Walls - a short essay designed to keep thinking in place - by Nigel A JAMES
Walls have never failed to interest me. Whilst still very young, I remember being fascinated by the thought of that which was behind a very long brick wall which lay on the way to my school. Unfortunately, I never discovered what it was! And then, later on, I couldn't help wondering why Berlin needed a wall which ran bang through its middle! Walls, in a word, are a subject of interest.
And,they come in many different shapes, lengths, sizes and heights, and all this has to do with the purpose for which they were built, and the number of reasons for putting up walls are, in reality, very, very few. In fact only two.
Walls are either for keeping people or things in, or for keeping them out. And walls are a very big part of our lives. All of us need them.
Walls are the guardians of our privacy. We need them to separate that which is ours from everyone else's; and the higher and stronger the better. And, society is walls within walls within walls. Some are good and some are bad, and many are necessary and some are of no use at all. And our walls begin with ourselves.
Many people build invisible walls around themselves so as to prevent others from getting too close, and others see walls around others which really aren't there at all. Walls are both real and imaginary.
Prisons, of course, need walls to keep people in. And quite rightly so. But what about our borders which are there to keep people out? They, too, are walls – but of a different nature. Aren't national boundaries things of the past? We are, after all, all part of the one same world!
So, which walls do we really need? There is a saying in America which says that good garden fences make very good neighbours. There is a lot of truth in this pocket size packet of wisdom. And the truth of this saying lies in the fact that there are people who are not happy with only that which is theirs; they want more. And, the only way to prevent others from getting that which is yours is to build a wall to protect it. So walls at the end of the day are all about angst.
And history is full of examples of angst. There is the Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, the wall which separates the two sides in Israel, the Magino line which failed in the war, and, of course, the wall which stops the Mexicans entering the United States of America. There are countless other examples as well.
But, most walls are really incapable of resisting the attempts of the determined. How many people escaped from East Berlin? Did the Maginot line stop the Germans from invading France in the 2nd World war? How effective is the wall along the Mexican border? The point is that all walls have doors, and not all doors look like doors!
Doors, just like walls, come in many forms. It all depends on the wall! The Berlin wall allowed people to pass in a variety of ways. There were tunnels, ladders, disguises and cunning. A wall is only as strong as the imagination of he who builds it!
So, if walls don't really work, why bother building them?