'The West' is, in fact, the world's biggest gated community

A review of the global "wall" that divides rich from poor.

A giant global wall separates the rich from the poor

A giant global wall separates the rich from the poor

Image: TD Architects
  • Trump's border wall is only one puzzle piece of a global picture.
  • Similar anxieties are raising similar border defenses elsewhere.
  • This map shows how, as a result, "the West" is in fact one large gated community.

World-wide fence

The western terminus of the US-Mexico land border at Tijuana.

Image source: © Tomas Castelazo / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

This map is a decade old, but it feels increasingly topical with every passing year. More than ever, we live in a Walled World.

Even though the stats on the map may have changed somewhat, its shocking main point still stands: the rich countries of the world are, in fact, the world's biggest gated community.

This world-wide fence is rarely presented to us in its totality; we catch glimpses of its various bits whenever they're in the news. Those separate pieces don't necessarily seem to belong to the same puzzle.

The US-Mexico border is far away from "Fortress Europe," and both are different from Israel's security wall. Other, similar barriers have their own peculiarities. But in the end, they all do the same thing: keep the poor, huddled masses from the shantytowns off the manicured lawns of the First World.

The Berlin Window

East and West Berliners on top of the recently opened Berlin Wall, early November 1989.

Image: Lear21, CC BY-SA 3.0

For a brief window of time, opened 30 years ago next month, it seemed history would go the other way. In November 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. Its joyous demolition predicted the end of hard borders everywhere.

That window soon flew shut. The idea of a globalized world with frictionless borders fell out of fashion faster than the bleached jeans and mullet hair of the East Berliners marveling at their first banana in 1989.

Two events stand out: 9/11, and the refugee crisis of 2015. Both increased the fear and suspicion of "others" and remedied it by shoring up the entrance barriers into what is still sometimes — incongruously — called "the West" (1).

At the end of the Cold War, there were just 15 walls separating countries from each other. Now there are at least 70 walled borders worldwide. Since the fall of the Wall, thousands of miles of steel and concrete walls have gone up on international borders.

A global wall

The rich world, developed world, first world or Western world by another name: the walled world.

The rich world, developed world, first world or Western world by another name: the walled world.

Image: TD Architects

As this map shows, the Walled World consists of the U.S. and Canada (in North America); Japan and South Korea, plus Australia and New Zealand (in the Asia-Pacific region); plus basically the entire European Union (2); and also Israel. In 2009, that club of nations represented just 14 percent of the world's population but earned 73 percent of its income. Conversely, the "gray areas" outside the walls were home to 86 percent of humanity, who scraped together just 27 percent of the world's income.

The average monthly income inside the wall is around €2,500. Outside, it's just €150. Money may or may not buy happiness, but it does buy quality of life. The yellow dots, which represent the world's top 50 cities in terms of quality of life, are almost all inside the wall — only Singapore is outside, and that relatively wealthy city-state should arguably be included inside the wall anyway.

In other words: the poor are many, the rich are few. That's not a new phenomenon of course, nor are the migratory pressures it causes. That's where those barriers come in. The map lists some examples, the locations and the circumstances of which are all different — but which are all pieces of the same puzzle shown on this map.

Technically still at war

The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea.

Image source: Korean Culture and Information Service (Jeon Han), CC BY 2.0

A. The DMZ between North and South Korea

The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which came into being in the ceasefire on July 27, 1953, cuts the Korean peninsula about in half. It's 155 miles (248 km) long and around 2 miles (3 km) wide. The two sides are technically still at war. Skirmishes at the DMZ have cost the lives of hundreds of Koreans, and at least 50 U.S. service personnel. The border is so heavily fortified that North Korean defectors rather try their luck going north into China than attempting to cross the DMZ.

B. The Australian Defense Force (ADF)

The ADF — charged with the defense of Australia — patrols the waters north of Australia, where incursions by boat refugees are most likely.

C. The US-Mexico barrier

Although Trump got elected by promising to "build that wall," the systematic erection of physical barriers on the 1,954-mile (3,145-km) US-Mexico border already began under the Clinton Administration. At first, it was concentrated on urban crossing points. After 9/11, fencing occurred in more rural/isolated areas as well — both under presidents Bush Jr. and Obama. Over the decades, thousands of migrants have died crossing the border.

Tourist attractions

The 'Valla' in Melilla, where Europe touches Africa.

Image: Ángel Gutiérrez Rubio, CC BY 2.0

D. The Ceuta and Melilla border fences

Ceuta and Melilla, the two Spanish exclave cities in Morocco, are where Fortress Europe meets North Africa. Built from 1993 with EU funding, a hard border consisting of tall barbed-wire fences equipped with motion sensors tries (and often fails) to keep out the flow of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. Before making the attempt, many hide in the Gurugu Mountains outside Melilla. Called "La Valla," the fences have become one of the cities' major tourist attractions.

E. The EU's Schengen Border

The map legend reads: "It took the European Union only six years (after the fall of the Berlin Wall) to create, with the Schengen Agreement in 1995, a new division only 80 km offset to the east of Berlin." The 26 Schengen Area members (3) have abolished all "internal" passport and border controls and have strengthened border controls and a common visa policy for non-Schengen countries.

F. The West Bank Barrier

In 2002, Israel started work on a concrete barrier separating Israelis from Palestinians. Israel says this is to stop the incursion of terrorists into Israel proper. The placing of the wall, largely beyond the Green Line which constitutes the "official" border between Israel and the Palestinian territories, means 9.4 percent of West Bank and East Jerusalem territory is now included on the Israeli side. Palestinians contend the wall is a land grab and constitutes a de facto border. Almost 90 percent of Israeli settlers in the occupied territories live between the Green Line and the Wall.

Another brick in the wall

One of the 99 'Peace Walls' in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

One of the 99 "Peace Walls" in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Image source: Duke Human Rights Center, CC BY 2.0

Of course, there are many more border walls than these.

  • Take for instance the Evros Wall. Built in 2012 along the eponymous border river between Greece and Turkey, its purpose is to stop illegal migrants crossing the only land border between both countries into the EU.

Not all border walls are between the First World and the Rest of the World.

  • India is building a 2,500-mile barbed-wire fence around Bangladesh, the overcrowded neighbour squeezed in entirely between India and the sea. India says the "Bengal Wall" will keep out smugglers and terrorists — but it will mostly keep out people fleeing poverty and climate change.

Some of the border walls aren't even between countries, but between neighborhoods.

  • Belfast counts 99 "Peace Walls" separating Catholic/nationalist communities from Protestant/loyalist ones. The largest one, dividing Protestant Springmartin Estate from Catholic Springfield Park, consists of no less than a million bricks.
  • Brazil's rich cordon themselves off from the nation's poor in gated communities such as Alphaville in São Paulo.
  • A decades-old wall divides Nicosia on Cyprus in Greek and Turkish halves — after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Nicosia is now the only European capital still divided by a wall.

Feel the Berm

The expansion of Morocco's Berm, in six phases from 1982 to 1987.

The expansion of Morocco's Berm, in six phases from 1982 to 1987.

Image source: Cedric31, GFDL

Border walls are both old and new.

  • In 1975, Morocco took over the Western Sahara from Spain without granting the locals a referendum on independence. An armed rebellion ensued. Morocco responded by building the "Berm." The world's longest and oldest security barrier divides the Western Sahara in a large, ocean-facing swathe controlled by Morocco, and a thin strip of desert on the border with Mauritania, left to the Sahrawi rebels.
  • In recent years, "security walls" have gone up in Kabul, Baghdad, Cairo, and Syria. So many in fact, that none of them merit the notoriety of the Berlin Wall or even Belfast's Peace Walls.

An updated map of the Walled World would contain many more red lines crisscrossing the planet. It feels like it'll be a while before there'll be another Berlin Moment, and any of these walls will start coming down again.

Strange Maps #993

Walled World map by TD Architects, reproduced with kind permission.

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.


(1) A relative term. See #311.

(2) On this map still without its most recent additions: Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria.

(3) The EU plus Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland, but minus the UK and Ireland (who have permanent opt-outs) and Cyprus, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria (who are obliged by the conditions of their EU accession to join the Schengen Area eventually).

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Evolution proves to be just about as ingenious as Nikola Tesla

Credit: Gerald Schömbs / Unsplash
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Are we really addicted to technology?

Fear that new technologies are addictive isn't a modern phenomenon.

Credit: Rodion Kutsaev via Unsplash
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink, which has partnered with the Build for Tomorrow podcast to go inside new episodes each month. Subscribe here to learn more about the crazy, curious things from history that shaped us, and how we can shape the future.

In many ways, technology has made our lives better. Through smartphones, apps, and social media platforms we can now work more efficiently and connect in ways that would have been unimaginable just decades ago.

But as we've grown to rely on technology for a lot of our professional and personal needs, most of us are asking tough questions about the role technology plays in our own lives. Are we becoming too dependent on technology to the point that it's actually harming us?

In the latest episode of Build for Tomorrow, host and Entrepreneur Editor-in-Chief Jason Feifer takes on the thorny question: is technology addictive?

Popularizing medical language

What makes something addictive rather than just engaging? It's a meaningful distinction because if technology is addictive, the next question could be: are the creators of popular digital technologies, like smartphones and social media apps, intentionally creating things that are addictive? If so, should they be held responsible?

To answer those questions, we've first got to agree on a definition of "addiction." As it turns out, that's not quite as easy as it sounds.

If we don't have a good definition of what we're talking about, then we can't properly help people.

LIAM SATCHELL UNIVERSITY OF WINCHESTER

"Over the past few decades, a lot of effort has gone into destigmatizing conversations about mental health, which of course is a very good thing," Feifer explains. It also means that medical language has entered into our vernacular —we're now more comfortable using clinical words outside of a specific diagnosis.

"We've all got that one friend who says, 'Oh, I'm a little bit OCD' or that friend who says, 'Oh, this is my big PTSD moment,'" Liam Satchell, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Winchester and guest on the podcast, says. He's concerned about how the word "addiction" gets tossed around by people with no background in mental health. An increased concern surrounding "tech addiction" isn't actually being driven by concern among psychiatric professionals, he says.

"These sorts of concerns about things like internet use or social media use haven't come from the psychiatric community as much," Satchell says. "They've come from people who are interested in technology first."

The casual use of medical language can lead to confusion about what is actually a mental health concern. We need a reliable standard for recognizing, discussing, and ultimately treating psychological conditions.

"If we don't have a good definition of what we're talking about, then we can't properly help people," Satchell says. That's why, according to Satchell, the psychiatric definition of addiction being based around experiencing distress or significant family, social, or occupational disruption needs to be included in any definition of addiction we may use.

Too much reading causes... heat rashes?

But as Feifer points out in his podcast, both popularizing medical language and the fear that new technologies are addictive aren't totally modern phenomena.

Take, for instance, the concept of "reading mania."

In the 18th Century, an author named J. G. Heinzmann claimed that people who read too many novels could experience something called "reading mania." This condition, Heinzmann explained, could cause many symptoms, including: "weakening of the eyes, heat rashes, gout, arthritis, hemorrhoids, asthma, apoplexy, pulmonary disease, indigestion, blocking of the bowels, nervous disorder, migraines, epilepsy, hypochondria, and melancholy."

"That is all very specific! But really, even the term 'reading mania' is medical," Feifer says.

"Manic episodes are not a joke, folks. But this didn't stop people a century later from applying the same term to wristwatches."

Indeed, an 1889 piece in the Newcastle Weekly Courant declared: "The watch mania, as it is called, is certainly excessive; indeed it becomes rabid."

Similar concerns have echoed throughout history about the radio, telephone, TV, and video games.

"It may sound comical in our modern context, but back then, when those new technologies were the latest distraction, they were probably really engaging. People spent too much time doing them," Feifer says. "And what can we say about that now, having seen it play out over and over and over again? We can say it's common. It's a common behavior. Doesn't mean it's the healthiest one. It's just not a medical problem."

Few today would argue that novels are in-and-of-themselves addictive — regardless of how voraciously you may have consumed your last favorite novel. So, what happened? Were these things ever addictive — and if not, what was happening in these moments of concern?

People are complicated, our relationship with new technology is complicated, and addiction is complicated — and our efforts to simplify very complex things, and make generalizations across broad portions of the population, can lead to real harm.

JASON FEIFER HOST OF BUILD FOR TOMORROW

There's a risk of pathologizing normal behavior, says Joel Billieux, professor of clinical psychology and psychological assessment at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, and guest on the podcast. He's on a mission to understand how we can suss out what is truly addictive behavior versus what is normal behavior that we're calling addictive.

For Billieux and other professionals, this isn't just a rhetorical game. He uses the example of gaming addiction, which has come under increased scrutiny over the past half-decade. The language used around the subject of gaming addiction will determine how behaviors of potential patients are analyzed — and ultimately what treatment is recommended.

"For a lot of people you can realize that the gaming is actually a coping (mechanism for) social anxiety or trauma or depression," says Billieux.

"Those cases, of course, you will not necessarily target gaming per se. You will target what caused depression. And then as a result, If you succeed, gaming will diminish."

In some instances, a person might legitimately be addicted to gaming or technology, and require the corresponding treatment — but that treatment might be the wrong answer for another person.

"None of this is to discount that for some people, technology is a factor in a mental health problem," says Feifer.

"I am also not discounting that individual people can use technology such as smartphones or social media to a degree where it has a genuine negative impact on their lives. But the point here to understand is that people are complicated, our relationship with new technology is complicated, and addiction is complicated — and our efforts to simplify very complex things, and make generalizations across broad portions of the population, can lead to real harm."

Behavioral addiction is a notoriously complex thing for professionals to diagnose — even more so since the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the book professionals use to classify mental disorders, introduced a new idea about addiction in 2013.

"The DSM-5 grouped substance addiction with gambling addiction — this is the first time that substance addiction was directly categorized with any kind of behavioral addiction," Feifer says.

"And then, the DSM-5 went a tiny bit further — and proposed that other potentially addictive behaviors require further study."

This might not sound like that big of a deal to laypeople, but its effect was massive in medicine.

"Researchers started launching studies — not to see if a behavior like social media use can be addictive, but rather, to start with the assumption that social media use is addictive, and then to see how many people have the addiction," says Feifer.

Learned helplessness

The assumption that a lot of us are addicted to technology may itself be harming us by undermining our autonomy and belief that we have agency to create change in our own lives. That's what Nir Eyal, author of the books Hooked and Indistractable, calls 'learned helplessness.'

"The price of living in a world with so many good things in it is that sometimes we have to learn these new skills, these new behaviors to moderate our use," Eyal says. "One surefire way to not do anything is to believe you are powerless. That's what learned helplessness is all about."

So if it's not an addiction that most of us are experiencing when we check our phones 90 times a day or are wondering about what our followers are saying on Twitter — then what is it?

"A choice, a willful choice, and perhaps some people would not agree or would criticize your choices. But I think we cannot consider that as something that is pathological in the clinical sense," says Billieux.

Of course, for some people technology can be addictive.

"If something is genuinely interfering with your social or occupational life, and you have no ability to control it, then please seek help," says Feifer.

But for the vast majority of people, thinking about our use of technology as a choice — albeit not always a healthy one — can be the first step to overcoming unwanted habits.

For more, be sure to check out the Build for Tomorrow episode here.

Why the U.S. and Belgium are culture buddies

The Inglehart-Welzel World Cultural map replaces geographic accuracy with closeness in terms of values.

According to the latest version of the Inglehart-Welzel World Cultural Map, Belgium and the United States are now each other's closest neighbors in terms of cultural values.

Credit: World Values Survey, public domain.
Strange Maps
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