Friday, August 13, 2010

Walls of the mind

Today is the 49th anniversary of the erection of the Berlin Wall. The beginnings of the Wall date from 13 August 1961. Back then few thought the hastily-constructed barrier would stand for over twenty-eight years. At the time it was conceived as a way of stopping the flood of East Germans out of their dysfunctional country and into the more promising West. For a while it seemed to have the desired affect and the East German economy began to stabilise. People settled in and began to find a way to co-exist in the shadow of the Cold War.

Almost fifty years later, and over twenty years after the fall of the Wall in November 1989, the division of Germany is still present in many respects. Surveys show that only 61 percent of former East Germans are pleased with today's unified Germany. In the former West the figure is 71 percent. Economic differences remain pronounced. Progress toward the reduction of wage differentials between the two former states has been slow.

The continuing after-affects of the Wall is testimony to the power of mental barriers, the walls in people's minds. Many conflict zones around the world still have walls and there are many other more (slightly) subtle barriers that are designed to keep poor people out of wealthy western countries. The East Germans government built its wall to keep people in. Today most western governments are building virtual (and real) walls to keep people out. Either way, the most inhibiting walls, barriers and boundaries are in the heads of politicians and their short-sighted supporters.

Photo: one of the few remaining sections of the wall in its original location. Taken in January 2010.

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