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Farm-Raised Voters

Farm-Raised Voters
July 13
10:56 2019

“In Jamaica a political garrison is an area where at least 90% of the eligible votes are cast for either the PNP or JLP. Those votes are usually secured by way of coercion, intimidation (both implicit and explicit) or through bribery. Another distinct characteristic of political garrisons is the refusal of many residents to pay utility bills. There is minimal investment in the area by the established private sector and whatever infrastructure is still standing is decayed and there is usually an absence of civic pride. “

      -- www.jamaica.com, accessed July 6, 2019

The above description can, without exaggeration, be properly applied to the Queen Square, Mesopotamia and Fort George divisions in Belize City. The tenor of the political dominance by the Area Representative in these divisions is slightly different but the outcome is exactly the same.

The Queen Square, Mesopotamia and Fort George divisions have all voted for the same man to represent them for the better part of thirty years. If winning general elections is the sole measure of success then Messrs. Dean Barrow, Michael Finnegan and Said Musa are political titans.

Mr. Barrow and Mr. Finnegan have both announced their departure from political life but Mr. Musa has not yet done so. He is having a much harder time in terms of succession than Mr. Barrow and Mr. Finnegan.

Over the past thirty years politics in Belize has changed due to two significant and distinguishable phenomena, (1) the greater influence of money in politics and (2) the farming of voters.

In 2019 as in 1998, politicians need money for their campaigns and for their Election Day machinery; without money the best-intentioned politician will lose. In Belizean politics there is no battle of ideas, just mudslinging and money; this is why, in 2019 it is money which plays the most important role in electoral politics.

It is money that props up the two major political parties. It is money that has blurred the philosophical lines between them such that they are now referred to as the PUDP. It is money that decides the governance agendas of these parties when they are in power because the one thing that money loves more than profit is predictability. It makes perfect sense therefore, from money’s point of view, for the governance agenda to remain the same no matter which party is in power. This provides predictability and with predictability money can make a profit!

Money as you know is apolitical and so, in a great many cases, the people with money make “contributions” to both parties. It does not matter which party wins or which party loses; money always wins!

The second phenomenon that has emerged in the Belizean political space over the last three decades is the farm raising of voters. A farm-raised voter is one who, unbeknownst to them, has been the target of psychological operations to keep them in a state of dependency.

In an increasing number of divisions politicians are selecting groups of vulnerable people to raise as a farmer raises livestock on his farm. Lest somebody try to interpret this to mean that I am calling the Belizean people animals, I am not! My point is that the farmer “takes care” of his livestock so that in the end he kills them and reaps a profit; the politician on the other hand, “takes care” of his “people” so that come election day they transfer their political power to him and that means a profit: ask Gapi, ask Penner, ask Flippin!

The sole purpose of the practice of farm-raising voters is to ensure that when elections are called, the politicians have a sufficient number of “sure votes” to propel them to victory. Just as a farmer provides everything for his livestock so too the politician provides everything for his farm-raised voter. He dutifully provides food, helps to pay rent and utility bills, he sends the children to school, he ensures there is a Christmas party and of course there has to be Mother’s Day cheer.

Perhaps the worst part of the psychology of farming voters is that it is trans-generational. The children born to a farm-raised voter almost always become supporters of the politician they see “helping” their parents. The child grows up thinking that that kind of behavior is normal and soon enough he too becomes dependent on the politician and the cycle is repeated.

There is a cruel and bitter irony in the practice of farming voters because a disproportionate number of farm-raised voters are “poor” people. The irony here, of course, is that the very politicians they love and adore have contributed to their wretched state of poverty. This is a classic strategy employed by our former colonizers: you create a state of misery then you show up to alleviate the very misery that you created. In the end you get to walk away with the political power of your victims. A fantastic endeavor, isn’t it? Absolutely fantastic!

There is a common misconception that only the “poor” fall into this category and that is not so. Many people who are working class and middle class are also farm-raised. Their pieces of silver of course are not boost and pantry; theirs is different than the poor. Theirs is land, and government jobs and mortgage forgiveness!

If you want to know if you are a victim of farm raising, answer this simple question. Why is your favorite politician a good politician? If you can’t answer without having to say “he gave me ….”, then you, beloved are a farm-raised voter. Perhaps I have said too much!

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