Sunday, March 27, 2005

Mr Gorbachev, bring back that wall 

Put this one into the "Can't make everyone happy" files:
"Nearly a quarter of western Germans and 12 percent of easterners want the Berlin Wall back -- more than 15 years after the fall of the barrier that split Germany during the Cold War, according to a new survey."
The result of itself is not particularly significant or alarming. There are in every polity around the world minorities which believe all sorts of strange things; so we shouldn't be too hard on the Germans.

The result is also meaningless as an emotive response to a complex problem. At the root of the sentiment expressed above lies disenchantment with the reunification, which is evident in other results of the poll: "47 percent of the easterners agree with the statement that the West 'acquired the east like a colony,' while 58 percent of the westerners back the statement that 'easterners tend to wallow in self-pity'."

But if you ask the Berlin Wall nostalgics in the West "Would you like the division restored and the Wall put up again if it means that 30 Soviet divisions are poised again at your border and the specter of nuclear annihilation hangs over Central Europe?" and those in the East, "...if it means that you're again imprisoned in one big, impoverished, hopeless stalag run by Stasi?" - then the answers might be slightly different (although, I suspect, more so in the West, as there is still a significant number of old believers in former communist countries, mostly among the old war generation).

All this underscores the fact that no change is ever painless, that there are inevitably some losers, and that - well - life's never perfect. What's important is the sense of perspective: is the situation better now for more people, in more aspects of their lives, in the longer term? This does not mean that we should discount the costs and forget about those left behind - but we shouldn't let malcontents color our views and determine our policies either.


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