24 Nov Putting Up Walls
This weekend I spent a really memorable trip in Berlin.
Berlin is a great city, as it has a great mix of fun and activities, from visiting its Aquarium and Zoo, to spending an evening drinking cocktails in the TV Tower overlooking the twinkling lights of the city landscape below, but also has a huge amount of history to walk around, particularly from World War Two and the aftermath.
It was walking around this history that made it a really poignant trip, particularly in the aftermath of the attacks in Paris.
There’s been lots of talk around walls and borders this year, with the refugee crisis and the hysteria around immigration as a whole, and this week the outright Nazism spouting by the likes of Trump in the US Presidential race. Astonishing not only in how brazenly it is being said, but also that it is being gobbled up by swathes of the angry and fearful public, anxious for a Boogie Man to point the finger at. Walking along the Berlin Wall in the freezing cold this weekend felt pretty harrowing an experience. It’s hard to believe it was still standing in 1989, and was only finally finished being demolished in 1992. People were still being shot and killed for trying to cross the border in 1989. It is worth noting that the British Conservative Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, bitterly opposed the unification of Germany, and the tearing down of the wall, preferring that it remained in place, in the name of British security. Poverty and division supported by a Conservative government in the name of British security. A glimpse into the present from the past.
Imagine living in a country destroyed by war, being liberated, only for the country to be carved by others who can’t decide what they want to do with their winnings, and end up putting up walls and borders to make sure their strategic political aims are met. Another glimpse into the present in Syria, where the US, Saudi, Russia, Turkey France and the UK (amongst others) have allowed the battle for territory to continue unabated, standing by as ISIS does unspeakable things to civilians, whilst the Government uses chemical weapons on those same civilians, purely because the various western powers can’t decide who they like least.
After the wall, we took a walk to the holocaust memorial, or “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe” to use it’s full title. A mind-boggling example of what the human race is capable of doing to each other in the name of power and ideology. Six million people killed. SIX MILLION. The demonisation of a race of people based on their beliefs that was so inhumane and unspeakable that it caused a war across Europe that eventually spanned the entire globe. The murder of people based on their religion. Worth remembering when Donald Trump speaks of forcing Muslims in the US to have to register on a database, and puts forward the idea that they should wear symbols on their clothing so that they should be identified. Worth remembering when Rupert Murdoch tweets the suggestion of only letting immigrants in who are proven Christians.
This is what happens when we put walls and borders up around us, to separate people based on their beliefs and ideals. We look back on it with horror and build memorials to remind us never to forget. So let’s not.