Hardening hearts: building walls

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Hardening hearts: building walls

Hardening hearts: building walls
September 12
20:22 2015

Many people are fixated with walls. Walls are created in a literal and metaphorical sense to send a message to others and to propagate a political ideology or view. Walls demonstrate insecurity and they emphasise a fear of the “other”. Countries often build walls in the literal sense to map out their political views. For 28 years, The Berlin Wall perpetuated separation between two distinct political ideologies: communism and democracy.

Sometimes walls are set up in the name of safety. When Israel created a barrier in the West Bank, it was argued that the wall was not a symbol of oppression against Palestinians, but was needed to “protect” Israel. However, Israel is the only nuclear power in the Middle East and thus does not require a wall to defend or protect itself. The wall, however, has succeeded in making the everyday lives of ordinary Palestinians more arduous and has significantly impacted their quality of life.

In his quest to secure the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump expressed controversial rhetoric against Mexican people and vowed to build a wall (if elected) to discourage illegal immigrants. Whilst many people were outraged by Trump’s salacious comments about Mexican immigrants, there was little outrage or discomfort at his proclamation that he would build a wall to solve the perceived immigration issue in the U.S.

More recently, Hungary has emphasised its reluctance to help refugees and migrants by creating a fence. This fence is a manifestation of intolerance and highlights the growing dehumanisation amongst countries that deem themselves to be civilised. Migrants and indeed refugees (who are sometimes wrongly labelled as migrants) are facing coldness from countries that perceive them as a nuisance and not as part of humanity. Thus walls, barriers and fences symbolise prejudice, fear and a refusal to explore challenges and issues in a constructive and open way.

Walls are not confined to the literal sphere. Increasingly, people build barriers around themselves. Some people build a frosty exterior because they do not want to reveal their vulnerability. Thus for some individuals establishing invisible walls around themselves serve as protective shields. They believe by being distant and unapproachable they can avoid dealing with people that may hurt them. Instead of being marginalised by others – they take the offensive step in marginalising people. This is also a defence mechanism. It may indeed keep disingenuous people away, but it also deters genuine and inspiring people from ever entering their lives. I would argue that literal and invisible walls are counter-productive and erode our compassion and humanity.

If we start to alienate ourselves from other human beings simply because they are different or are struggling – we are undermining and dehumanising ourselves. Walls cannot extinguish insecurity, fear or prejudice. Strong people should not fear integration or getting to know the “other”. Walls emphasise separation. Separation and isolation create animosity and allow heinous acts of injustice and cowardice to occur. This notion that having walls or barriers can wish people away is dangerous, untenable and dispiriting. Helping people enlivens hearts and promotes justice. Walls, however, harden hearts and allow apathy to flourish.

By Mussarrat Shaheen
© 2015

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  1. Lyba
    Lyba September 13, 20:26

    A very well written piece. Thought provoking.
    Hearts are hardening to the plight of those suffering. How does the world not cry in uproar at the images of a baby washed up on a beach instead it looks to build more barriers between us and them. When will the realisation occur that we can not build walls and expect them to solve our issues?

    Reply to this comment
    • ©
      © Author September 13, 22:23

      Thanks for your comment Lyba. I agree. It is truly heartbreaking that so many “civilised” people are apathetic to the plight of innocent people. Without empathy injustice will continue…

      Reply to this comment
  2. Indie
    Indie September 13, 20:28

    The injustice and oppression is only characterised by man made walls. The ugly truth behind them is far more heinous.

    Reply to this comment
    • ©
      © Author September 13, 22:20

      Thanks for your profound comment. We can all do our part to break down barriers by promoting peace and justice.
      Regards, Mussarrat

      Reply to this comment
  3. kYLE
    kYLE September 16, 13:21

    There are far too many walls that need breaking but ultimately if we break down the walls within our hearts, the rest will all crumble.

    Reply to this comment
  4. nomad
    nomad September 19, 08:36

    Really thought-provoking really good articles like this are the first step in removing walls and other barriers.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Adam
    Adam June 27, 20:41

    When we build walls, we isolate ourselves and ultimately our hearts are boxed in, becoming cold and unfeeling. Instead we need to employ empathy. We in a priveleged society need to do more for others less fortunate.

    Reply to this comment

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