Walls Poison The Very Cities They're Meant To Protect

All over the globe societies live in separation, in the shadows of imposing structures with monumental physical audacity. Walls don't just divide societies. They poison them.

Ireland, Mexico, Bangladesh, India, Cyprus, Canada, America, Israel and Palestine are examples of places that are today divided by walls and fences.

These barriers are an undeniable anachronism to the ultra-connected world people currently live in.

"Walls, they seem so medieval," travel writer and author of Walls: Travels Along The Barricades Marcello Di Cintio told 10 daily.

The Indo-Bangladeshi Fence. Image: Getty Images.

"Here we are living in a time where borders mean less and less. Culture, commerce and communications do not respect national borders or international borders. Neither do things like terrorism and climate change and the bird flu.

"All things we are afraid of are not bound by the lines we draw on maps and yet we are building these medieval structures on our borders," he said.

While humanity can travel over such barricades digitally, Di Cintio said the physical presence of a barrier has an intense power to poison ideas and attitudes and perpetuate the existence of a social enemy.

Nicosia/Lefkosa wall in Cyrpus. Image: Getty Images.

"[There is] something about a fence that makes you distrust the other side, which is a remarkable, psychological power. They could be your cousins and now they are your enemy."

The barriers also have the power to establish fear in the separated communities -- the idea that the people behind it are dangerous and need to be contained.

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"If we can't see the person on the other side of the wall because of the wall then our relationships with those people are utterly destroyed, they are physically severed... it is a manufactured fear," Di Cintio said.

"It becomes theatrical.

"The only way you un-other the other is to have some kind of contact, some kind of engagement -- something the wall, by definition, is preventing."

The West Bank Wall in Israel.  Image: Getty Images.

The Berlin Wall manufactured this type of extreme social separation.

Since the fall of the Wall on November 9, 1989 the feeling of separation has continued for some German nationals.

This is described as Mauer Im Kopf (Wall In The Mind) where the presence of a physical barricade for 28 years left the remnants of divide in some parts of Berlin and wider Germany.

These still exist today in social trends such as voting patterns and unemployment rates, and also deeply in the views German people hold regarding themselves and their nation.

"There were people who had grown up entirely in that other system so they did genuinely have different values and different ideals, so while they were all Germans in a sense, they had grown up in different systems," Peter Monteath Professor of History at Flinders University told 10 daily.

"[It was] so, so deep rooted it didn't simply fall away when the wall came down."

Man taking a photo with the Berlin Wall in East Germany. Image: Getty Images.

In fact, the difficulty with conforming to a western lifestyle was so difficult for some East Germans they began to wish for the restoration of the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

This nostalgia for the East became known as Ostalgie.

"They blocked out the negatives in the GDR's history and they focused on what they saw as positives and they pined for them in the hope those times could return because... there are these differences and gaps," Monteath said.

"Because these differences had existed over such a long time and became generational, reunification was not as easy as some would have though it would be."

The concept of Mauerkrankheit (Wall Sickness) was coined by East German psychiatrist Dietfried Müller-Hegemann who documented possible medical impacts of living in a divided society on eastern residents.

He observed patients that showed increased rates of psychosis, schizophrenia, and phobias as a result of living in a walled society.

The Berlin Wall in 1986. Image: Getty Images.

Müller-Hegemann could not properly research the condition for fear of being persecuted by East German authorities.

However he predicted rates of depression, dejectedness and increased risk of suicide would continue as long at the wall was standing.

"There was this psychological impact the wall imposed on people... and you saw that everywhere you went where suddenly people were afraid of someone because of what side of the wall they were on," Di Cintio told 10 daily.

"... maybe they were ignoring the fact that the wall was making those cultural or social disputes permanent and walls are causing more problems than they are solving. Walls aren't a solution, they are a surrender to the problem."

Featured Image: The Berlin Wall/Getty Images. 

Contact Siobhan at skenna@networkten.com.au