CHANGE AS A FRIGHT AGENT
Earlier, above, I suggested that walls are generally built to support the status quo and delay the possibility of significant societal change. Extremist, rigid religious thought cannot abide that kind of change; to them, change is “blasphemous,” “heretical,” and ultimately terrifying. Thus, they attempt to stop the world by building strong, permanent barriers (actual and ideological) to keep out the scary thoughts, the scary people.
Let me be clear: There definitely are terrorist types worth being scared of and defended against. But the rush to erect walls and barriers against entire masses of people is what lazy, ignorant people do. It takes too much creative mental work to come up with alternative ways of incorporating change, compromise, tolerance, into their lives. To deal creatively with change, you actually have to open your mind, and sometimes even your heart, to deal with people and ideas that are different.
Doing so, in an open way, is the beginning of wisdom, and of human progress. You let the light in, and also let the darkness in, and then you fashion a way to incorporate the two at the same time in order to move forward in something approximating harmony and peace. Doing so doesn’t have to mean you love and accept everything that comes your way in this fast-changing world, but it does mean you have to figure out a way of dealing with the new information and the new people. If things are exceptionally tense, you make treaties and remain suspicious, but at least you’ve figured out a way to co-exist together relatively peacefully.
Doing that has got to be better than a Dark Ages-type of smashing “the Others” over the head with clubs because you are pissed off by, and frightened of, them.
SOME PERSONAL REFLECTIONS
Finally, some personal observations that perhaps may prove useful in meditating on the question of walls and barriers:
I think I went into journalism as a young man (starting in my teens) because I needed to figure out how the world works and how I could maneuver successfully in it. In that regard, the hunt for truth became my friend. If I could open myself to how the world really operated — the good parts, the bad parts, the ugly and scary parts — I could somehow stabilize myself in what seemed like a very chaotic, frightening social system. Truth provided the glue that held it (and a shaky me) together.
As a bone fide reporter, I was encouraged to ask questions, amass information and then attempt to sort it all out in some coherent fashion. Likewise, travel outside the “safe container” of home and homeland yielded more information about different ways of thinking and living; it was journalism in a new sort of way, and I did indeed keep journals of my travels, trying to organize what I had learned by such adventuring around the country and abroad.