19 April 2009

Guest Post: Walls

The following is by guest writer Deb Maike, who Daphne and I are hoping will soon join us on a regular basis. After reading her post, you'll understand why.

I was in Berlin in the fall of 1984 visiting a friend. The Berlin Wall, erected in the 60s still split the city in two; the forces of France, America and the Soviet Union were very present; the ravages of WW2 still evident. A modern, diverse, artistic city existed in West Berlin; the East grey, dark, depressed and denied the freedoms known to their surrounding neighbours. Gaby took me to see the Wall; tall and imposing grey concrete; Furry Freak Brothers graffiti added ‘colour’. Twenty feet in front of the real wall was a fake wall used for filming movies; pristine and blankly reflective of the monster behind it.

At this time in history another wall was being constructed in Soweto; another situation where locking out freedoms and throwing away the key seemed to be the most appropriate action.

Since those days both walls have come down; creating their own new set of problems but allowing the freedoms required to overcome the obstacles. In this day of international, speed-of-light communication between the ‘people’ a change for the better has occurred. It is increasingly difficult to put up and maintain walls; political walls; societal walls; religious walls; ethnic walls; ‘you name it’ walls, as awareness of injustices rises and gives voice to these unacceptable circumstances.

Yet, walls still exist. In Belfast peaceful, until lately, since ‘the Troubles’, there are still walls that separate Catholic from Protestant neighbourhoods in the city. While they claim to have put aside their differences, the very existence of this physical reminder continues to support and reinforce the lie they purport to have overcome.

Then there is Jerusalem; another religious, ethnic wall has been built; more neighbourhoods divided; more of the common folk divided by political machinations.

As long as these physical reminders of the principles of ‘divide and conquer’ continue to exist and, worse yet, be built, the efforts of individuals to break down barriers of a greater magnitude are diminished; barriers to education, equality, food security, housing, clean water and personal safety; barriers to basic human rights.

As long as greed exists, walls will exist. As long as we continue to support capitalism, walls will exist; as long as we continue to ignore the impoverished in our own communities walls will exist.

As with Berlin and Soweto, walls can come down but it takes the efforts of the many to survive the consequences and build the alternatives. Belfast has a perfect opportunity; Jerusalem, a harder nut to crack.

Canadians are great at deluding themselves into believing we have a ‘perfect’ country. We have an opportunity to be that exalted place but we first need to address the barriers which exist within our own borders; the same barriers of exclusion, poverty, clean water, ethnic discrimination, religious affiliation, gender equality and access to education that we want for the rest of the world. In these difficult economic times the greed of the few still determines the circumstances of the many.

Recommend this post