Monday, November 09, 2009

20 Years On: The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall
Source: Associated Press/BBC

The world has changed a lot since 1989. It is hard to imagine that Germany was once divided into two parts for many years after World War II.  It is hard to believe that city of Berlin was once divided by a wall and difficult to fathom that it has been 20 years since the wall came down and sparked a chain of events that eventually led to the end of the Cold War. For all those too young to remember the Cold War, all you need to know is that it meant constant tension, threat of a nuclear war and inspired some of the best movies of our time! Who can forget all those films where the bad guys always  seemed to speak Russian? Did someone say Hunt for Red October? In the end, the West 'won' the Cold War but it is ironic that 20 years later, capitalism has basically imploded and we are all feeling the effects of the world economic crisis. 

I'm trying to remember 1989. TV Images that come to mind revolve around sledgehammers hacking away at the Berlin Wall, families being reunited and celebrations all over Germany. I also recall how real and fake chunks of the wall were up for sale everywhere. In fact, if the internet was up and running in 1989, I'm sure chunks of the wall  (real and fake) would have been all over E-Bay.

Speaking of East Germany, a couple of months ago, I finally got round to seeing the 2003 film Good Bye Lenin! which is set in Communist East Berlin. The film  is a comedy/drama that chronicles events from just before the collapse of the wall in 1989 all the way up to German Reunification in 1990. Aside from the amusing plot underlying the film,it shows the shocking disparities between  life in East Germany compared to the much wealthier West Germany. Was also interesting to see the rapid changes that took place as communism gave way to capitalism literally overnight! Of course the major catch for me was that I watched the film entirely in German with no subtitles .Thanks to the good people over at Wikipedia, I was actually able to follow the story!

Today, celebrations are set to take place all over Germany. Hopefully, the rest of the world will reflect on other barriers such as race, religion, ethnicity that separate people all over the world. Can't we all just get along?


Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

I have been listening to this on the news. To me communism or capitalism doesn't matter. What matters is progress and development and the elimination of greed. Communism or capitalism are mere themselves they do nothing. Take capitalism for instance, it breeds a few billionaires and a huge gap between the haves and the have nots. a few times one or two have nots cross the line and we hail them. Tell if there is a company that can challenge Boeing or Airbus? They have taken up the market...! Communism fell because of oppression. And under Capitalism there is economic oppression and the legalisation of stealing. Greed too has grown.

Ok...I was a child when the Berlin wall fell and so heard only snippets about it. I have a poem on this (wrote it sometime ago and would post it soon).

Like you said, Today there are more invisible things that divides us than just a physical wall. We are divided along political lines, religious beliefs, race, and economic associations. Even in Germany there are a lot of race divisions. How do we break such walls? That's what we have to address now. Let's use the Berlin Wall as a metaphor to defining these walls.

Abena Serwaa said...

Wow, well said Nana F-A! At first I did not agree with you about communism/capitalism until I read your comments to the end. What you said makes perfect sense. Looking forward to seeing that poem...

kekeli said...

"We wish the wall was still there"- The opinions of some Germans, because they believe things were "better".
Their dreams of going to the "promised land". and living the West German life never quite came true - it was a disappointment for many . As a student in Leipzig those days, my Dad told us about how life in the East was for Germans living there - can you imagine living a life where your every move is monitored? They as students moved freely from the East to the West and vice versa and were the envy of their East German colleagues. Some East German women got married to Africans to escape communist East Germany .Today many parts of still remain very poor and racist. There are "no-go" areas - as a foreigner you do no want to be caught there. There have been numerous reports of people who have been beaten up by skin heads.
I have been to Dresden, East Germany, only once but then again Dresden is a big city so that might be different. I'm eager to see what the next couple of years bring for Germany , especially the East.

Abena , do you speak any German at all? For some, German sounds really harsh for me it's more like my second mother tongue ;)
Oh I did watch a film in Chinese once but with English subtitles.

Abena Serwaa said...

Very interesting insight Kekeli! I'm really impressed that German is your 2nd Mother Tongue. I don't speak any German beyond basic greetings but I have been there 3 times. My uncle married a German in the late '60s so I have family in the North Rhine-Westphalia area...Never been to East Germany and I have heard quite a lot about their problems with racism and poverty. Would be very curious to see how things turn out in Germany in years to come as well.

novisi said...

ok. so the wall fell!!!

for me, there was no need for the wall in the first place. it's just another representation of how narrow men and women have been and how they have retarded progress of humanity!

instead of cooperating to make advancements for a better future for men, we build walls to divide instead! and these walls exists in all sorts of forms! some are just in the mind!

on the issue of communism and capitalism, i agree with Nana Fredua-Agyeman largely.

my take really is that capitalism or communism is not excuse for trampling on the basic human rights of people! i believe that it's about time the world resorts to 'solutions'- things that work and bring harmony instead of making 'angels' of one set of principles while making 'devils' of another set of principles that could both work if applied rightly!

so Bush attacking Iraq to promote Oil interests under the guise of a so called 'WMDs' is as bad as the blatant offenses of the Khmer rouge!

so for me, the fall of the 'wall' is only good as another stamp against 'inhumanity' but not for or against capitalism or communism since these are principles that must just co-exist!

Abena Serwaa said...

Hey Novisi, in retrospect, the wall seems like a completely ridiculous notion but at the height of Cold War tension it seemed like a good idea to all parties involved. Alot about the Cold War does not make sense to us now for example the policy of containment and fighting to prevent the spread of communism from Vietnam to Cambodia to Laos and eventually to the US. It all seems ludicrous because we have hindsight.
I do admire your idealism though!