Once the Berlin Wall came down, all the other ones did, too. Oder (right)? I mean, the falling of the world’s most famous wall had to have had a flattening effect upon anything else like it left standing. Well at least that’s what a lot of us hoped or felt. It should have, but it didn’t. On the contrary, more miles of wall exist now than before 1989 and there are new iron curtains out there wherever you look – and these are only the physical ones.

A few of these new walls include the massive concrete one currently being built by Saudi Arabia along its border to Yemen to keep out illegal immigrants, terrorists, and drug smugglers. The Saudis are planning another one along the Iraqi border (900 km). The wall being built between Israel and Palestine is also making great progress. India built a three meter high wall through Kashmir and plans to continue it along the entire stretch of the Pakistani border (1800 km), they already have a wall on the border to Bangladesh. Botswana is building an electrically charged fence along its border to Zimbabwe. Costa Rica is putting up a wall on the Nicaraguan border. Then of course there’s the frontera between the USA and Mexico, 1125 km of which will soon be blocked off with a giant fence. And don’t forget Europe’s Rio Grande, the Strait of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean, and now the stretch out to the Canary Islands.

Are these walls ugly? Damn right they are. Are they necessary? You decide. But the biggest wall of all is the one that’s getting flattened right now, the one around the global playing field that has separated players from viewers for so long. It’s a virtual wall, of course, and it’s crumbling virtually everywhere you look. As technology and connectivity spread, and distances become less and less of an issue, everybody is going to feel big changes in one form or another (think outsourcing, offshoring, global supply chains, even terror). And although it eventually won’t matter on which side of the wall you live on, that’s a long way off yet and it’s going to be a painful journey. People don’t always like change, you see. And they can’t change as fast as this flattening process demands of them. And that’s why as this wall is coming down, the other walls are going up.

So when are some of these walls going to come down? Whenever we want them to, no time soon, I suspect. It’s going to take time, and somebody has to take them down. And that’s the problem whenever you use the Berlin Wall as a metaphor for walls like these: The Berlin Wall fell down because it kept people inside. These new walls are built to keep people out. Walls are apparently easer to crack from the inside out, but it doesn’t appear as if anyone on this side is ready to do that yet.

Come visit me at Observing Hermann…

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