The (Anthropological) Truth About Walls

Posted on February 15, 2017

Photo: flickr

Building walls has been a method used for centuries intended to serve more or less of the same purpose--to define borders and make sure people stay on their due side. Yet in modern times, the idea of walls seems almost outdated. What implications would building a physical wall have in today's context?

Walls are only as effective as the people living around it allow them to be. Think about the fencing along the edges of your front or back yard. To any passerby, they understand that it is your property and to walk around it. There is an understanding that almost borders respect. Yet, if it was a thief, the fence is no different then a locked door--he or she will still try to get through it. In historical examples, there are numerous cases where walls don't work. The Great Wall of China, gigantic and thick, actually has a pretty bad track record of keeping unwanted people out, like when Mongol leader Altan Khan raided the country's capital. Thus, to have a successful system, the people on both sides need a mutual understanding and common consensus.

With American President Trump's attempt to build a wall to keep out illegal immigrants from the southern border, tensions rise between America and Mexico's presidents. The wall does not represent a physical force, but a social message--stay out. This ideology will have multiple consequences in how the two countries' partnership. Without respect, civility and understanding, Trump's wall have disasterous after-effects.

Source material from Scientific American