“The first person who, having enclosed a plot of land, took into his hand to say ‘this is mine’ and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society. What crimes, wars, murders, what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared, had someone pulled up the stakes or filled in the ditch and cried out to his fellow man: ‘do not listen to this imposter. You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to all and the earth to no one!”. That was Jean-Jacques Rousseau in The Social Contract and the Discourses, essay written in 1755, in which he theorized how abandoning natural laws was the ruin of human species.
Protection of borders always defined History. According to a version of Rome foundation myth reported by latin historian Titus Livius, Romulus killed his twin Remus because he was crossing the walls of the new town and said: “so perish everyone that shall hereafter leap over my wall”. Lovely brother. From Hadrian’s Wall to Medieval fortress, this kind of constructions became famous monuments, not only in Europe, clearly. The Chinese Wall, the only structure seen from outerspace, was built in III century b.C. against Mongolian raids. But although its 3000 km couldn’t stop the invasion till the end. Same for the Roman walls against Barbarians or Byzantium ones against the Ottomans.
In modern ages things didn’t change that much, see the Maginot Line. This insurmountable French masterpiece on German border worked great on World War I, but was wiped out less then 30 years later. The Berlin Wall, symbol of Cold War, had in its 20 and something years of life more than 5000 successful attempts of leaping from the communist side to the capitalist west – even though hundreds were killed by the police. Someone did the revers path, they say that a guy was caught five times and he justified himself telling authorities that was the quickest way to meet his relatives. Other attempts were demonstrative, such the one of John Runnings, who went on the wall with a ladder and walked for half km on the perimeter.
Globalization should have facilitate the circulation of ideas and even problems, to find out common solutions. Internet gets us everywhere with just a click. Everything looked like it was set up to void distances, but the real main theme seems to be closure, all over the world.
Israel started long time ago to build the so called “wall of shame”, more than 700 km constantly update and re-drawn because of international protests and also because the limits with Palestine are unclear. It seems, more than selfdefense, a try to keep the water sources, more precious than anything else in dry areas. The wall between United States and Mexico got almost the same disapproval. Completed for a third of his total length, is one of the highlights of Donald Trump’s campaign for the White House, to stop migrations from the south.
The list doesn’t end to the most famous cases. Actually, geopolitical experts say that is almost impossible calculate the number of structures which divide populations on census, language, nationalities, religions. In Rio de Janeiro a wall protects the forest from the expansion of the favelas, the opposers talk of ghettoization. In Padua, Italy, an entire neighbour has been encircled in 2006 to defeat drugs dealing. Cyprus opened the path from the Turkish north to the Greek south only in 2003. Morocco still wants to defend from Saharawi indipendentists and is separated itself from Spanish enclave of Ceuta and Melilla. Even Pakistan has walls on two sides, with India for Kashmir issue and with Iran to limitate immigrations and smuggling of any kind (drugs, weapons, products destined to black market). Botswana fenced the border with Zimbabwe, officially to avoid animals trespassing, really it’s still for (against) immigrants.
And we get to strictly current events. Hungarian president Viktor Orban started the European fade, after closing the border with Serbia. New barriers came out between Bulgary and Turkey, Macedonia and Greece, Slovenia and Croatia, maybe even between Austria and Italy (maybe it will stop after the new elections). Always with the one and only purpose to block migrants and preserve Fortress Europe. Eu is losing power, the institutions never took serious actions against these blatant violations of free circulation, the only one who took a stand is the Pope, but obviously got no real power. Better yet Europe just signed a deal with Turkey, giving 3 billions euro to Recep Erdoğan regime to get back immigrants from Middle East and Asia in his country. And Donald Tusk, president of European Council, approved that, saying that is an antidote against populism…
40 years ago Jurij Gagarin was the first man in space and commented astonished: “from up here the Earth is beautiful, without borders or boundaries”.
The protest rap song of Swedish group Looptroop,
“Fort Europa/ My so called Utopia/Where I can’t find no culture/ Feel the walls getting closer and closer and closer”