Trump’s wall no barrier to creative genius

On a related note, here’s a trick question:

Which Ikea particleboard product (with an attractive beech finish) comes with a hex key, 5.5 million screws and a 12,000-page instruction manual?

Give up? It’s Ikea’s pre-fab, easy-to-assemble and highly affordable wall for Donald Trump, busy with his hex key, to erect along the USA’s southern border with Mexico.

The point I am bustling towards is that it is a big, beautiful redeeming feature of Trump’s dumb dream of a callous wall that it has inspired so much clever, humane, satirical, artistic protest against it.

So for example, the Ikea border wall is just one of a zillion clever satirical inventions (in this case one invented by German magazine The Postillon). Then there is the galaxy of clever artworks inspired by Trump’s dumb, primitive enthusiasm for his wall. From dumb things clever things grow. Always look on the bright side of Trump.

But to be fair to him,

Could the wall be manufactured by Ikea?

Could the wall be manufactured by Ikea?Credit:Andrew Dyson

all of us in our psychologically primitive ways (and Trump is a simpleton) take comfort, real or illusory, from what we think of as protective walls.

In the great popular hymn-like song Bless This House (give your soul a treat, now, by going to Mahalia Jackson’s gospel version at the singer warbles, with feeling.

Bless this house, O Lord, we pray.
Make it safe by night and day.
Bless these walls so firm and stout,
Keeping want and troubles out.

All of us have at some time felt a primitive, slowly evolved gratitude to walls, so firmly and stoutly keeping troubles out, sheltering us from buffeting gales, from wild beasts, from zombies and hobgoblins. My idyllic childhood was spent in a seaside town protected by walls (thank you, Lord) against the worst the belligerent wintry North Sea (why did it hate us?) could fling at us.

Medieval walled cities gave their citizens some peace of mind, some of the time, in ferocious and troubled times when it was unthinkable that one could live without walls to try to keep troubles out.

The German Democratic Republic built its Berlin Wall (they called it the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart) in the fond, evolved, naïve belief that a wall can even keep out capitalism’s pitiless, bourgeois hobgoblins of greed and exploitation.

And the massive panel of the Berlin Wall displayed at the Harmonie German Club in Narrabundah is poignantly graffiti-decorated on its Western face but blank on the eastern face where it faced cheerless, colourless, graffiti-forbidding East Berlin.

While on walls, and in this week in which Sir David Attenborough has been despairing (at the World Economic Forum in Davos) at our species’ ignoring of climate change, thought-stoking discussion of a figurative wall has just come up in the online American Scholar.

In his piece, The Great DistractionWhy we talk about anything but climate change, Thomas Chatterton Williams agonises that “I often feel as though anything I write … that doesn’t deal with the climate is really only the second-most-important thing I could spend my time on.”

He notes that the French philosopher and sociologist Bruno Latour actually has a theory that this talking-about anything-but-climate-change has been conspiratorially engineered by cunning elites.

Latour alleges that decades ago elites realised the climate game was over and decided to secure themselves as best they could while keeping us distracted – with Facebook, Brexit, identity politics, with any distractions you can think of.

In a piece in Eurozine in 2018, Latour says that “in the 1980s and 1990s, some people who had begun to understand just how serious the climate question was, contrived to flee or seek shelter from it”.

“Sheltering can consist in organising denial of the climate situation in order to hide that they are running away from it. It is perfectly obvious that, within the Trump government there is a clear vision of what organising a departure, a general flight towards offshore havens involves. The metaphor is unmistakable: the construction of a ‘wall’ around ‘the American way of life’, which no longer even pretends to be interested in matters of worldwide importance or solidarity.”

Readers, have you said or done anything about climate change today, towards nurturing our dear, sickly planet? Or have all your energies been invested in the tinsel-life of Facebook? If you never speak up about climate change, is it because you are an easily-distracted puppet of Lantour’s “elites”?

Ian Warden is a columnist for The Canberra Times

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