The Wall Came Tumbling Down!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Nearly 25 years ago a most amazing thing happened, the Berlin Wall fell! This was one of the most visible signs that the Cold War was ending and really brought the world to a point that it hasn’t quite adjusted to. As Germany celebrates its “Tag der deutsche Einheit” (German Unity Day), its 24th such celebration, I thought that I’d take a look at that event.
First of all, has it really been 25 years? I have two daughters that were both born in Germany after that historic day and they only know about what life was like before the Wall Fell, by stories that they hear or discussions that they have in school. How wonderful it is that there are generations of people that don’t know what it was like to live in the Cold War! I personally watched the events unfold from America, so I didn’t experience what life in a divided Germany was like firsthand and ever since I moved over to  the Frankfurt, Germany area, I’ve had a sense of wonder when I visited Prague, Dresden, Berlin, Warsaw, Krakow and any other area that I visit that was under the “Iron Curtain”. I was studying at the university when all those revolutions happened and I had one political science and one economics class that focused on these events and it truly was an amazing time, so full of hope for the future.
I’ve always been fascinated by history and dates and one thing that hasn’t been lost on me is that World War 1 started in 1914 and we also will have the 25th Anniversary of the “Fall of the Berlin Wall” in the same year. Some people would point out that Word War II was largely a result of the way that Word War I ended. I’ve been listening to a fascinating account of World War I by Dan Carlin (someone who really makes history fun) on his Hardcore History Podcast, in a series that he has been doing called “Blueprint for Armageddon”. There are currently 4 episodes in this series and I’m eagerly awaiting the next episode. I would also propose that way that Word War II ended set the stage for the Cold War and we still haven’t found our way in the Post Cold War Era. Maybe some of our leaders were looking for another meaningful long-term conflict to latch on to, but it is pretty obvious that we weren’t ready for the end of the Cold War and are still trying to find our way.

In the IT world, when we’re following best practices, after we make a big change (i.e. to our infrastructure or to software) we should take some time to review what happened, did the change go the way that it should have, are there any steps that need to be taken to correct effects from the change? When changes are planned, there should be a “change freeze” to make sure that the change being implemented can be rolled back and that a root cause analysis can be done on any resulting problems after the change. I would argue that we need to do this as a society and think about where we really want to go before we get sucked into the next Great War. After the Cold War ended, we should have done such an assessment before we got sucked into a “War on Terror”. Many of the international conflicts that we have today are at least in part due to the way that the maps were drawn after World War I and World War II and governments that were supported because they were deemed strategically necessary because of the Cold War. President Eisenhower warned us of the “Military Industrial Complex” in his farewell address…
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” (Text of President Eisenhower’s speech from Coursera)
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that a lot of other things could have been done with the money spent on the Arms Race and the money spent on arming this or that party. Add to this that we’re now developing a “Security Industrial Complex”, can there ever be enough security when the enemy is the bogeyman? How do you ever win a “War on Terror”, when is the “Mission Accomplished”, truly?  Where is the treaty signed that ends the War on Terror”? Now, imagine that the money and energy pumped into endless wars were directed at problems that need solving instead. Can you imagine what amazing things we could do with the technology and the problems we could solve?
The human element is often overlooked when talking about the conflicts and fighting that we’ve had. Imagine the families and friends torn apart in the divided Berlin and Germany. Not knowing when they’d see each other again (or even if there would even be a “when”). Imagine the hopelessness of it all. What kind of future did the kids have to look forward to?  And yet, the human spirit somehow prevailed, family, friends, and countrymen were reunited and what was unimaginable not that long ago came to be, a reunited Germany! The people have been able to celebrate all these things for nearly 25 years!
Before we go building more walls, it’s time to tear some more down, to reach out and build some more bridges and connect more people. My grandfather, in his eternal wisdom used to say how people everywhere were good and could get along, it was just our politicians that couldn’t get along. To Germany and the world, I wish you a happy “Tag der deutsche Einheit“ and I hope that we can unite more people that are torn apart and learn some lessons from the Cold War. 

Darryl Heron

You might be interested in the 20th Anniversary of the Berlin Wall and German Reunification

Note:  The picture above "Thefalloftheberlinwall1989" comes from Wikipedia.