Monday, June 25, 2007

Mur's Immanence

There is a New Paper feature today on the 500 km Wall that separates Israel from the Palestine Territories. It reminded me of this excellent documentary, Wall (Mur), made by Simone Britton who has both Jewish-Arab heritage.

Mur is a fascinating film documenting the building of the Wall when the project began in 2002. Suddenly, for the sake of protection, for security, a physical landscape is artificially and dramatically changed. Culture and history is separated into two sides of the Wall. There is a scene where young Israeli children reveal that the Wall has been there forever in their memories. For this children, there was no time before the Wall. Their existence has been dominated with the permanence of this edifice, this structure. To them, the wall is natural. It has been there in their forevers.

There have been many other famous walls in History. Most notably, the Great Wall of China, to fend off the savage barbarians. Most recently, the Berlin Wall, an icon of the Cold War and with its utter destruction, a symbol of war's end. It is perhaps a very natural human instinct. Wall-building. To fend off the threats to our existence. In Australia, there was a 3000 km rabbit proof fence built to prevent rabbits from ravaging the Australian landscape.

We burrow ourselves into these walls and fences, enclosures to ensure our safety, maintain our stability.

There are many types of walls besides the physical. There are bureaucratic walls, like a letter telling you that you cannot be a relief teacher. That you cannot do this. That your reasoning is wrong. That the reality is such. That our survival depends on this or that, when both this and that are like walls, permanent, unmoving. The walls never explain why. It just is. A perpetual wall, always there since forever. Protecting something within, keeping threats without.

Then, there are also walls built into our minds, protecting our sanity, our rationality. Those outside our mind walls are the Other, something bad, something to be feared, to be kept out. These mind walls ensconce us snugly into the safe, the predictable, the logical and the reasonable. For some, when trying to push through these mind walls, they experience fear. For others it could be adrenalin, And yet for others it could be transcendence, Illumination. Insight. But there are also those who walk with these mind walls permanent, seeing only squalor, seeing only the lesser, seeing only the Other. There is only a sneer, some disdain while they revel in the cosy warmth of their lofty immanence.

Walls of a non-physical nature share one common disturbing trait if you decide to explore them. When you look up to ascertain the height of the Wall, you realise it looms infinite into the sky. When you look left and right, the Wall extends infinite into the horizon. No respite, no ends, no limits.

In Britton's cinematic rendition of the Wall, the structure becomes immanent. Casting its all-pervasiveness across the physical landscape, altering, othering and segmenting all along its 500 km path. The value of the film is its catalogue of a reality, of a Time before the wall. That there was a Time before this immanent structure was created. That there was a reality before this immanence of the Wall. The film catalogues a reality challenging the memories of the children who are growing up in Wall's shadow. Challenging these children to transcend their known memory, their known reality, their immanence. Challenging their notion of forever with an alternative before.

Before any physical wall can be dismantled, the mental wall has to crumble first. Film or art like Britton's documentary is for this purpose, resisting the Wall's immanence.

It is important to be able to transcend walls, be they physical or otherwise. The basis of most psychology of the Freudian ilk is about transcending the walls erected by the mind. Post trauma psychology is perhaps most akin to transcending the walls protectively put up by the mind in the face of a traumatic experience. The psychologist leads the victim to face her ghosts, overcome her fears to look beyond the wall. Finding redemption and perhaps love beyond the wall.

So too in a society where wall-building is ubiquitous, it may not be too far-fetched to imagine a citizenry who collectively dismantles first their mental walls to discover the possibility of a different forever.

Quote of the Day -

All alone, or in two's,
The ones who really love you
Walk up and down outside the wall.
Some hand in hand
And some gathered together in bands.
The bleeding hearts and artists
Make their stand.

And when they've given you their all
Some stagger and fall, after all it's not easy
Banging your heart against some mad bugger's wall.

Pink Floyd, Outside the Wall


Anonymous tqx said...

Hi, would it be possible to get your email address? The Invisible City ( team would like to get in touch with you. Could you contact us at Thanks.

9:47 PM  
Blogger Bart JP said...

Hi XB,

Interesting that you used the Israel-Palestine wall as the backdrop of the discussion. I have to admit I am never 100 per cent sure of what you are trying to say.

But my understanding is that the wall was constructed because of the continuing violence between the two communities, which makes it (at least intent wise) different from say the Berlin Wall. Maybe not all walls are the same. Judged by its effect on reducing loss of lives, the Israel-Palestine wall is perhaps a qualified success even if it cannot bring true reconciliation.

But as usual, your writing is good as always.


3:32 AM  
Blogger scb said...

Walls are beautiful and for protection to some and not as a divide as you and I like to interpret. The Great Wall of China is a World Wonder, the Wall of my neighbouring privatised HUDC Estate is beautiful and must have cost much money, but I could no longer take shelter in it when it rains or shines(hot). Ivory Towers are highly walled and secured because the occupants in them are unlikely to be friendly!

1:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although the birth of such walls in the beginning maybe on valid grounds and reasons such as the Israel Palestine one, we must also realise that belief in the necessity of such walls over the long run is dangerous. For one, the wall can never be brought down because the reasons of which why the wall must exist in the first place will continue to be ingrained in us. The physical presence of this wall serves to remind people these reasons and may in turn blind many of us from seeing a possibility of alternatives. They translate into mental blocks that prevent many from even seeing the possibility of reconciliation, and without thought there can be no action. Spiraling and spiraling to nowhere...

3:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its is freedom that hides behind the walls longing to get out. There are those who can only speak as if there are such walls. And if we are so bound, then sometimes we aim to bind others, and some of us desire to flee. Physically, because we are told the walls are only in our heads.

1:13 AM  

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