25 Years Later, Why The Falling Of The Berlin Wall Should Matter To You
General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
Those were the famous words that President Ronald Reagan said at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin back in 1987. On November 9, 1989, two years after the speech, the Berlin Wall fell.
Since the fall, 25 years have passed. The standard of living throughout the world has improved dramatically since then, thanks to greater economic, social and political freedom.
Many of us Millennials were born after the fall of The Wall, so sometimes, we take our freedoms for granted.
We assume that it has always been like this, that people were always able to travel all over the world, meet and speak with anyone, and study in any country, should they desire. But no, life was not always as it is today.
The Berlin Wall divided people in East (German Democratic Republic) and West (Federal German Republic). The Wall was erected to prevent citizens from the East to escape — or defect when talking about soldiers — to the West.
Heavy machine guns, dogs, barbed wire and other “security” measures were implemented to prevent people from trying to climb over or dig under The Wall.
You were trapped inside your country and shot to death if you tried to escape. You were only allowed to visit other countries if you were a diplomat, artist or sportsman. But, The Wall was only a physical manifestation of what was happening inside the minds of East Germans.
Although people living in East Germany seemingly had it all — “free” education, “free” healthcare, “affordable” housing —, it was all a sham. Education, for instance, was very dogmatic, very nationalistic and very anti-West. You learned whatever the government bureaucrats wanted to teach you.
Creativity and independent thinking were not encouraged. You were supposed to fit in and to be a good socialist. If The Wall didn’t keep you inside East Germany, the education, or rather, indoctrination (which is a mental wall) you were receiving, surely would.
You were both physically and mentally constrained. You had no freedoms and no individualism. You only had what the government wanted you to have.
Even though socialism has been mostly eradicated and The Wall is nothing but a distant memory, the fight for freedom around the world continues. There are still countries which maintain this perverted system. We, Millennials, as human beings, should stand up and do something about this.
People in Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea — just to name a few — are being tortured, held as prisoners and killed because they decided to stand up against their respective abusive systems.
These people don’t want to live where they can’t be themselves. They want out; they want to have their individual rights respected; they want liberty.
Unlike some of us, these people can’t take their freedoms for granted because they have none. This is why whenever someone from those countries appears on TV, they usually tell us “you have it very easy here” or “don’t let the freedom you have go to waste.” These people know what it is like to live without liberty.
I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell want to keep my freedoms and my individualism.
I think we all agree that the world in which we live is far from perfect. We have hunger, wars, famine, plagues, poverty, genocides and countless other problems. But, all of these things essentially occur because we have failed to learn to respect our differences.
We have not yet accepted that we are not all the same, that we have different beliefs, different cultures and that we see life differently.
We, Millennials, have the opportunity to amend these mistakes. We have the chance to make things right and let people be free to be whomever they want to be.
It is a good sign that our generation is characterized as one that respects civil and economic liberties. Yet, this is not enough. If we want to see real change, we must be proactive and not just defend our freedoms, but seek to expand them.
If we don’t do this, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes previous generations have made.
So, let’s take what freedom we have and build upon it. On this anniversary of Freedom Day, let’s promote and vouch for freedom. Our predecessors tore down The Wall, so let’s make sure it stays down.
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