A Heather Cole Column – De Barbados Wall
It remind I of the days in Jericho
When we trodding down Jericho walls
These are the days when we’ll trod through Babylon
Gonna trod until Babylon falls
Walls are not new, from time immemorial they have been used by people to keep out invaders as a defense mechanism. The Bible records that there was a wall around the Jericho- the earliest known urban fortification- to keep out invaders. By the time the Israelites invaded Canaan the walls had been changed from mud to stone. We all know the biblical story of the Israelites marching around the walls of the City of Jericho, with the Ark of the Covenant before them once a day for 6 days and on the 7th day going around the city 7 times with the priests blowing the horns and the people shouting until the walls fell.
Throughout history nations have been building walls to keep out invaders. The Chinese built the Great Wall of China to prevent the Huns and Mongols from invading their country. The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall to keep the barbarians out. Therefore Donald Trump’s intent to build a wall to keep the people of South America out of North America is nothing new.
Walls however have not only been built to keep people from getting in. There has only been one exception to this rule until now. This exception was the Berlin Wall. Although they had become 2 different countries, there was no physical separation for work or shopping and East Germans were in West Germany daily. However, it was due to the virtual collapse of the East German economy in 1960 that started a mass exit of persons to West Germany. The separation was sudden, people awoke one morning in August 1961 to find themselves living behind barb wire. It happened all in one night and the barb wire was later changed to brick walls.
In Barbados there is a wall of bricks that extends from the West Coast to the South Coast. The situation that presently exists in Barbados with hotels, restaurants and private homes all on the shores of Barbados restricting access of the Barbadian public did not happen overnight, but the analogy is somewhat similar. The island is not a communist country by any measure, neither does it share a border with another country and there is no mass exodus of persons; but it is here that the differences end and the similarities begin. The country is in the midst of economic collapse and we have been suddenly confronted by the fact that access to the beach is being threatened with closure by walls built to keep the people in.
It is as though the hotels and the proliferation of gated communities on the South and West Coast have become a fortified border wall with their security gates, fences and hedges and security guards right down to the shoreline.
We have found ourselves in the same position as the people of East Berlin when they realized that the barb wire had been rolled out to fence them it and that a wall was going to have a profound effect on their lives. Chaos ensued forcing thousands to swarm train stations to get a train to flee East Germany. However, 30 years later the Berlin wall did fall, proving that walls built to keep people in will not last.
This is the juncture where we are at in Barbados, we have been shocked to find out that 2 of the last openings in our wall will be closed and are now in crisis mode. It is as though over the last 30 or so years we allowed the romanticism that we have with the sea disappear behind the horizon. We only have ourselves to blame as we stood by and let tourism destroy our lives and ruin our environment. By no stretch of the imagination can this be called development. It now looks like the deliberate marginalization of the people who call this island home. Alas we cannot go back but we cannot let tourism destroy what we have left on Barbados.
No one is opposed to the development of Barbados. However, we have failed to understand why hotels must be built on our coast, encroaching the last treasure we commonly own. We have lived long enough to witness the demise of the fisherfolk of Barbados and seen them replaced with maids and gardeners. We now have beaches where we are made to feel like intruders and not owners. The law says that they are not private beaches but that is no longer our reality. No matter how much the people have complained nothing has really changed for the better. We must take whatever action is required to prevent these remaining windows to the sea from being closed.
Won’t it be sad that our future generations will only know a few overcrowded beaches, will never be able to enjoy the serenity of the beach, only be able to pass by hotels and never know what lies behind them? If it continues like this there will come a time when the simple pleasures like roasting breadfruit and fish on the beach or enjoying a game of beach cricket are lost. Are we going to sit back and let the site of the sea that calms us all slip away from living memory and only to be remembered on postcards of the sea? We owe it to future generations to preserve this semblance of their culture so that they will not have to pay to see the Barbados that the tourist experience.
It is indeed ironic that on the 82nd Anniversary of the Riots of 1937 that we are at another watershed; still fighting but this time is seems like a fight to keep this land as ours. We have no more to give up as we would have nothing left. I am hoping that government will reverse these plans of building more hotels on our beaches but its lack of response on this entire issue of beach access is deafening. It is as though the people have not raised their voices. The voice and will of the people are more important than the greed of a few developers. The sum of our votes is more than theirs and all of us cannot be wrong. If no action is taken, the people may have no choice but to invoke the Israelite libation. Let wisdom prevail.