A Meditation on the Building of Walls

In general, these kinds of walls and fences represent unresolved social matters, and remain in place as long as the political conflict remains “hot.” On the Israel/Palestine dispute, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for any movement toward peace because of the wall. The prospects for a peace treaty and negotiations for mutual projects seem woefully out of reach, mainly because each side is effectively ruled by extremists who simply want the other side to disappear and figure violence is the way to make the disappearance happen. Such a policy does little but stimulate a never-ending cycle of vengeance.

When Communism imploded in the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites, there was no need for a barrier wall in Germany and so it came down virtually overnight. The new political realities ruled rather than prejudice and military fears. That wall had lasted three decades — its existence spanning a full generation of citizens — and then, poof, was no more. In short, walls can be taken down in short order (Belfast’s wall separating Catholics and Protestants is another example) once the political realities shift.

THE INTERNAL WALLS

There is another kind of wall, in some ways much more significant and socially malignant. It’s the wall that separates humankind from accurate information, often because of closed religious minds.

The two major colliding forces in today’s world have walled themselves into ignorance and Dark Ages-type thinking. Extremist Islam and fundamentalist Christianity both believe they are doing “God’s work” in opposing “infidels,” those refusing to recognize the “one true God”; those “non-believers” need to be crushed because they represent the most nefarious kind of “evil.”

Osama bin Laden and his like-minded supporters would be happiest if society returned to the theology and societal organization of the Muslim caliphate from the 7th to 11th centuries. George W. Bush and his neo-con and fundamentalist supporters would be happier in an old-fashioned colonialist world, where a “Pax Americana” would reign supreme. Each side believes that if you’re not on their side, you’re ipso facto an enemy and should suffer the consequences. Neither side is amenable to compromise and negotiation, which explosive situation leads inexorably to the deaths of untold numbers of innocents who just happen to be in the way (“collateral damage”).

Extremist Islam wants nothing to do with modernity and commerce, which bring with them all sorts of contemporary “depravities” and “immoralities.” Fundamentalist Christianity, with Bush as a key representative of that movement, wants nothing to do with the proven facts of modern science and with facts delivered to him by the professional intelligence agencies. There is no room on either side for the concepts of toleration and power-sharing. It’s “victory” or nothing — a “crusade” for “righteousness and purity,” based on a foundation of problematic beliefs and self-righteous religious faith.

There are plenty of folks in the middle, but the violence-griddle is kept so hot by the extremists that a massive attack is usually enough to frighten the timid middle into at least a tacit alliance with those who promise to protect them from the dastardly “Other.”

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