The wall – ideal metaphor for boundary

The Great Wall will remain with its over 21.000 km for the foreseeable future the largest border of the world, despite the installation between the US and Mexico with its over 3100 km long fence. The 24 km long fence close to Ceuta, die160 km of the former Berlin wall and the 759 km long barrier construction between Israel and the West Jordan territory show that the oldest form of territorial delineation is still used. The aspects of a boundary can be shown wth the example of a wall.

There are Boundaries with and without walls. Natural border lines always arose along waters, deserts and mountains. As soon as those dividing lines run straight on a map, they are artificially created, as for example the northern border of the US between Buffalo point and Vancouver. Former colonies can tell a tale of it. Why are walls still built despite our todays global mindset?

  • Determination
    In the simplest case, ownership structures are indicated with a fortified border. One marks the surfaces that belong to a territory and separates them thereby from their environment. As an island that is surrounded by water and separated from other landmasses, the border determines a territory that belongs together, in which certain rules, convictions and behaviors are valid. In many cultures a wall defines the family sphere. The Hutongs in China and the properties in Arab countries are surrounded by high rising walls that are built even before the construction of the house starts.
  • Containment
    Walls are always a barrier for those, who are inside. Thus, it is an ideal means, in order to prevent that someone or something leaves a certain area unchecked. That is not only valid for prisons, but also for industrial facilities that prevent that way theft. The surrounded area can be better controlled and secured with this frame. The boundary creates a hurdle that ensures the control in the interior. The confinement is perceived as more or less unpleasant depending upon its size. In the earlier city island of Berlin the border was never far away. A large country that drags on across several time zones stimulates thereby sometimes the impression of boundless vastness. But our comparable mental walls are built through our education and experiences. In extreme cases, we are in an information bubble that we cannot leave, since we are limited to the information that is provided.
  • Exclusion
    Outside of the wall you find the other people, who are forced by the border to remain outside. Over time the different becomes strange, threatening and unwanted. This leads to the fact that the inhabitants get closer together, define themselves through exclusion and polarize more and more against the strangers. The border prevents the necessary open exchange of goods and opinions. Incomprehensibly those separatists follow thereby the wrong way of North Korea. We observe excesses of this exclusion until today. Surprisingly former victims of such exclusion do not hesitate to show their current racism and to live their intolerance publically. That reaches from the illegal building of settlements in the West Jordan territory, to the secured residential facilities (so-called Gated Communities) in many countries.

Borders create above all orientation – this belongs together and that does not belong to it. The wall is the symbol of a border between A and B. Within some laws are valid and outside some others. Thus, a border by itself is helpful, informative and practical. However, as soon as borders are misused to lock up or out, they become dangerous. Currently the pendulum swings back to the nation statehood. The walls are built again – mentally and physically.

Bottom line: Borders are an important tool, in order to specify a coherent territory, where a common identity and common bases exist. This creates security and comfort. At the same time borders are used, in order to lock up and out people. The wall clarifies this situation. For this reason it is an ideal metaphor for boundary.