Prior to the fall of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik or DDR in 1989, Berlin was a divided city, separated by a wall. The East Germans, as they were once called, said the wall was to keep the Westerners from flocking into the Eastern Utopia, while the West Germans said it was to keep the East Berliners from flocking to the West (The FREE World). Who was right? It was all a matter of perspective! Today, Israel and the West Bank are divided by an “Israeli Wall” that is almost 500 miles – tantamount to the distance between San Francisco and Los Angeles. But the absolute longest wall was the Great Wall of China that spanned over 13,000 miles.
Whether the intent was to keep people in or keep people out, gated communities and gated prisons are no different from one another, except perspective! The only difference is that those in gated communities are prisoners by choice, while those incarcerated in prison compounds are… involuntary prisoners!
Are walls gates of security or gates of entrapment? In the State of Israel, the circuitous wall separating Palestine and Israel makes life difficult for Palestinians who need to get from their agricultural fields to their home. But why is a circuitous walk through the streets of Bern, Switzerland or Prague, Czech Republic rather relaxing whereas a trek from a Palestinian farm to one’s home so stressful? Perhaps it has to do with one’s surroundings or lack of surroundings. If we could focus on the journey, perhaps life would be rewarding. But if we focused only on the destination, the journey becomes just a passing of time. Life itself is a journey!
Humans who demoralize others call each other dogs, but dogs are social creatures. We both require physical as well as mental stimulation and exercise. A wall is a separation barrier, whereas a gate is a funnel point of ingress/egress. When that point is regulated, it gives the regulator a feeling of power, and the regulated a feeling of helplessness. Grocery stores and airline counters are funnel points of ingress/egress – they are checkpoints.
How did the term “gated community” become popularized? “Neighborhoods” only imply proximity, whereas “communities” are social relationships, and “gated communities” are exclusionary relationships. Senior citizens often purchased a home within a gated compound for security, and because they were no longer mobile, they did not leave the compound. Hence, their only communication were other senior citizens living in that same compound.
But what does the term “bedroom community” mean? If we work eight hours in a day, plus an hour for lunch and another two hours for commute, and we spend eight hours sleeping, that means have five hours left to communicate with our neighbors every day. But is this realistic? Those who have families must shop for groceries, cook meals, wash laundry, help their children with homework, after school activities, etc… The chances that neighbors have time to communicate with one another are very slim in today’s society. So a bedroom community is an oxymoron. How is it that people who live next door to one another do not know each other, yet the same people can use their mobile phones to chat with someone 1/2 around the world?
It’s all a matter of perspective!