I have just been reading a great article on walls in the New York Times by John Washington (11th May). He highlights the work of installation artist Richard Misrach calling into question the haunting absurdity of Donald Trump’s masterplan to build a 2,000 mile wall so those darn Mexicans can’t come in. It would rip through the desert landscape like a scar, separating communities and damaging a pretty fragile ecosystem. He talks about the collective alienation of people from the landscapes where they live.
Misrach focuses on the geography and the proposed wall’s collision with it, doubling up the alienation of peoples trying to cross it. Does this have resonance with our current debate to stay in or leave the EU?
Looking at the current commentary just this last week – we have had Cameron stressing the positives of staying in to reinforce maintaining the peace within Europe responded to by Boris Johnson saying of course leaving Europe doesn’t mean we run the risk of going to war again with countries within it and that staying together has made us more grouchy with each other than leaving – take the rise of right wing parties in Europe.
The language of extreme positions continues whether you are talking about economics, migrants, preserving our NHS whatever. The man in the middle is left bewildered by the imponderabilities of what staying in or leaving entails. I am no fan of Brexit, perhaps as I don’t like little Englanders who proclaim like Trump ‘let’s make Britain great again’. This in an age of globalisation sounds a tad Victorian.
I find the debate about migrants particularly disturbing, and that’s my connection with walls – that desire to be separated, to be ‘sovereign’ and ‘independent’. With one of the lowest rates of unemployment within the EU we should claim to be proud of our society of many colours and creeds, and that ought to flourish within the current limits, knowing for instance that London is the third largest French city.
So our ability to live anywhere in the EU without restriction, our ability to employ other Europeans, the transferability of everything from medical care to pensions, the richness of Ideas and creativity that the EU brings – all this and a lot more adds to our freedoms – that is a price that is worthwhile paying if it means losing some of our independence to act alone.
I accept that the current awful situation in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa is creating enormous challenges to the way we accept those outside our little island who are less fortunate from outside into our society. We must not at the end of the day lose our humanity, and we ought to recognise that walls and the language of alienation hurt our humanity and that is no price worth paying. So Mr Trump how about building some of those darn bridges?