Remembering the Fall of the Berlin Wall

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Today marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The destruction of the physical and ideological barrier between free West Germany and oppressed Eastern Europe signified a significant victory in the battle of ideas; the battle between capitalism (freedom) and communism (oppression). The wall served as a potent symbol and the vital importance of adopting the right, moral, ideas for a society to be free. West Germany followed the path of individual free will and agency — Eastern Europe followed the path of control and oppression. While the fall of the wall should rightfully be celebrated and commemorated, the recent upsurge in support for socialism in 2019 serves as a timely reminder that the battle of ideas is always ongoing — there are always those who don’t think people deserve a chance to be free, and believe the state is best equipped to guide and live our lives for us.

Both socialism and communism are political systems based on the use of force — the state is given the power and control to decide for people how they may live. From big decisions, such as where they may work, to the smallest decisions, such as how much milk they may buy, these systems must impose ruthless control because the state is in control of most of, if not all, resources. Indeed, things may start off well at the beginning of a dictatorship, but gradually freedoms and resources are whittled away and ground down to nothing. No bureaucrat can account for the myriad decisions we as individuals make on a daily basis — the world is simply too complex.

Socialism and communism are couched in the language of care and compassion. But one need simply look to the concrete differences between West and East Germany. Censorship and police brutality, and shortages of basic groceries were simply a part of life in the East. Political philosophies that contain oppression and control are always going to result in economic and social hardships for people on the ground, no matter the fanciful and kind language used by the proponents of these systems. Remember that we use words to denote concepts when we communicate with others, and when we try to understand the world around us. When the words we use do not match up to the reality around us, we should examine whether we are using them correctly.

We ought to be truly grateful that the Berlin Wall came down. It was a physical and emotional scar across Berlin, and across the German nation. Economic prosperity and freedom of thought and expression were non-existent on the one side of the wall. Every day we win another victory for freedom, every day we talk about and fight against the push for control, we honor the Germans in East Germany who suffered and lost their lives for speaking up, for daring to push against the walls which suffocated their thoughts and actions.

Think about the little things you can do every day. Choose your favorite cereal in the morning. Read different news sources on your phone or tablet. Buy coffee from the shop in your neighborhood. Listen to your personal playlist on Spotify, which you’ve spent months cultivating. These are but a few of the apparently small and insignificant, yet truly massive symbolic, decisions we can make every single day. We live in a brilliant age of humanity, and we must not return to the days of oppression and control — the growing sympathy for socialism must be resisted at every opportunity.

Freedom is risky. Freedom can be messy. When there are free people, they will make choices about their time, money, and skills with which we may fundamentally disagree. But if we truly value human freedom and dignity, we should pursue the path of freedom and capitalism, not that of oppression and communism. We pay mere lip service to the concept of freedom if we allow socialism to take control of societies around the world. People cannot be considered free when the government takes a massive amount of their paycheck, or when the state decides for people with whom they may or may no trade.

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Chris Hattingh

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