When the those that broke down the Berlin wall did so in their desperation to leave the communist system and join their fellow germans in west germany one couldn’t imagine them predicting that plans for a luxury apartment complex would potentially help them finish the job 23 years later.
In joining together in opposition to these plans you could argue that Berlin resident’s are perhaps using the most positive element of socialist philosophy that ruled their past to keep history alive for future generations and retain a visual remnant of its messages. By undermining this symbolism by removing the wall the developers may inadvertently divide people once again in the future who become ignorant to these lessons.
Since the Berlin Wall fell governments around the world, during the 20th and 21st century, have built their own walls or barbed wire fences due to variety of geopolitical or security reasons, indicating a worrying proliferation of a unilateral approach to what are potentially complex and human issues. In a 2007 Reuters report covering many countries they highlighted how Spain has built high-tech fences around its wealthy colonies of Ceuta and Melilla to prevent unauthorised immigration from Morocco.
Every time that such walls become a fixed solution to, often, bilateral problems it often breeds resentment and raises tensions. To solve Greece’s immigration problem it’s ruling government proposed a barbed wire fence in 2012. In many commentators views this would only however exacerbate a current authoritative and divisive mentality in greek political discourse. In the long-term it may give legitimacy to the far right Golden Dawn party in Greece while providing less legitimacy and focus to effective solutions to their immigration and severe economic problems. When the EU President of the Parliamentary Committee on Migration highlights the issue of immigrants potentially bypassing the fence by difficult terrain at the risk of their lives it draws grim parallels with a reality that hundreds have drowned attempting to bypass the barbed wire fence surrounding the aforementioned Spanish colonies to alternatively reach the Canary Island’s.
Both these cases demonstrate that this strategy simply won’t stop 100% of those desperate enough to leave their country for another in search of hope. It is a symbolic and reactionary solution that doesn’t get to the root of the problem, at the very literal and tragic expense of human lives. Strong action isn’t required by a single country but rather should be enacted with the partnership of the two countries concerned. In Greece until a proposed fence would in theory achieve zero immigration then groups like Golden Dawn won’t be satisfied but more prepared and confident to put their significant pressure on the application of even more extreme measures. A country such as Greece can’t solve an internally made problem by trying to shut itself off externally. Considering my overall argument I would like to state that I do recognise there shouldn’t be unauthorised immigration. Yet there must be far better methods of managing the situation than permanent fences. These alternative and effective long-term methods can only be eventually formed with dialogue between the country of the immigrants origin and that of their destination.
As the Berlin Wall proved you can’t maintain a division through force forever. What it also proves is the effectiveness of a co-operative strategy. In the end the fall of the Berlin Wall required a moderation and change in Soviet policy from Soviet leader Gorbachev in combination with the democratic will and aspirations of east Germans.
Permanent walls cause in the long-term further division, giving potential to an inward isolationist approach and dissuade future co-operation between the country receiving the immigrants and that which they are fleeing. This is perhaps most clearly illustrated by the US-Mexican border which is a source of significant tension for Mexican politicians. A significant number view it as an affront and expression by America of superiority. For Mexican citizens it is an obstacle to their families on the other side of the border. For Native Americans it will divide their land. For environmentalists it will cause major damage to the affected areas eco-system and for those that analyse the context of the socio-economic states of both countries the unilateral nature of the wall is particularly stark. The solution therefore lies in combating Mexico’s social problems, most prominently its internal drug wars. Funding the Mexican military while failing to confront issues surrounding america’s gun regulation and ignoring America’s profitable demand for drugs is not it. All it does is put a unbalanced requirement on Mexico to solve its problems within an isolated position.
In regions of recent conflicts where divisions in society are most severe walls are also unsurprisingly a presence. In Iraq the decision to build walls between sectarian lines in Baghdad reflects an overall failure on the part of the U.S.A to enact a progressive and considered foreign policy in the middle east. The use of sectarian/blast walls specifically is the result of poor post-invasion planning. Incidentally this failure of planning was a result of an absolutist approach that leaves no room for debate and displays an ignorance to the local populace and society. Most critically it has a potential of making sectarian violence worse since western soldiers have left.
Ultimately in light of these various lessons it is my strong opinion that The Berlin Wall should be saved. If only as a reminder the consequences of politically enforced division. Furthermore it is an important reminder to make every effort to co-operate in finding solutions to what are international problems.