Brick By Brick

The Wall Came Down 25 Years
Ago But Others Remain Defiant

It was a typical public jubilation moment: thousands of happy people, front cover news around the world, an event of political resonance (and appropriation too) and catharsis like few. It happened a generation ago: on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall finally came down.
But just as other similar, long overdue moments have been before it and since, when the symbolic end of the Cold War arrived, it was swift, pregnant with hope, and just as quickly, deeply dissatisfying. A quarter of a century later, we’re bound to question even its relevance.
It didn’t even end the détente, that unbearably nervous post-war time between the U.S. and the Soviet Union that for years paralyzed the world with fear. We now can see it for what it was: just a pro-forma liberation hour, coming late to rubber-stamp its own obsolescence.
But it was a jubilation all the same. Those who endured 28 years of that cruel scar, splitting heart and country in the middle, surely deserved to celebrate it all with gusto. Before long, however, it all wound up in a museum.
Sunday will culminate a week long commemoration, and images of mostly young people climbing crumbling logs of concrete, and a few survivor old timers too, crying like happy babies, will make the headlines. Not as breaking news, though; but as a cultural landmark.
We’ll take it anyway, of course. Times have been hard on reasons to be cheerful, and saturated with the kind of heartbreak that built the wall in the first place. So, heaven forbid if we let such an occasion to be merry pass, and, by all means, let’s have a worldwide party.

KEEPING THEM PEOPLE OUTSIDE
For 20th century standards, the fall of the Berlin Wall was an unbeatable icon of optimism and hope in the future. Some would argue that bottled down anger Continue reading

High Up

From Above, We
Can See Forever

It’s been said that Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos Dumont died, 80 years ago last July, of a broken heart. An avowed pacifist, he simply couldn’t believe that his lifetime efforts developing a heavier-than-air craft were being used to create the war’s most lethal weapon of the time.
Since it’s International Civil Aviation day, let’s check some photographs, taken from airplane windows, of a few cities dominating the world news cycle. But you’ll see neither mayhem nor excitement about what’s happening on the ground, because they all look peaceful and beautiful from above.
While Damascus remains under siege, people in Gaza Strip and Tel Aviv keep vigil, even as the rhythms of their every day life resume. Egyptians are out in the streets of Cairo, while in Juba, Sudan, another journalist has been killed for criticizing the government.

As for Americans, thousands continue to fight and die in the mountains of Afghanistan, but their sacrifice is hardly ever mentioned in the daily news. It’s much more likely that you’ll be reading about Denver and Seattle and how they’re yet to implode, now that’s legal to smoke marijuana there.
Santos Dumont had no idea how much worse things were going to get before they arguably improved, but maybe that was the idea. Airplanes did become one of the most effective ways for humans to kill other humans, and let’s not get started about drones. They also serve for a variety of great things too, though.

One doesn’t even need to be high to acknowledge and enjoy the fact that airplanes also helped us realize how much closer we’re of each other than our ancestors believe, and how beautiful the world really is, regardless of all stupid and senseless things we do with this knowledge.

Thus, it was probably for the few hundreds of thousands currently flying overhead, traveling from country to country, visiting dear ones or meeting complete strangers, that this day was created in 1996. To mark then 50 years of civil aviation, which undoubtedly brought us a bit closer.
It’s quite possible that Orville and Wilbur Wright also shared some idealism about the future of their invention. We can’t help but reaching a sobering realization though: that the dream of flying is as ancient and immemorial to humans as our will to wage war and conquer.
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As if we’re bound to reenact the myth of Icarus over and over again, we’re still led by the same intoxicating, and ultimately doomed, drive: our desire to soar free and overcome our humanity, and ambition to dominate nature and obliterate our adversaries. In the meantime:
‘Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. In just a few minutes, we’ll be landing on the International Airport of…’

Suspended Animation

A Sharon Lookalike “Comes
Back” to Haunt Israeli Politics

JUST IN: After five years in coma at Tel Aviv’s Sheba Medical Center, the family of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon plans to move him to his ranch in the Negev Desert. He’s not expected to regain consciousness.

It’s fair to say that the current state of Israel’s politics is less than optimal. Another round of talks with the Palestinians wound up like all previous ones, in the dustbin of well-intentioned but feeble efforts, and many in the international community point to Israel’s failure to stop construction in the West Bank settlements as one of its primary causes.
An attempt to require all new citizens to pledge allegiance to the Continue reading