The walls surround us…soon they will fall

Friends of the Earth – Brazil

The walls surround us…soon they will fall

The apartheid wall in Palestina, 17 October 2009. (Credits: Glori Lorenz.)

On the horizon, there is a wall. It is faraway, distant from most of us. We can barely see it because we believe it is not part of our reality.  Yet, this is a mere illusion: each and every wall tells us it is part of us. So it is important that we take a closer look to see better. What is this massive wall at the end of the landscape? From a distance, it appears as though it is a forest, but it is nothing more than a plantation that should not be there. With its voracity devouring the soil, and with it the water and life of the countryside. Rich, native lands become inhospitable deserts where nothing grows, other than the profits of the few.  The communities that live there become hostage, they become dependent upon one lone source of income to fulfill their desire for a better life, facing truculence by the banks or the bullets of the henchmen, when they reject this project.  Many do not resist, on seeing the raising of this wall upon their lands, and leave – from the countryside to the city, where new walls enclose them. We can see this in the eucalyptus monocultures for the cellulose industry, the extensive agricultural belts of soybeans, sugarcane and corn degrading our diverse landscapes, in the burning of the Savannah and the Amazonia rain forest to raise cattle; wiping out entire ecosystems, together with the indigenous communities and quilombolas1 which inhabit them. A wall of death rises on the horizon, and we need to knock it down.

At the end of the street, there is a wall. It may be around the corner, we barely notice it. We naturalize the tall and long city walls. Erected by real estate speculation, by enormous corporations, by the Government, they cut across the city and restrict our access and our mobility. They even invade our parks and rivers. They deny the right to the city for those who cannot afford to pay for it, those who do not want to profit from the city. Those who prefer to simply enjoy the urban interaction with their neighbors, their fellow townspeople, their friends and colleagues. These walls isolate populations and create artificial environments of prosperity and misery that do not interact, they don’t see or hear each other but their reinforce each others existence. They take over the city center and make our cities unsafe, ugly and impersonal. We can see them in the wall that is being raised for the expansion of an airport – and the expulsion of an entire neighborhood, Vila Nazaré – in Porto Alegre. We see them throughout the country, in the innumerable parks walled off, in the luxurious condominiums that illegally occupy public areas and isolate communities from their commons. A wall of exclusion rises at the end of the street, and we need to bring it down.

Then at our front door, there is a wall. And what happens from there on in, they say, is none of our business. Yet, as it is a wall, our wall, it also speaks to us. What happens behind this wall is perverse and sick. Violence, rape, abuse. Control, oppression, ridicule. Possessiveness, lawlessness, perversity. Women and children suffering constantly from the disorders of chauvinism, wedged in violence and systemic silence, brutally controlled and enclosed by a patriarchal system sustained by and sustaining the capitalist system, based on a blatantly unequal social pact. They fool themselves, those who believe that this wall is physical and that the problem is only in the home, even though the majority of cases of aggression take place in the domestic sphere and are carried out by people with whom one is familiar. This subtle wall is a constant shadow over women and children, where ever they go. There are thousands of women beaten every fifteen seconds in Brazil, more than a thousand women are assassinated for the sole reason of being a woman, in addition to the innumerable children whose childhood is tortured by physical, sexual and psychological abuse; by a society that refuses to give voice to their future and replaces play with work. A wall of violence rises at our front door, and we need to take it down.

In front of our eyes, there is a wall. A subtle wall, heaved up by indifference and by the individualism fomented by the culture of capitalism. A wall that blindfolds us to the desperation of those around us who survive hunger and humiliation on the corner, in front of banks and markets, beseeching with their eyes and hands for help and recognition. But that wall in front of our faces makes them invisible: to each one of us, to businesses and the government. When we see them, we only see problems. And those human beings continue there, invisible, as are their vulnerabilities – hunger, sickness, insecurity and distrust – as also their stolen dreams and moments of hidden happiness. Social inequality and homelessness has doubled in the last three years in a city such as Porto Alegre, demonstrating that which we try so hard not to see. A wall of invisibility has risen in front of our eyes, and we need to tear it down.

In our heads, there is a wall. An intangible wall that impedes interactions, distorts our relationships and complicates our understanding of our own selves. They hold our ideas in stagnant boxes and imprison our own actions as fruitless and vitiated. They enclose us in real and virtual bubbles, where we only talk about the same things, maintaining the same discussions and meeting up with the same people all the time. Stamping us with anxiety, depression and rage that affect us as a profuse epidemic. It drives us to craziness, apathy and a lack of social interaction. It bans dialogue, polarizes our actions and makes violence and hate a political option. A wall of suffering rises within our minds, and we need to tear it out.

A wall, albeit, is a human creation. It is subject to faults, of course. And, if we closely observe it, we can see that none of these walls is solid, rigid and sufficiently cohesive: in all of them there are cracks. In each crack, someone is resisting these walls. Resistance that is expressed in action that is much more concrete than those walls that are raised against our will. In agro-ecological and food sovereignty movements and agrarian reform at the grassroots. In diverse groups and popular communities that resist the gentrification of the city and shout out far and wide that the cities also belong to them. In the innumerable feminist movements that proliferate around the world, in the strength of women who resist the conquering of their bodies, minds and hearts and continue to fight in search of improved conditions in their lives and their dreams. In the many initiatives of social inclusion of people in situations of social vulnerability, that allow these individuals have the opportunity to eat, to find shelter and relate in a supportive way, many times discovering a new job and a fresh start. In the groups of psychological support that welcome people and offer spaces for frank conversation and mutual recognition.

The bigger the walls, the more cracks. If the walls surround us, we should hold on to the certitude of hope that one by one they will be taken down. While we the people continue standing, they will fall!

1 A quilombola are communities of the black population in Brazil. The quilombolas have been communities where fugitive slaves escaped to and organized collective life and resistance to slavery.