Global Security | The greatest wall ever built

Walled World . Td Architects . source

Accelerated through the fear from the attacks of 9/11 and all what followed, the so called ‘Western Society’ is constructing the greatest wall ever build[sic] on this planet. On different building sites on all five inhabitable continents, walls, fences and high-tech border surveillance are under construction in order to secure the citizens and their high quality of life within this system.

The fall of the Berlin Wall was described as the historical moment that marks the demolition of world’s last barrier between nation states. Yet it took the European Union only six years to create with the Schengen Agreement in 1995 a new division only 80km offset to the east of Berlin.

Together with the wall in Israel, the US- Mexican border, the Australian Coast Defence and the DMZ in Korea, it makes part of a worldwide system that contains an exclusive society (14% of the world’s population) with an average income of €2,500, -/month versus the ones in front of the wall with an average income of only €150, -/month.” Td Architects

In 2006 Td Architects produced this map of global surveillance and boundary-making. The map indicates the major boundary-making acts [of the 20th and 21st Centuries] as a systematic division of the world. Against this ‘inside’ / ‘outside’ duality Td map the Top 50 ‘Quality of Life Cities’ globally. Interestingly, only one of these is located outside the control zone.

Jeremy Crampton, of Georgia State University PhD, describes borders as a paradox, being both creative and destructive at the same time. Creative, because the act of marking imbues identity and status, the making of ‘ground’; but destructive in the act exclusion that they perpetrate, the demarcation of ‘in’ and ‘out’. source

Inside the control zone 14% of the world’s population subsist on 73% of the worlds income; outside the control zone 86% of the population subsist on 27% of the income.

Interestingly, boundaries [in the linear sense of the term] are a primarily human construct.

“One calls the equator an imaginary line, but it would be wrong to call it a line that has merely been thought up. It was not created by thought as the result of a psychological process, but is only apprehended or grasped by thought. If its being apprehended were a matter of its coming into being, then we could not say anything positive about the equator for any time prior to this supposed coming into being.”

Gottlob Frege, The Foundations of Arithmetic, 1884 cited in source

And this, is quite possibly where the problem lies. Where boundaries are considered linear, and of dualities, a lack of flexibility breeds conflict.

The Walled World Case Studies

The Red Chapel . Mads Brügger (Director) . source

“Comedy is the soft spot of all dictatorships.”
Mads Brügger

A. DMZ Korea

The Korean Demilitarised Zone, or DMZ, is a strip of land within the Korean Peninsula. Created in the ceasefire of 1953, the DMZ serves as a buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea. Roughly severing the peninsula in two, the buffer is 248 kilometres in length, and approximately one kilometre in width. At either side, armies are assembled, prepared to defend if and when necessary. Internally, it contains buildings in which meetings between the two countries can be held — one side of a table on North Korean territory, and the other in the South.

[Image from Mads Brügger’s The Red Chapel, a Gonzo documentary from Denmark. More on this later]

B. The Australian Northern Approach

The Australian Defence Force conducts coastal defence, in the form of surveillance and response, to Australia’s northern waters extending right up to the inshore Indonesian maritime boundaries. The coastal defence stragegy has, since 2001, doubled the number of days that customs vessels patrol the northern approaches by sea, and has increased air surveillance by 20%. Over the past 10 years new boat arrivals have undergone processing both on- and offshore, depending on legislation at the time.

C. The United States—Mexico Border

The US—Mexico barrier is comprised of a series of separation barriers designed to prevent illegal immigration into the United States. The 3,140 kilometre border traverses a variety of barriers, including urban areas and deserts. The barrier is located primarily in the urban sections of the boundary, including San Diego, California, and El Paso, Texas. Between 1998 and 2004 1,954 persons are officially reported to have died along the US—Mexico border. According to ‘No More Deaths’, 1,086 bodies are reported to have been recovered in the southern Arizona desert between 2004 and 2008. The ‘Secure Fence Act’ of 2006 permits over 1,100 kilometres of double-reinforced fence to be constructed. source

D. The Melilla border fence

The Melilla border fence is a separation barrier between Morocco and the Spanish city of Melilla. The barrier is constructed of razor wire and reaches a height of 6 metres. It consists of eleven kilometres of parallel fencing, costing Spain €433 million.

The Ceuta border fence

The Ceuta border fence is a separation barrier between Morocco and Autonomous City of Ceuta in Spain. It consists of parallel three metre high fences topped with barbed wire and was financed by the European Union at €30 million.

E. Schengen Border

The Schengen Border is an agreement among European states allowing for common policy on the temporary entry of persons and the border system. A total of 31 countries – including all EU states except the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, but including non-EU members Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland – have signed the agreement.

Though the UK and the Republic of Ireland have not signed the agreement, they are involved in the Schengen co-operation and the Schengen Information System for law enforcement practicality.

Taking-down Walls

Maps . Semâ Bekirovic . source

If the idea of boundary that exists in these case studies is a construct, then it may be acknowledged that in fact, a boundary is all about perception, making and marking. And maybe later still: re-perceiving, re-making, and re-marking.

Judith Schalansky grew up in East Germany. Walled in, unable to travel, she developed a love of exploring through the pages of her atlas – a product of the political system she was born into:

The first atlas in my life was called Atlas fur jedermann (Everyman’s Atlas). I didn’t realize then that my atlas – like every other, was committed to an ideology. Its ideology was clear from its map of the world, carefully positioned on a double-page spread so that the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic fell on two separate pages. On this map there was no wall dividing the two German countries, no Iron Curtain; instead, there was the blinding white, impassable edge of the page…

… Ever since then, I have not trusted political world maps, … They grow out of date quickly and give barely any information apart from who is currently running which scrap of colour.

p.9, Schalansky, in Preface, ‘Paradise is an island. So is hell.’
in Atlas of Remote Islands, Penguin: London, 2010

Extended Reading

Europe’s Border-free Zone Expands

International Boundaries Research Unit – Boundary Resources

About this entry