Saturday, 24 August 2013

Walls 271Marcello Di Cintio excellent book Walls visits a bunch of them, places where physical walls, barriers or fences have been set up to keep people in, or out or away. They’re an interestingly diverse bunch of walls although not one of them is a happy place and sadly the author notes that walls don’t fall very often. The Berlin Wall coming down in late 1989 is an exception. Since 9/11 wall building can always be justified as protection from terrorism, even when the reality is there’s no  threat at all.

• The West Bank wall between Palestine and Israel also features in my new book Dark Lands and it’s about as unhappy a wall as you’ll find anywhere. Its stated purpose is to keep Palestinian trouble makers out of Israel, but in fact it also causes a huge amount of trouble for Palestinians who are not interested in making trouble at all.

• The USA-Mexico wall is there to keep Mexicans out of the USA – even though the USA would probably grind to a halt without Mexican hotel staff, restaurant bus-boys, swimming pool cleaners, farm workers, you name it. Oh and it also slows down the flow of drugs into the USA, even though supply and demand, the very basis of capitalism, ensures that US demand will ensure Mexican supply keeps them flowing over, around and under the wall.

Belfast Wall 542
▲ Belfast – another wall I’ve seen recently

• Belfast is cross-hatched with walls and Di Contio points out that despite the peace settlement very few walls get taken down and the standard Belfast response to almost any problem is to build a wall. They pop up for other reasons than the  inter-communal, Catholic-Protestant, Nationalist-Loyalist strife that kicked wall building off.

Other walls that feature in this very readable book include the Western Sahara ‘berm’ to ensure the old Spanish colony of Spanish Sahara remains part of Morocco. The Spanish Ceuta and Mellila enclaves in Morocco, where Asian and African refugees try and get over the fence as a short cut into Spain and Western Europe. The Indo-Bangladesh wall and I assume there must be something similar on the other side of India to keep the Pakistanis at bay as well. The rusting Cyprus wall that keeps Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots apart. Even a little inter-suburb wall in Di Contio’s hometown, Montreal.