(This column was originally published in the Friday, January 13, 1995 issue of Amandala.)
Mule Park…disappearance (?)
Does anyone remember Mule Park? Has anyone observed its “devolution”? Its devolution parallels that of the British Forces doesn’t it?
Once a park for drays (mules and carts), then a “soapbox” for preachers and politicians, a resting place for the old and weary, it was the Belize Club, the Pickwick, the Newtown, and the C.B.A. of the working man, the stevedore, the “ketch and kill” hustler, and the unemployed. It was the tongue of Market and the lips of Battlefield, from whence rumors and gossip spread to cover the town.
It gave the City a smell, a flavor, a character. It was the coat of arms, “sub umbra floreo” in living colour. It was at the same time an embarrassment to the colonial elite, a shame to the “Royal Creole”, (where but for the rape of the wood-pile there go I) and a disgrace to the “wannabes”, who tried their best to deny their “nativeness”.
In the march of progress, of modernity, of social etiquette, Mule Park has disappeared – a memory.
Its tongue has been cut; its lips zippered shut. Its children now sleep on the pavement of Courthouse, gossip on the verandah of the Bliss, and share their companionship and rum on the street called Church Street, or wander aimlessly through the streets, waiting to die. The clock of Coca-Cola, an $80 billion conglomerate, stands like a rotating cross at the north end, and the booth of BTL at the south end. The two are linked by a floral arrangement planted on the grave of once-upon-a-time Mule Park, with seats at both ends for its mourners. The whole is overlooked by the new god of privatization. One marvels at the subtlety, the cleverness, and the painlessness in time as to this devolution.
One cannot help but see in the history of Mule Park, the like disappearance of the Belizean people – a controlled disintegration, if you will. A disappearance that is being subtly orchestrated by the gods of finance, the free market ideologues (even as they rigidly protect and control their industries), by the pseudo-environmentalists from the North (even as they burn 80% of the world’s energy). It is seen in the tribalization of the natives sung as “indegenation” (even as they merge and consolidate their banking power); in the trumpeting of “Kriolization” (even though the world is dominated by the English language); in the continued miseducation of our children (even as the North explores the heavens with its high powered physics and maths).
Extend if you will from once-upon-a-time Mule Park south to Regent and Albert Streets, west to Orange Street (Road Lane) and King Street, north to Queen St., west to New Road and Barracks Road … “Where have all the Belizeans gone”? To the ghettoes of the U.S.A. and to the swamps of the City’s outskirts; where will our children go when the hordes from Hong Kong and Taiwan come, not to mention the continued influx of the refugees from our neighbors?
The genius of all this is that we were programmed to do this to ourselves for a few dollars more. We have failed to realize that we were merely members of the orchestra; we never composed the tunes; we never owned the bank. We refuse to recognize that we are bargaining in front of a loaded gun, and this denial will cause us to go the way of once-upon-a-time Mule Park. Arrest the process, people, by forming your National Workers Bank. As-salaam-alaikum.