Prior to his regional theatres tour, we caught up with journalist, author and broadcaster, Tim Marshall, to discuss his new book.
What spurred you to write Divided: Why We’re Living in an Age of Walls?
It was third in a trilogy looking at history, geography, identity and current affairs. The moment I learned that 63 countries had fenced or walled themselves off from neighbours I knew there was a book in it.
Why are we living in an age of walls? Why has the number of walls increased so rapidly in the past few decades?
In some respects we have usually lived in an age of walls/barriers. However the post WW2 era, especially in Europe, saw a more multilateral and globalised age. But this century, the pressures of mass migration and terrorism and the coming to power of a wave of ‘strongman’ leaders has pushed some to erect physical barriers.
Wall building is not limited to the Western world alone - are there common themes/reasons for the building of walls across the world?
The most common response is down to mass migration, for example the barriers India and the U.S have built, but there are also the barriers built to mitigate the scale of terrorism or smuggling of weapons and drugs – for example along the Saudi/Iraq border.
How have physical walls shaped our thinking in the 21st century?
I think public awareness is behind the curve. We still think that we are more united than ever, whereas I believe things have gone somewhat backwards in the last ten years. That said, there are still many projects around the world in which we are still working together. Many are of the opinion that walls are a bad thing, due to what they represent. However, there is now a growing debate over whether, despite being bad, they may, on occasion, be necessary as short term solutions. Alas, the short term invariably turns out to be long.
Can any walls be considered ‘successful’?
That depends on which side of the wall you are and your subjective values. The walls of Constantinople, stood for a thousand years without being breached despite several attempts – was that a success?
Are there relatively new walls which you think could be doomed to fail?
The US wall/fence with Mexico is unlikely to succeed because it is unlikely to be fully built.
In what scenario do you think we could stop the increase in the number of walls being built? Is this something that you think countries should work towards?
An unrealistic scenario is that the populations of bordering countries decide that the mass movement of peoples is a good idea, and thus walls and fences are redundant. A slightly more realistic scenario is that a serious redistribution of wealth results in economic disparities being evened out, resulting in people not thinking they need to move. So, yes, countries, indeed people, should work towards building a world in which the barriers are not considered necessary.
During your career as a journalist you must have had many experiences in crossing contested national borders – have any been particularly memorable?
Crossing from Jordan into Iraq was always ‘interesting’ especially when the border guards took out the large rusty needle for the ‘anti Aids jab sir’.
What can audience members expect from your talk?
Realism, tinged I hope with optimism, and possibly a bad joke or two.
Tim Marshall’s ‘Divided: why we’re living in an age of walls’ is part of our regional theatres programme. Book your place now to hear more of his thoughts on how our world is divided in the 21st century.
12 February at 7.30pm, Stamford – Book now
13 February at 7.30pm, Grantham – Book now
25 February at 8.00pm, Darlington – Book now
6 March at 7.30pm, Brecon – Book now
10 March at 8.00pm, Exeter – Book now
26 March at 8.00pm, Southampton – Book now
29 March at 7.30pm, King’s Lynn – Book now