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Warring like the Greeks Print E-mail
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Written by By Jem Smith   
Thursday, 28 September 2017 00:00

“Men are haunted by the vastness of eternity and so we ask ourselves: Will our actions echo across the centuries? Will strangers hear our names long after we are gone, and wonder who we were, how bravely we fought, how fiercely we loved.” Those are some opening lines of narration in the movie “Troy”, an epic portraying the battle between the ancient kingdoms of Troy and Sparta. I have just recently become interested in Greek mythology, especially the chronology of the gods, goddesses, and heroes. I think what is most interesting, watching movies such as Hercules, Troy, and the Clash of the Titans, to name a few, is the parallelism between the Greek society and our own. The Greeks were known for epic wars, stories of jealousy and greed, and complicated love scenarios. Growing up in Southside Belize City for most of my life, those things, the first two especially, consume a lot of what I remember.

While our wars in Belize are not against gods or heroes, they are wars nonetheless; wars against our brothers, against our communities, and often times against ourselves. Working in the news field for the last six months has opened my eyes to many issues I used to shrug my shoulders at. Rape and murder have always left a sour taste in my mouth but now robbery, drug wars, and other social injustices irate the black woman in me. More often than not, a black man is the perpetrator in these crimes and at times he is even the victim.

It is easy to criticize and to pass judgment. It is even easier to become angry. For the last six months, that is all I’ve felt toward the plethora of crime stories that has racked up; anger, disappointment, and all things negative.

It is perpetually easy to dismiss our personal roles in the woes and vices that plague our society- it feels that there is so little we can do. Most of us have chosen to not be killers and not to commit crimes. Too often, it feels like we are too far removed from the gruesome acts that happen. Despite it being true that there are a myriad of complex issues that lead to crimes like these, it is also true that one of the biggest factors that contributes to the behavior of the best, and worst, of our fellow citizens stems from culture.

It was the culture of the Greeks to go to war. To create chaos and distress was the way of the gods, heroes, and regular people alike. Their history and mythology captivates me partly because it is surreal and distant but when it comes knocking at my front door, it changes my feelings toward it. It is no longer captivating but a serious dilemma.

How sad is it that many of us are not even fazed when we see people screaming “chino” or “chiney gyal” at our fellow Asian neighbors? How many of us accept it as a part of life that men shout disparaging and vile things at women passing on the streets, or blame the way they dress as a contributing factor to rape? Why is mediocrity so easily accepted? When something goes wrong, we say “this is Belize”, when someone is late we say “Belize time”, when products are of excellent quality, we assume they come from “states” or “farren”, we assume that nothing good can ever be made here. What about the way we all love to come out and stay up all night to see fireworks and carnival, but we would never stand up and speak out for change, or stand against corruption. The Greeks fought but they fought for their injustices and for their glory. Perhaps the time has come for us to individually decide to work for a better country, even if it means standing up for the downtrodden and learning to accept all Belizeans, despite their race or sexuality or religion.

There is so much we can learn if we look at other countries, like Japan, with billions of people who never have to worry about losing their bikes because everyone is mindful of their fellow people, or where they never worry about leaving their cars unlocked because everyone respects personal property, or where the busses and trains are quiet and clean and peaceful because everyone takes their own trash, everyone cleans up after themselves, and everyone is considerate of others around them.

If we think about billions of individual decisions that they make every day to preserve that culture of low crime and consideration, then we will realize that we are not so powerless to change these things after all. Belizeans and Greeks war, but we war to different ends and for different purposes. The Belizean wars affect children and children are becoming the warriors themselves. Teach consideration in our schools and homes and in the streets and everywhere else; be considerate ourselves, and we’ll achieve the glory of the Greeks without the bloodshed and anarchy. Like the warriors in “Troy”, and all other epics, we can leave behind a legacy of bravery and of fierceness, but we can also leave behind a society that makes Belizeans proud to wear that name.