There is a proverb in China: “He who has not been to the wall is not a hero”. In contrast to the Western definition of hero, the protagonist within this saying is neither a superman or some otherworldly mystical being, rather it is a simple person who stoically challenges the problems he encounters and who with diligence works tirelessly to overcome them. It is a depiction of a man far removed from the Hollywoodian silver screen and its typecast portrayal of heroism, rather it is an image that seeks to evoke a sense of achievement, indeed a sense of conquest among the common fallible man. Central to this mission of conquest is naturally the object that must be conquered, that is to say the wall: but what precisely is the wall that must be defeated? Conjecture posits an appropriately indefinite answer, that is to say; it above all depends exactly on which side of the wall you happen to be. For some the wall represents triumph, the demarcation of the spoils, all that is sacred lies within, while others question the validity of such an argument and postulate the necessity to hide behind a wall smacks of defeatism and the inability to placate the outer world that surrounds one. From such a viewpoint any barricade is the embodiment of defeat, confirmation that what lurks there beyond is of the greatest peril.
The ambiguous nature of the wall nonetheless is not able to mask the fact that this inanimate object makes for an often extremely lively and highly symbolic political debate. For the wall may divide good from evil, Communism from Capitalism, decadence from morality, barbarism and savagery from civilisation, liberalism from fascism or some other dichotomy that divides ingroups from outgroups, while it is not uncommon that those on the other side may simultaneously represent two different sides of a coin, one can either be a potential terrorist or desperate and traumatised refugee fleeing persecution or the oppression and destruction of war. Invariably such perceptions seem to represent a mere dyadic reflection of an extremely limited and questionable reflection of reality, in which the world becomes visible only in black and white. The source of such concepts are formed ironically by an altogether more abstract construct, namely the metaphorical walls that inhabit our minds and whose foundations have been put in place by those not only inhabiting our immediate circle but by the processes of socialisation to which we have been subjected. Parents, friends, political conviction, indeed language, religion, life experience not to mention some form of Kantian unknown quantity which may or may not have proven fundamental in the establishment of our not so individual judgements.
Undoubtedly 2016 has ushered in a renewed political weaponisation of the wall with both the Brexit referendum result and the US race to the Whitehouse between Trump and Clinton entrenching their ideologues either side of a deeply and hotly contested political divide, a divide that to the large part has been constructed upon mass migration and an imaginary Trumpian wall that currently meanders solely across the contours of the imagination, but is nonetheless besieged by a caustic value laden rhetoric, consisting of recriminations and accusations of racism. But the arguments that abound about those foreign others who dwell beyond our wall do they contain any sincere validity? And what do they reveal about the way we think?
Let’ss be clear, the people that inhabit the other side can in no way be termed terrorists, criminals or rapists, such charges cannot and should not be brought against an entire group of people and any such accusation is clouded merely by the machinations of a mind clearly divided by a psychological bias that separates those on the outer side from those on the inner side. To band such criminal labels around in the absence of any judicial process is nothing short of slander. Likewise those (often of a liberal persuasion) that seek to claim that the outer group presents no threat at all are equally deluded by a cognitive bias, a bias that appears to rest on some almost celestial claim that possess an understanding of the psychological makeup of this outer group, however it is an opinion that is equally guilty of pigeon holing this foreign other, thus depriving the people among this group of their individuality, for in reality this outer group is the manifestation of a whole host of individuals whose personalities have been constructed, namely by the metaphorical walls that inhabit their individual minds and whose foundations have been laid by those not only inhabiting their immediate individual circles but by the processes of socialisation to which they have as individuals been subjected to.
The truth is, that many of those who migrate to us are more than capable of smoothly integrating into our sanctified inner world, while others undoubtedly will fail. In life there are no guarantees from the whimsical nature of both mankind and society at large. We must persist as humans in working together, but we must cease to blindly follow doctrines to the point that it obstructs reason. Sociology and human history bare witness to the dangers of inner and outer groups as they do too, to the existence of social pathologies that are prevalent even in those states deemed as prosperous and healthy. These pathologies have highlighted the inherent problems associated with multiculturalism, exposing the increased potential for societal discord, whether this discord is the result of either right-wing or any other form of radicalism is irrelevant, of relevance is only the prevalence of discord ipso facto. Certainly we must not deny that homogeneous societies may become fragile when exposed to prolonged periods of social crisis brought on by an economic downturn or the rise of anomic conditions that are so ubiquitous not only in failed states. Crisis historically have impacted directly upon the inter group dynamics and have frequently lead to incredible acts of violence.
The divisive presidential front runner Trump who is concurrently among the prime protagonist in this political rearmament of the wall is far from a great orator but his extremely hideous description of Mexican migrants can despite its entirely unprofessional manner not deflect from the reality that those who do leave Mexico for the US are indeed those who are beset by troubles, Mexicans that have been able to succeed invariably are spared the societal push factors that force them to pastures new, it is after all not paradise that people seek to flee from.
However the high moralism with which Trump detractors attack the republican candidate and his supporters are more often than not entirely hollow and hence underscore the politically manufactured form of pseudo ethics that are seemingly omnipresent in a contemporary world fashioned by social media. This becomes more than apparent when we correlate the hypothesised construction of Trump’s wall, with the 8 barriers against migration that have been erected across the EU, be it walls or barbed wire topped fences. What we see today is a Europe a la Trump, but while the Republican candidate provokes a knee jerk reaction among liberal followings on both sides of the Atlantic, the transformation of the EU, the liberals’ darling state into fortress Europe, is meet without the slightest indignation or hyperbole. When we see such a contrast in reaction to events of equal value (let’s call it equal for simplicities sake, Trump after all has not built anything yet ) we must question to what extent the media is able to exert influence upon our mindset.
Further when we consider that the US-Mexican border is already “protected” by four-meter high barbed wire topped fences, by drones and surveillance devices, not to mention border patrols and an invisible visa regime do we see the incredulous hypocrisy of Trumps vociferous opponents? These measures nonetheless are real and reality is the natural backdrop by which we must define our perceptions of the world and it is the ability to reflect thereon which enables us to see the rhetoric for what it is, hence the wall becomes an instrument of ideology. For Trump it enables him a platform from which to pander to the right, while for those antithetical to his belief system use it by which Trump maybe quasi dehumanised. Reality however informs us that this wall predates Trump and that the debate is nothing more than illusory.
Therefore we as citizens must align ourselves with objectivity and cast away the blind political biases to which we conform. The case above provides evidence of the way in which an incredibly simplistic view of the world is imprinted upon our psyches, a view that is either black or it is white and one whos minimalism is key to dividing us the people, even on the privileged side of the wall. We must not succumb to manipulation. Rather we must seek objectivity, we should decide to sit on the proverbial fence, up there we have a much better view of whats going on beneath us, sure it may be lonely for a while, but given time everyone will hopefully find their way there, for only the truth can lead to human progress.