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A History of Walls

Donald Trump wants to build a wall and thinks Mexico will pay for it, but how have walls fared throughout history, and what can this teach us?

by Joe Bish
02 September 2016, 12:00am

Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikipedia.

Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate who looks like someone launched a platter of glue-covered cocktail sausages at a bale of hay, has made a large part of his campaign about building a wall between the United States and Mexico. It's not just a catchphrase to Trump; he's going to do it. He even seems to believe that there's a chance that the Mexican government will foot the bill for it.

History has been full of walls – it's what's between you and hearing your parents having sex. We need walls to live. We even need them in a metaphorical sense, as in boundaries, rules. Yep, the wall is a great thing. But is this wall the right wall? Let's take a trip down memory lane to the walls of yore, to see if they've made a positive impact on human history.

HADRIAN'S WALL

Photo by Steven Fruitsmaak via Wikipedia.

WHERE IS THE WALL: It started on the banks of the River Tyne to the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea. Basically west to east up near Scotland.

WHEN WAS IT BUILT: 122AD.

WHAT'S THE WALL FOR: Hadrian's Wall was a fortification that ran for 80 Roman miles (which is different to our millennial miles which are shorter and less hardworking). Historians disagree as to why the fort was built in the first place, but it was mostly likely a show of strength for Hadrian, who was dealing with pockets of rebellion all over the shop, including Brittania, which is what we used to be called. Also, he probably wanted to keep Scottish people out, which is fair enough, cuz they suck.

IS IT A GOOD WALL: Back in the day this would have been a fantastic wall, replete with centurions and the like, but now it just serves as a place for bone-idle schoolkids to moan on and around. Traipsing through the freezing Tyneside moors, thousands of students make the pilgrimage to this line of rubble, which is now about a foot high, so they can sit on it and eat Dairylea Dunkers and drink Fruit Shoots. It is good for pushing other kids off of, that can't be denied, but for the most part Hadrian's Wall has lost its sheen, its spark. If Hadrian could see Hadrian's Wall now, he'd probably say "where the fuck has my wall gone?"

THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA


Photo by Severin Stalder via Wikipedia.

WHERE IS THE WALL: It's in China. It doesn't really have a location because it's 5,500 fucking miles long.

WHEN WAS IT BUILT: Most of the wall that still exists was built during the Ming dynasty in the 1300s, but bits of it were being built as early as 7th century BCE, around the time your mum was born.

WHAT'S THE WALL FOR: The Great Wall of China is a series of giant fortifications that were used to protect its empire from banditry and raids from the people of the Eurasian Steppe, ie Mongolia and Kazakhstan. It also served as a kind of border control and tollbooth for Silk Road merchants. Essentially it is a nation-length 'piss off' from the Chinese empire to every one else around them.

IS IT A GOOD WALL: Now this is what I call a wall. Extreme length, sturdiness, a hundred lifetimes of building, purpose, legacy – this is the wall that all other walls aspire to be. This is the Tiger Woods of walls. It is what China is perhaps most famous for other than working Apple product manufacturers into an early grave. You can see this thing from fucking space, that's how great it is. Can you see Hadrian's Wall from space? No. You can't even see the Hadrian's Wall gift shop from space. And you know what? Why would you even want to. The Great Wall of China calls Hadrian's Wall a cuck to its face.

BERLIN WALL

Photo by Tony Webster via Wikipedia.

WHERE IS THE WALL: It was in Berlin.

WHEN WAS IT BUILT: 1961.

WHAT'S THE WALL FOR: Officially called the "Anti-Fascist Protective Wall", the Berlin Wall separated East and West Berlin. After Hitler and his naughty chums kind of messed everything up in World War II, the ensuing Potsdam Agreement between the allied forces meant that the east of Germany was under Soviet watch via the German Democratic Republic. The west, or the 'cool one', was supported by NATO and the Brits and Yanks. It ended in 1990 when the five states of Germany were reunited and the barrier was deconstructed over the course of the next two years. Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall (content)!

IS IT A GOOD WALL: The Berlin Wall, or perhaps rather the footage of hippies smashing it up with sledgehammers, has been great illustrative b-roll for lazy filmmakers for the last 25 or so years. It was also a bit of a scary wall because of the 'death zone' that existed between the two city halves. It doesn't have the romance of the Great Wall of China, but it's probably cooler than Hadrian's Wall, which I now want to destroy with my bare hands as I'm getting increasingly annoyed at its pointlessness. Also, the Berlin Wall had loads of graffiti on it, which is also known as street art, which is lame.

THE ISRAELI WEST BANK BARRIER

Photo by Justin McIntosh via Wikipedia.

WHERE IS THE WALL: It's on what is called the Green Line, a demarcation line established in the 1949 Armistice Agreement, though it stretches beyond that.

WHEN WAS IT BUILT: 2000.

WHAT'S THE WALL FOR: The wall was erected as a result of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, an uprising by Palestinians against Isreal who felt they were being subjugated. The wall was built by the Israeli government who thought it the only way to quell the violence in the region. It's seen by the Israelis as a form of border control, whereas the Palestinians view it as a tool of segregation.

IS IT A GOOD WALL: No. This wall is a really bad vibe. It's made even worse by Banksy having drawn all over it. Hopefully this wall goes the same way as the Berlin Wall, and I can sell bits of it on eBay for loads of money.

TEN WALLS

Photo via FACT.

WHERE IS THIS WALL: Lithuania.

WHEN WAS IT BUILT: Ten Walls was born in 1983.

WHAT'S THE WALL FOR: Ten Walls makes progressive house for Europeans who have rat tails and wear hoodies that you can't believe any sane human would ever wear.

IS IT A GOOD WALL: Though he did say that all gay people are paedophiles, 'Walking With Elephants' is a great tune, so the jury is still out on this peculiar Lithuanian wall.

So there you have it, Trump my man. Look at these historical walls and their context and tell me whether you think it'd be a good idea to build one on the Mexican border. My foray in to wall history is making me err on the side of 'no'. Also Hadrian's Wall is a piece of shit that can get fucked.

@joe_bish

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