They may be made of bricks, stone, cement, wire, steel and even earth. Hadrian used his to keep the Empire free of the ‘Barbarians’. Quin Shink Quan used another version to protect the Chinese borders from the ‘Nomads’. The communists built the Berlin division to keep out the western ‘Fascists’. The Kilke Incas constructed the amazing Sacsayhuaman structure of Peru for major ceremonies. And Jerusalem’s Western Wall was built by ancient Israel as a retaining wall for the Jewish Temple in the Temple Mount area.
Today, walls are getting a bad wrap. Maybe contemporary western world’s axiomatic emphasis on inclusiveness and multi-culturalism has displaced former pride in national cultures and homogeneous societies. Walls are hence seen as symbols of social inequity and division – sources of international friction.
But reflex reaction against walls is shooting the messenger, not addressing the real problem. Germany’s wholesale indiscriminate intake of immigrants has resulted in a wave of violent crime and national discontent as cultures and mores refuse to mix. Even the limited intake of ‘boat people’ in Australia in the past decade has caused a crime spree including home invasions and robberies that have been unheard of in the peaceful Australian society. In Israel, a whole section of Tel Aviv is the fiefdom of anti social immigrant Mafioso terrorizing the local residents.
No wonder contemporary societies are building ‘walls’. Not the grand architectural wonders of the past, but ‘policy walls’ of restricted entry, tighter visa application laws, and even heavy-handed policing of national borders.
The problem is not ‘the wall’ – be it physical or legal. It is fear. It is an expression of threat to the innate human desire to live peacefully in a well-regulated, economically equitable and safe environment. Shooting the messenger by blaming walls is a useless and lazy diversion.
In Yiddish, there is a colloquial expression: Geredt tsu di vant’ – meaning wasting your time by ‘speaking to a brick wall’. And if we don’t identify the true causes of social discontent and solve the malaise, then like the Babylonian king, Belshazar, discovered, ‘the writing is on the wall’.