Sunday, 14 August 2011
The Berlin Wall at 50
(Remnants of the Berlin Wall at Potsdamer Platz, taken in January this year)
A couple of decades ago, this was the final frontier for us in the west. Although I was only nine when the Berlin Wall tumbled, I grew up vaguely knowing that communism was bad, Regan was good and seeing a lot of people on TV climbing up on top of this thing and pick-axing it to death.
But fifty years ago the construction of the symbolic Iron Curtain began, as the Soviet led East German authorities tried to stop the brain drain from their country.
As I said, for me as a youngster, I had a vague notion of the communists ad the Cold War, but I was really too young to appreciate the significance of the era or of the geopolitics. It was only later, as I grew up and learned more about the time period and the events of WWII that preceded it, that the true realities of a divided Europe came home.
It is a sober thought, to look back and see a continent now united but was less than a generation ago divided amongst two very bitter rivals.
But, this weekend does mark the fiftieth anniversary of the beginnings of the wall, the scores of dead people who tried to flee East Germany and the entrenchment that shows today of Europe's East/West divide. And it is a sobering thought.
A lot of people in the UK are Eurosceptic, there is a clear and vocal majority who are against the EU and what it stands for I am very much for the EU, but not in its present, cumbersome and corrupt way. But having travelled through much of the former Eastern Bloc and the rest of the world, the obvious advantages of the EU outweigh many of its cons. I am glad that the bulk of Europe is now governed by the EU, and I very much take advantage of this fact in many ways, personally and professionally. It has made my life a lot easier and the reality that I am living today is due to the fact that there are no more Cold War barriers (part of the praise must also go to NATO and the US backing we had during the Cold War era).
Anyway, some food thought from Der Spiegel. A great article and a sobering reflection of Europe's society.