Walls Can Be Built Out of Thoughts

Germany marked 50 years since the Berlin Wall was built. It’s hard to believe that it once stood for 28 years when you look at Germany now. The reunified country has become the leading economy in the Euro-Zone and the east-west division seems like a long ago event out of a history book.

There were certainly mixed reactions to all the ceremonies. The wall was not built by the east to keep the west out. It was built to keep the east contained. People from what was East Germany tried to climb the wall looking for freedom in West Germany. They don’t know for sure how many died trying to climb the wall. It could be the official 136 or the unofficial 700. The important thing to realize is that walls, visible or invisible, don’t work.

Keeping people in is much harder than keeping people out because the ones on the outside aren’t interested in going over to a side where they see turmoil, human rights violated, freedom of speech denied and physical freedom limited. However, political divisions really don’t need a brick wall. You can “build” a wall without a single brick or stone. The wall can be in the mind and hearts of people.

For example, the people still alive who once lived with the wall talk about how the wall still exists in the minds of some. There are Germans who built a wall in their mind, even as the stone wall stood, and have yet to tear it down. Ms. Heinrich remembers the wall and she said that some have never adjusted to a unified country. She was an East German and she said that many West Germans outside of Berlin are simply indifferent to the East Germans. In other words, the wall still exists in people’s minds, so they don’t mix or socialize.

Invisible walls exist around the world. There is an invisible wall between Pakistan and India, Columbia and Venezuela, the United States and Iran. Countries that decide to hate each other build walls made out of tariffs, speeches and regulations discouraging discussion. Walls are built out of military defence systems, spy satellites and computer hacking intended to bring down essential services. There are plenty of ways to build walls without picking up a single stone.

The United Nations knows that visible and invisible walls are wrong and that people should not be held in their country. Article 13 (2) in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

Perhaps the real lesson to be learned by the German’s 50th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall is found in the words of the American lawyer Clarence Darrow. He said, “You can protect your liberties in this world only by protecting the other man’s freedom.”  Protecting freedom has no need of any walls whether they are made of stone or thoughts because either can stop someone else from being free.



A Comment on Military Spending and Current Wars

As the global economy struggles to stay in recovery mode, you can’t help but wonder why so many countries are spending so much on military defence spending. Take note of the word “defence.”

Reductions are looming for the UK armed forces with 7,000 Army, 5,000 Royal Navy, and 5,000 RAF military personnel to be cut by the year 2015. Germany has passed a reform package that will reduce the Bundeswehr by 72,000 military personnel by 2015 which is a staggering 29 percent. Recently, the USA Congress passed a bill raising the debt ceiling and cutting expenses and the military defence budget is set to be reduced by as much as US$1 trillion over the next 10 years.

Those who support defence spending question these kinds of cuts for very obvious reasons. How are we going to defend ourselves with ancient creaking military equipment, reduced military staffing, and a dissatisfied military?

My question is: What exactly are we supposed to be defending?  With such massive budget cuts and military personnel reductions, is it safe to assume that the world is much safer post-recession than it was pre-recession?

It is interesting that the high levels of military spending were seen as justifiable before the recession, but now that government budgets are short funds, the military spending levels are seen as too high. The Europeans and the USA have gone a generation fighting only distant wars. The USA is particularly good at fighting wars using technology like drones, but it has not slowed down deaths by roadside IED devices. Afghanistan desert soldiers, a nation that has a natural life expectancy of 44 years and a literacy rate of 43.6 percent for men, have managed to send the Russians away in defeat and dragged a coalition war on for 10 years. As of 18, July 2011, the UK Defence Ministry reported 377 British forces have died while doing their duty in Afghanistan.

It is fitting that the economic crisis has forced European governments to cut their military budgets and personnel. What common sense and logic should have dictated, economic disaster has accomplished.  Europeans are not threatened by military action. Most do not perceive threats to their way of life either. Wars, if necessary at all, should be fought with technology in this day and age – drones, robots, computerised defence systems and so on. In this way, the stability of the global system is still kept safe but at reduced cost and loss of life.

Do you think this is naive? Consider the Stuxnet virus cyber attack on Iran’s nuclear plant that sabotaged its nuclear plant. And just recently, the computer security company reported that hacking attacks threatened the U.N secretariat, U.S. defence contractors, and even the U.S. Energy Department. The culprit? Though not named, leaks indicate it was China.

The war is on…

The best and brightest of our young scientists are our best and brightest hope that the recent cuts in military personnel and spending are justified by the coming technology.