From Hadrian’s Wall in England to the Great Wall of China, human beings have had a history of building walls. But what is it about a wall that is so comforting to the human psyche that people around the world obsessed over them. In some cases it was to separate civilizations from nature or civilizations from other civilizations. But walls are more than just a tangible form of separation; they are the embodiment of a subconscious concept that has thrust mankind from the pits of primordial ooze to the present.
Within our very own minds we build and bear the weight of walls every single day. One of the most “monu-mental” walls built by the subconscious is that of faith. The experiences that we encounter from early childhood to now dictate the path we all follow in terms of faith. And walls are constructed to keep one’s beliefs in and others’ beliefs out. For some, these walls have many gaps or doors built within them. These doors represent a person’s ability to be open-minded about something. Then you have those who have no doors—only brick and mortar built higher and thicker. These people you hear about in the news after they’ve blown themselves up on a crowded bus in Iraq. For these people, faith is an unflinching principle in their lives that is to be taken to the grave. There is no room for interpretation and no welcome guests allowed in who wish to change these strict beliefs. And when someone has built a wall of this nature without doors something unique happens: the wall encloses the rest of the mind, coming full circle, and in essence traps that person within their own inability to escape. This is why suicide bombers resort to killing themselves and others. This is why people flagellate themselves in the streets. This is what drives crusades, jihads and witch hunts.
When it comes to a person’s faith, by very definition of the word regarding a lack of evidence, doors should be constructed if for no other reason than to act as an air hole in a coal mine. Without some form of a release for the free exchange of ideas which is healthy for the mind, the pressure of one’s own incapacity to understand something as vague, personal and unknown as faith and yet totally commit to something so intangible, a collapse of the mind is the only certainty.
Another wall that the mind constructs is one of racial separation. One of the issues in Iraq can be connected to the majority of Iraqis and the Kurdish population to the north. Even the Iranians who consider themselves Persian have a racial agenda in the Middle East in conflict with Arabs. And yet, only .01% of the genetic code represents salient traits. Race itself is a wall constructed to unite a certain group of people with similar physical features and exclude all others who do not match. These walls, too, have serious consequences much like that of religion. If the wall one builds becomes too massive then race will be the only thing that person sees and will consume their thoughts.
This unhealthy obsession with racial differences has led to ethnic cleansing and genocide on astounding levels from the Holocaust to the Sudan. Most people have doors within these walls that allow them to see other human beings as more than just a color or physical trait. But there are many who still believe that those differences mean something more than an evolutionary history of that person’s geographic origins. It is when their actions become violent in the form of hate crimes that their walls have enclosed upon itself leaving nowhere for the emotional pressure within to vent. This lack of ideas being exchanged between what the person believes and what others believe is what makes that person incapable of living in an ethnically diverse society.
There are many walls we build. They are prejudices that are inescapable because all around us we encounter experiences that change our ways of thinking on a daily basis. It is how we survive in that we are able to mentally adapt to new situations. And so these walls do have a constructive purpose. But it is when these prejudices are built brick by brick to the point where they are no longer able to adapt that the wall becomes fixed and will only devour itself in the end. There is no way to fully deconstruct a wall; it will always remain within the subconscious to serve as a helpful variable in the decision-making processes of our lives. But we can always build more doors.