For Germany it marks a quarter of a century today for one of our most important historical events: The Fall of the Wall.
I was there. I was ten. I wished I had been at the border with everyone else. It’s one of those rare moments in life that you remember for the rest of it and will always be able to recall what you did at the time.
Even today I get emotional when I see footage of that day and the ones following it. People on the wall, tearing it down, crossing into the west, families reunited. There’s a reason that David Hasselhoff’s “I’ve been looking for freedom”, and The Scorpion’s “Wind of Change” were incredibly popular around that time.
I tend to think of Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time” as well, though that had nothing to do with the wall at all.
There are quite a few celebrations on this 25th anniversary today. And I am told it’s been a big topic on the news for two now. A part of me wishes I was there. That 10-year old, who experienced the aftermath of it up close and personal. The girl, who thought she was missing out for not climbing on the Wall herself. Somewhere at home I have a small piece of it. Everybody does, I think. You can still buy pieces of it as souvenirs. Small ones, mind you.
I remember East Germany, surprisingly vividly. Good memories for the most part, because I didn’t know about the things we didn’t have. As a child I was as free as I could have been, not missing anything that I didn’t know of and never needed. Once I knew that there was such a thing as a Barbie doll, I didn’t want it anyway.
But for the better part of my life I’ve grown up and lived in a reunified Germany. I can’t deny my roots and I see the difference in the generation that came after mine. I don’t think they are any better off than I was. They certainly have a lot more than I did. That doesn’t mean they have better lives, however.
Let’s not forget that 2014 also marks the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. Commemorative events culminate today in Britain. Sombre events, in stark contrast to the celebrations in Germany. Yet both are important. The 20th centuries has seen the worst atrocities ever committed by the human race against its own members. Two World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam War, the Khmer Rouge, the genocide in Rwanda, the regime of Mao Zedong in China, Stalin’s regime in the Soviet Union, wars in Africa and the Middle East. Just to name a few, but certainly the worst.
It’s important to remember the beginning of the Great War, which, sadly, was only the beginning of an incredibly bloody century. It is important to remember the end of the Cold War, which proved that peace is possible and can be won by the people rather than by governments or peace treaties.
I wish we would learn our lessons, though. But we’re impossibly far from it. Military spending is still an incredible drain on governments budgets (especially that of the United States). There are still more conflict zones around the world than anyone cares to count. People fight and die for often arbitrary goals. As if there’s not enough room for all of us, not enough resources, not enough food to go around.
Utopia is not for us, it seems. Ironically one could claim that our technology far supersedes our mental evolution. We have weapons invented by our intellects that our emotional, irrational, xenophobic selves should never have access to.
Today is about hope, though. We’re capable of good and most of us want peace. I’d like to think that we’re not doomed just yet.