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The World's Walls
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-11-09 10:07:01
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I lived in Berlin in late 60s when the Wall was there, I actually used t play not far from the Checkpoint Charlie; and years later in the summer of 1990 I was back in Berlin for the Roger Waters concert for The Wall. I have actually seen the lights in the night and I have heard the screams from the other side since we lived very close to the wall. And now twenty years after I feel a bit strange with the idea that there are celebrations in Berlin, that people sell tokens made in China and there are kids that have absolutely no idea what the Wall meant for my generation, the generation before, for a nation, for a whole continent, for the whole world and what the fall of that wall meant for everybody. I have a reason to bring that now – about the lack of remembrance – and I will explain it soon.

I have written before about my personal connection with Berlin and the Wall and I have written a series of articles for magazines and newspapers for those years and there was nothing we wanted more that period than to see the end of that wall that was embarrassing all humanity. It was not the bricks, it was not the lights and the barbwires but the soul the Wall had evaluated in the heart of Europe and what it was doing to our minds for decades. And it was not only the one side that had built a wall, the other side had built walls there were just …different. A small example, while television started entering houses in Europe and US with mostly two channels mainly state channels, Berlin was enjoying dozens of channels and perhaps hundreds of radio stations, mainly transmitting John Wayne films and the American way of life with blue jeans, hamburgers and cola.

But focusing in the celebrations of the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall we are missing that the 9th of November is also a day for remembrance, is the international day against fascism and anti-Semitism and it is also a remembrance day for the night of Crystals, which meant the beginning of the Jews genocide in Nazi Germany. And it is weird how these things are connected. Germany was coming out of the WWII nightmare when the Berlin wall was built and entering into another war, meaner the cold war and Germany was destine to hold the central stage in this new war. USSR had long turned from the workers’ nation into a cruel regime that was ruling the east block with iron fist and the Jews would enter in a dark period of their history that lasts till today only this time they are the ones who make the rules.

And this is again another sensitive point. When the Wall fell we all sighed believing that this was the beginning of the end, this was a symbolic moment that would lead to the end of despotism, dictatorships, tyrannies and we all hoped that the fall of the wall would symbolize the beginning of a new era with world peace, with free and equal people. That’s what we believed and then came the walls. In those two decades instead of burring walls we created more walls. Walls in Palestine, oh yes the tortured Jew’s nation created a wall, walls in Korea, in Africa, in South America and in the end the fall of the Wall became a history school lesson and a good chance to sell more made in China commemorative tokens. Lately I found out that you can buy even “The Wall” …earrings!!!

That’s why I mentioned the new generations in the beginning. I was in chock a few days ago when I read about a survey between teenagers with some of them when asked if they know who Hitler was answering that he was a …football coach! Perhaps it is just me but I found it difficult even to smile with the comments the reporter did. For me this tragic, it is devastating and dangerous. You see we often forget that Hitler came to power through elections and not with a coup as we would like to believe. Hitler was actually elected. The person who built the first walls in Europe was elected from free people. When we forget who Hitler was, we forget his actions and then we forget the millions that died and when we forget why the Wall was built, how many people lost their lives and why during the cold war, what happened to us, to the generations that grew up and lived this cold war then I’m sorry to say but our future looks very dark.

And this is why we get Casa Pound – I’m not sure if I spell it right – in Italy, this is why we get the National Front in England, this is why we gat the Golden Rise in Greece and the True Finns in Finland and this is why a day like this when in Ovi magazine we commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall we should never forget that this is the day against fascism and anti-Semitism and we should talk about it and show to the new generations that Hitler was not a football coach and we should never build wall again starting with putting down the ones we already have built!


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Emanuel Paparella2009-11-09 10:11:03
Below is the last half of a rather long poem by Robert Frost titled “Mending Wall.” What I find intriguing about it is its ambiguity. Yes, “something there is that doesn’t love a wall. On the other hand “good fences make good neighbors.” Can both be true? Perhaps the solution to this conundrum is found in the poem itself: Before I built a wall I'd ask to know/ What I was walling in or walling out,/ And to whom I was like to give offence.

…There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

Emanuel Paparella2009-11-09 10:33:28
(continued from above) To go on with the above musings: perhaps the worst walls are not physical; they are of the mind and of the heart, those who keep our minds closed and prisoners of our own ideological walls. It is indeed shocking that the young are ignorant of their history while they declare themselves new Europeans (or Newropeans as the case may be). It means they are condemned to repeat the mistakes of history while naively thinking themselves “enlightened” with nothing to learn from anybody. But there is another side to this coin and it lies between that kind of ignorance and the euphoria of commemorations and celebrations galore. It is called “misremembering,” a termed coined by Tony Judt in his book “Europe after 1945.” He defines misremembering as a modern phenomenon: the enthusiastic commemorations as practiced by many activists on both sides of the political spectrum which take on a life of their own, ceremoniously repeated every year but leading to no moral lesson pondered and learned and put into action. In other words, we love to build our monuments and museums, establish our Think Tanks, write our books commemorating a particular historical event, and then fail to ponder it and debate it passionately and simply go home feeling that we have done our duty toward that particular event. What is more tragic than our young people not knowing who Hitler was, is the fact that they have never pondered the sad and tragic fact that the Holocaust has taught very few lessons to our so called global village. If that were not the case there would be far fewer walls in the world.

Anastasios2009-11-12 00:46:52
This article was very heartwarming. Although to many of us there is practically no way to sense how a kid felt living next to this walls, the author managed to give us a strong flavor of it. Bravo!

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