In 2019 we are introducing a new monthly feature; The Playwright’s Think Piece. We are inviting individual playwrights from across the country to write a few words on what is currently keeping them up at night and coursing through their mind. They can write a rough and ready piece on anything other than theatre.
There are six of them surrounding me, the leader of the free world has called a national emergency so he can build one on the southern border, and the man next door to Robert Frost insists they make good neighbours. I’m talking of walls and fences. Barriers we create to divide one section from another. Borderlines set outlining here is one place and that there is another. For centuries we have been setting them, raising them, and marvelling at them ‘Look here at this Great Wall. What a feat of ingenuity! Isn’t it amazing what the human endeavour can do when labour laws and safety regulations don’t exist?’
That’s just the concrete physical ones. When it comes to the abstract type we surround ourselves with walls too. We tell other nations there is no way through via the water to our country because… well we said so. Meanwhile kilometres above the circling border patrols people with the same intention of finding a new home pass freely. We agree with Country A when they say ‘that part is ours now’ whilst littler Countries H, J and L nearby dispute it. We abide the little yellow line at the licensing centre as we wait to be served.
Maybe it’s all for the better too. I mean walls have their merits in places, real or imagined. We don’t want mayhem at the licensing centre. Nor do we want to risk a profitable relationship with super powers. Maybe Mr Frost’s dogged gentleman on the pine side of the fence next to him is right. Maybe good fences do make good neighbours.
Except for all their benefits, of which there are many, there is one alarming downside. A wall, barrier, divide, call it what you will, creates an immediate dichotomy.
It allows us to say ‘that side is one thing, and this side is another.’
And in terms of using them for human separation it focuses in on the differences we have at a time when we must celebrate that which makes us the same.
We have far more in common with each and every other person on this planet than in contrast.
A wall suggests the things that are different are powerful enough to part those common similarities. It says we can’t be in the same space because this group is ‘@’ and that group is ‘&’. Instead of allowing us to place both groups in a space where their shared attribute of ‘#’ shines, and their individual traits of ‘@’ and ‘&’ can co-exist. Who knows, maybe their ‘@’ and ‘&’ will someday combine and create a beautiful hybrid keyboard symbol yet to be discovered.
Our differences do not outweigh our similarities. We should not feel threated by them. We should be able to celebrate what makes us unique, and embrace it from the same place. A wall, real or imagined, domestic or international, does not allow us to come to that celebration from the same space.
So let them fall.