. This camouflaged dictatorship “reduces all freedoms to just,” Gonzalez Faus notes, “the freedom to consume. Thus freedom is counterfeited to become the consumerist addiction of nearly all countries.”
Are we willing to accept reduced freedoms or lessened human rights in the face of increasing global insecurity? Gonzalez Faus says yes. “Simply because the only freedom which concerns most people in those countries,” the wealth ones like ours according to Gonzalez Faus, “is the unfettered freedom to consume frivolously.”
No is no magic way to spend ourselves out of the mess we are in this time despite the prodding of some economic gurus and political pundits. As the Adbuster folk (www.adbusters.org/campaigns/bnd) who initiated today’s Buy Nothing Day say “behind our financial crisis a much more ominous crisis looms: we are running out of nature … fish, forests, fresh water, minerals, soil. There’s only one way to avoid the collapse of this human experiment of ours on Planet Earth: we have to consume less.”
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, November 30 — 1st Sunday of Advent. The suggested reading is Mark: 13:33-37.
Monday, December 1 — World AIDS Day. Remember no nation in the world, and no group within society, is immune to the AIDS epidemic.
Tuesday, December 2 — International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.
Tuesday, December 2 — The Roses of El Salvador; Maura Clarke, Jean Donavon, Ita Ford and Dorothy Kasel, martyred by the Salvadorean military for their defence of the poor are commemorated.
Wednesday, December 3 — International Day for the Disabled People calls for the promotion of the full participation of disabled people in society.