Monday, November 9, 2009

The Berlin Wall...the moral to the story

I was born during the early part of the Vietnam War. This war was part of a larger "East verses West", "Communist /Socialist verses Capitalist" cold war. For me and my generation, this is how it had always been. By the time I was old enough to know much of anything the USSR, The Iron Curtain, Cold War, nuclear missles, Eastern Bloc Countries, and the Berlin Wall were household terms.

"On May 8, 1945, the unconditional surrender of the German armed forces (Wehrmacht) was signed by Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel in Berlin, ending World War II for Germany. The German people were suddenly confronted by a situation never before experienced in their history: the entire German territory was occupied by foreign armies, cities and infrastructure were largely reduced to rubble, the country was flooded with millions of refugees from the east, and large portions of the population were suffering from hunger and the loss of their homes. The nation-state founded by Otto von Bismarck in 1871 lay in ruins."
germanculture.com

"As Germany surrendered to the Allied Powers, the war in Europe officially ended. The land lay in devastation from the invasion and cities were turned into rubble from the bombing of Germany from the Allies. England, the Soviet Union, France, and the United States tried their hand in saving the destructed Germany. They decided the best way to rebuilt would be to divide Germany into four militarized zones, each one controlled by one of the Allied powers. Berlin was divided similarly. The government of Germany was also divided and each divided section was given the power to set the government they wanted on a ballot for election. Each country did this excluding the Soviet Union, which immediately set up their own communist government."
Think Quest

The three divisions of Germany held by Great Britain, France and the United States united those sections to form one "West" Germany while the division occupied by the Soviet Union (USSR) was kept under Soviet control.

By 1961 it was evident that the economy of the west was vastly superior and robust compared to that of the east or Soviet section of Germany (East Germany). Since the entire city (east and west) of Berlin was inside the borders of East Germany many people from East Germany began to migrate to the western part of Berlin.

So many people had migrated or fled to the other part of Berlin that the Soviet government felt they had to do something to curtail this movement. This was done by erecting a wall that surrounded the western section of Berlin cutting it off from the rest of East Germany.

"The Berlin Wall always was a symbol of the superiority of freedom over oppression and of the free market over a controlled economy. Those two aspects — politics and economics — were as much a part of it as the gray paint on its east side and the colorful and taunting graffiti on its west side."
Deseret News, November 9, 2009

I remember as a child hearing about people risking their lives in attempts to escape from the oppression of the east over that wall. Many people were successful while many others never made it. The wall was heavily guarded and anyone attempting to pass over the wall were shot, no questions asked.


The Berlin Wall and the "Iron Curtain" it represented were as normal to me as rock n roll, apple pie and lemonade. I am sure I was not alone in this thinking. We never imagined that things could change."


I saw life in the East just as the commentor to the Deseret News opinion piece, "My childhood was filled with watching footage of people daring to run for their lives hoping to reach freedom before guards in the towers would notice - rapid fire bullets took their lives again and again as they risked all rather than live under Soviet oppression! Americans how soon we forget - and propaganda covers the horror to modern youth unaware of the past. The dead do not repeat the truth from their history!"

The 1981 movie
"Night Crossing" told the story of two families who attempted to cross the barbed wire-walled East German border where automated machine guns, armed guards, and deadly land mines dotted this "death strip". On September 15, 1979 tired of the Cold War rules that restricted their lives, these two families built their own balloon as an escape vehicle to the West.

I saw that movie not long after its debut. It is a story that has stuck with me ever since.

The Berlin Wall and the "Iron Curtain" it represented were as normal to me as rock n roll, apple pie and lemonade (cliches intended). I am sure I was not alone in this thinking. We never imagined that things could change.

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of that wall. I had been married just a few short months when an undercurrent that had been brewing for years exploded to enable a cascade of events to unfold right before our eyes.

  • June 1987: Ronald Regan becomes the second US president to make an historic speech in Berlin, this time in front of the Brandenburg Gate. He echoes Kennedy’s devotion to preserving democracy. His exhortation – “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” – would become a catchphrase.

  • August 1989: The Eastern Bloc shows signs of weakening, with Hungary removing its border bloc with Austria. Thousands of East Germans escape to the West via Austria.

  • September 1989: East Germans begin organizing peaceful “Monday demonstrations” weekly in protest against the GDR government.

  • September-November 1989: Protests agitating for loosened border controls increase in number in the GDR.

  • October 18, 1989: Erich Honecker, who had ruled since 1971, resigns. His departure leaves open the possibility for looser border controls.

  • November 9: The GDR politburo, seeing the impossibility of maintaining a firm hand, agrees to a minor concession allowing limited travel across the border.

    At a press conference announcing the decision, a politburo member who had just learned of the policy mistakenly says that is immediately effective. In fact, it was to take effect the next day, in order to inform the border guards ahead of time.

    Thousands of East Berliners flock to the checkpoints and attempt to cross the border, overwhelming the guards by their numbers.

    People begin picking away at the wall by hand.
"
France 24 News

Almost over night the world I had grown up in had changed.

"It was a day in which the entire world seemed to exhale after decades of a tense Cold War many felt would last forever. It was, for many, the beginning of the real end to World War II, defined for them by years of war, followed by more than 40 years of oppression and occupation. And it was the beginning of a more chaotic world, defined by ideologies and terrorist threats rather than a superpower standoff."
Deseret News

Yet 20 years later as we observed the anniversary of this incredible day we must remember the lessons of the past. "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana

Today our own government seems bent on moving toward greater control over the economy, quite ostensibly in the name of "saving" it.

But if we look to the lessons that can be learned from the history of oppression that was symbolized by that Wall we will remember. We will remember that it was the successes of capitalism that those behind that Iron Curtain risked their lives to reach. It was the oppression of governmental economic control that they were fleeing.

If we remember these lessons and learn from them we will avert a repeat of the past.

12 comments:

Stanley said...

Wrong again, Kelly:
Worldwide poll: Vast majority say capitalism not working

November 9th, 2009

Dissatisfaction with capitalism is widespread around the globe 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall that heralded the demise of European communism, a poll released Monday showed.

Only 11 percent of people surveyed across 27 countries thought free market capitalism is working well, while nearly a quarter -- 23 percent -- said the system is "fatally flawed." A bare majority, 51 percent, believed its problems can be solved with more regulation and reform, the poll said.

In only the United States (25 percent) and Pakistan (21 percent), did more than one in five people agree that capitalism works well in its current form, the poll conducted for BBC World said.

The survey of 29,033 adults comes after the worst global financial crisis since the 1930s Great Depression and amid celebrations of the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which abruptly ended the Cold War.

And it reflects growing concerns among the public and politicians that the world's economic system has failed to live up to its promises. In Europe's post-communist eastern bloc, where residents have lived through both communism and capitalism, a poll released last week suggested capitalism is losing favor with the public.

Research by the Pew Research Center showed the percentage of people approving of democracy was markedly lower in the former Soviet bloc compared to a similar 1991 poll.

Eighty-five percent of respondents in East Germany supported the change to democracy, but even this was down six percent from 1991. The figure dropped 24 percent in Bulgaria, 20 in Lithuania, 18 in Hungary and eight in Russia.

Japan's recently-elected center-left prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, launched a broadside last month against the excesses of capitalism in his first parliamentary address since taking office.

Speaking on his vision of a kinder, gentler society guided by the spirit of "fraternity," Hatoyama said market forces were useful for a country but must be tempered in order to create a livable society.

"It is self-evident that free economic activity in markets invigorates society," said Hatoyama, 62, who swept to power in August elections, ending more than half a century of almost unbroken conservative rule.

"But it is also obvious that the idea of letting markets decide everything for the survival of the strongest, or the idea of 'economic rationalism' at the expense of people's lives, does not hold true any more."

Doug Miller, chairman of polling firm GlobeScan, which co-conducted the BBC survey, said: "It appears that the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 may not have been the crushing victory for free-market capitalism that it seemed at the time -- particularly after the events of the last 12 months."

Kelly said...

The current form of capitalism has been so over run by government regulation and corruption that it doesn't work. You are right on that...it doesn't work. But the solution is not to put on MORE regulation, but to allow for competition with some restraints.

You cannot argue that the people of Eastern Germany wished they could stay under the way things were. IT was oppressive.

John said...

Good post, Kelly. Don't let these goons revise history and steal the narrative.

John said...

"Doug Miller, (Who?) chairman of polling firm GlobeScan, (what?) which co-conducted the BBC survey,(lol) said: "It appears that the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 may not have been the crushing victory for free-market capitalism that it seemed at the time -- particularly after the events of the last 12 months."

No, of course not. It was a victory for totalitarian government and a communist system.'

And Reagan had nothing to do with it. It was Gorbachev.

Kelly said...

It was Reagan who helped set things in motion for Gorbachev to make the decision that he did to not stand in the way of countries such as Hungary to open its border with Austria.

...as he [Gorby] tried to save his A**.

There was already political heat coming from Poland, Latvia, Estonia, etal due to the combined efforts of Reagan and Pope John Paul with respect to Poland.

Mike's America said...

Kelly: I remember thinking that the Cold War and the Berlin Wall would be with us forever too. In the early 1980's I read a news story speculating on how weak the Soviet Union was and predicting it's collapse. I thought it was a fantasy.

But it took Reagan to make that fantasy into reality. Without his vision, it never would have happened.

Can you imagine Barack Hussein Obama daring to have such a vision of a better, more peaceful world? Thus far, his foreign policy, which amounts to one long apology tour, has been more timid and demonstrated less leadership than Jimmy Carters.


Stanley: I wonder if those capitalist bashers would be equally eager to re-embrace Stalinism?

Kelly said...

Mike, if BHO had made an appearance at the former wall it would have been to appologize for the United States' roll in the fall of that wall.

psi bond said...

Where do we draw the line? You can start with the Liberal PC crowd.
So Jihadist Islam strikes again – and the sycophantic media and the liberal hand-wringers on the blogs are desperately busy trying to convince as many Americans as possible that the slaughter that occurred yesterday at Fort Hood Texas was ANYTHING but a Jihad terror zealot fulfilling his obligation to Islam.

We’ll hear about how this “alleged gunman” was picked on for his Islamic faith; how he was so distraught over our unjust war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Watch the media make this guy the poster child. We’ll hear that it was Bush’s fault or even Glenn Beck’s fault. As everything seems to be if you listen to those bleeding heart asswipes leftist bloggers.

Well let me tell you this! Hasan isn’t the sole guilty party. The US Army’s unforgivable political correctness is also to blame for the casualties at Fort Hood. Kissing the ass of these lefties and allowing Obama to get away with all the shit he is throwing at us is a major part of the problem.

Given the myriad warning signs, it’s appalling that no action was taken against a man apparently known to praise suicide bombers and openly damn US policy. But no officer in his chain of command, either at Walter Reed Army Medical Center or at Fort Hood, had the guts to take meaningful action against a dysfunctional soldier and an incompetent doctor.

Had Hasan been a Lutheran or a Methodist, he would’ve been gone with the simoom. But officers fear charges of discrimination when faced with misconduct among protected minorities.

Now 12 soldiers and a security guard lie dead. At least 38 people were wounded, 28 of them seriously. If heads don’t roll in this maggot’s chain of command, the Army will have shamed itself beyond moral redemption.

There’s another important issue, too. How could the Army allow an obviously incompetent and dysfunctional psychiatrist to treat our troubled soldiers returning from war? An Islamic wacko is counseled for arguing with veterans who’ve been assigned to his care? And he’s not removed from duty? What planet does the Army live on?
Get ready for the apologists, get ready to hear that Shaw Kenawe, TAO, TRUTH101 and that little fink of a lapdog Arthur-Stones saying things like "he was misunderstood, or that he was provoked by bullies.

Phelonius said...

Well, Stanley does have a point. This current generation does strongly believe that someone else needs to pay for everything that they want. We have been subjected to years and years of socialist propaganda that insists that because things are not provided in every instance without this thing called "work" (God forbid), then the problem must be that someone somewhere has to do the actual providing. Those people are obviously sitting around with unearned wealth that is just sitting in bank vaults waiting to be handed out to the people that they somehow stole it from.

Funny how the people that I know from Hungary and other former east block countries do not see it that way. According those obviously misguided folks, they are rather incensed about the lefty propaganda that they are hearing from the current congress and executive branch. As a group, they seem simply astounded that we are heading in a direction that they fought so hard to get away from.

I share their astonishment.

Kelly said...

Every one I have read about who actually lived behind the iron curtain does not wish to go back to that. So, why in the world would we???

The only thing different is that we will have no where to go. There will be no wall for us to climb over or to knock down.

Yes, everyone will be equal...equally poor, except those who are more equal....

IOpian said...

I think whether it be capitalism or socialism a corrupt government and corrupt economic system is merely reflective of a corrupt society.

Blaming the methodology of the system is a misguided quest. Both offer temptations for those who lust for money and power.

BTW... you guys have done a nice job on the site. Outstanding actually.

Kelly said...

Thank you, Iopian. Our purpose for this site was to provide a forum for the discussion of conservation ideals and values. We have tried to refrain from picking on individuals because as long as liberal ideas persist there will always be someone else to fill those shoes.

As for both capitalism and socialism providing temptations for those who have a lust for power and money: yes they do both provide that, but capitalism allows for more latitude for the common man to succeed.