Author Tim Marshall answers YOUR questions!


Tim Marshall was Diplomatic Editor and foreign correspondent for Sky News. He has written for many of the national newspapers including the Times, the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, and the Sunday Times.

After thirty years’ experience in news reporting and presenting, Tim left full time news journalism to concentrate on writing and analysis and his latest book 'Divided. Why We Are Living In An Age of Wall' is available now.

Q) All the examples of walls that I can think of seem to have bad effects for people on at least one side of them or have bad feelings about them. For example, the Berlin wall, the wailing wall, Hadrians wall. Has there ever been a good wall in history? If all walls have bad things to do with them why do they keep being built? From lively_tomato, Skellefteå

A) Hi Lively Tomato, your question has the answer in it! It depends on which side of the wall you are. A good example is the Walls of Constantinople (now called Istanbul). There were many attempts to attack the city – but the walls kept out the different attackers for 1,000 years. You could say that was a good wall which worked.

Q) What can we do to help against this situation? From noble_crab, Michael Faraday School

A) Hello Noble Crab. Walls are almost always built because of fears about security. So, if you can reduce the fear, you reduce the need to build. Some of the new walls are built because so many people are moving from one place to another – for example from Bangladesh to India. If you deal with why they are moving then fewer will move. But, here’s where it gets tricky. Some move because of bad treatment by their government, and some move because climate change means their farmland is no good anymore. This is tricky because its not up to the Indian government to tell Bangladeshi’s government what to do – and tricky because climate change is happening everywhere. What can YOU personally do? Support better treatment of people, and do your small but important bit to reduce waste and energy use.

Walls are almost always built because of fears about security. So, if you can reduce the fear, you reduce the need to build.

Tim Marshall, Author

Q) Do you believe that Donald Trump could have thought of alternatives to building such a dividing factor as a wall? From honorable_conclusion, Weston Favell Academy

A) Yes. But don’t forget he was democratically elected and that a big part of his message to voters was that he wanted to build it. However, alternatives might be to use the massive amount of money for the wall to build hi tech centres to register and process people arriving at the border. Another could be to help the countries in Central America, such as Honduras, to have a better economy so more people have more money and then they might not want to move to America to try and have a better life.

Q) Do you think physical borders or mental borders are worse, which one? From easygoing_rabbit, Highdown School

A) Hi Easygoing. I can’t choose because one is as bad as the other, and because one leads to the other. If in your mind you are divided from other people in what’s called a ‘them and us’ mentality, then you may end up trying to physically divide yourself from them. On the other hand, if you are physically divided from someone, it can lead you to thinking you are mentally divided from them. As a starting point it helps to think of humanity as one because even though there will inevitably be difficulties, and sometimes conflict between us, if we start from thinking we are united perhaps we can reduce how divided we sometimes become.

Comments (14)

  • Olivia-Avatar.jpg Olivia @ Topical Talk
    14 May 2019

    Hi BNC! Lots of interesting answers here from Tim Marshall. Have a read of them and then see if you can answer these questions:
    1. Can you think of any way to 'reduce the fear' that Tim mentions?
    2. What might be some of the challenges with the hi tech centres to register and process people at the border?
    3. Can you think of any ways to reduce how divided we sometimes become?

    Reply to this comment
    1. The-Ruth-Gorse-logo-250x250.jpg balanced_singer | The Ruth Gorse Academy | United Kingdom
      Olivia @ Topical Talk's comment 22 May 2019

      People could reduce the fear by the government allowing a lot more immigrants inside the country; however, this isn't always a good thing because it means that the government would have to spend more money on them, but they would also get money because a lot more people would be working there. This could and could not work. It could work because the more you get used to something the less scared you get. This may not happen though. For example, I've been afraid of dogs for most of my life ( yes, I know ) and at the age of twelve, I'm still terrified. But we are only trying to 'reduce' the fear.

      Another way to reduce the fear could actually be physical walls. I feel really bad saying this, but I don't think it's the best way. It could work because the fewer people that come into the country, the less the fear of security becomes. If I link back to the example I gave earlier about the dogs, I feel more 'safe' and happy when I'm not near them. As I mentioned before, I don't think that this is the best option. Owing to the fact that, walls make a place look a lot more serious and unwelcoming. People don't want to look at a border of a country and go, "I don't like that place, I'm not going to go in there." Furthermore, walls aren't an advantage for people like refugees since they have been forced out of their country and they would have to go to another where they don't feel safe (or maybe even one where they aren't allowed in ).

      So reducing the fear can either be solved in two ways: make security more significant or decrease it. To me, the best way is to decrease it. Nevertheless, it could also be good to make it more serious.

      Reply to this comment
  • IIS.PNG poetic_instrument | Napoleone Colajanni
    15 May 2019

    Once we learn how to deal with this primal fear, we access its healing properties. Many people complain that abandonment imprisons them behind a wall created by themselves. They are involved in models of constant re-abandonment. Others are in a relationship but feel chronic pain and uncertainty. They are wrapped in shame to feel so needy. I think that fear can be reduced by going out of the box with the fact that our love is understood as our fear of making mistakes and coming into contact with everything we consider dangerous around us.

    Reply to this comment
  • swedish school.JPG coherent_fruit | Skellefteå
    15 May 2019

    How do you feel about Donald Trump building the wall?

    Reply to this comment
  • Dante Alighieri.PNG quiet_lute | Dante Alighieri
    16 May 2019

    I hate the construction of the wall that separates the United States and Mexico.

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  • IIS.PNG happy_situation | Napoleone Colajanni
    16 May 2019

    Hi. I Think that each of us could delete fears even if isn't easy.
    Like Trump, thare are many others problems in the world.
    Sincerely the world ,for me, doesn't need all theese walls because if we put everything on the mistakes of the past , maybe there won't be conflicts because our fear would turn into courage and we will have peace.
    A fear can be a bad thing, bad memory or fear of facing the possible reality.
    We can change the things if we will break down the walls of evil and brring about peace.

    Reply to this comment
  • IIS.PNG reflective_night | Napoleone Colajanni
    16 May 2019

    1. To reduce fear we must increase trust, love, and forget the meaning of "hatred". But how can we increase love and forget hatred? To reach this goal we need to know who is around us, not to be afraid of the stranger, of the different from us. For this reason I would propose to establish real centers of cultural integration. Places where cultures mix, aggregation centers where different people can learn to appreciate the "different".
    Knowledge is an excellent weapon to fight fear, because being aware of what is in front of you is the only way to face problems.

    Reply to this comment
  • IIS.PNG helpful_rock | Napoleone Colajanni
    17 May 2019

    I found the article so interesting and I think a way to cheer up people might be intercultural meetings where we could learn about other communities, their languages, their traditions, their religion.
    The xenophobia is the fear of what you don't know. People don't have to consider diversity as a reason for their fear, but as a particularity that characterizes everyone. The world couldn't be the world if we all were the same.

    Borders are so long, you can't check every metre of them, so people could get in a State from a definite point without pass through the hi tech centres. To risolve this problem, governments might place some cameras along it and find out where this strategic points could be, send patrols and check better there.

    We are often guided by our prejudicies in beliveing people unpleasant or dangerous. We usually are conditioned by other people's opinions, our sensations and our suppositions about a person's reputation. We can't judge a person for what he or she seems; before judging we have to know inside who we judge.

    Reply to this comment
  • IIS.PNG fulfilled_strategy | Napoleone Colajanni
    17 May 2019

    Currently, a topic of global importance is the construction of Trump's Wall, which could mark the history of humanity as the Berlin Wall.
    The latter has sanctioned a period of degradation. The Berlin Wall was made to prevent people from escaping from East Berlin to West Berlin.
    East Germany had strict rules while West Germany was full of opportunities for citiziens. In 1961,years of the construction of wall,2.5 milion people who lived in East Berlin fled to the West. More than 100 people were killed trying because the wall was surrounded by armed guards who shot civilians who wanted to pass it.
    Compared to Trump's wall , the Berlin wall was built to keep citizens in, while the current president of the United States proposes the construction for a wall to prevent drug trafficking between Mexico and America. However, the consequences could be similar because it isn't only a physical barrier but also an idealogical one and the passage from one area to another would become more and more complicated, as long as people are close to their country.
    As a Sting song says, does history teach us anything?

    Reply to this comment
  • IIS.PNG tidy_atom | Napoleone Colajanni
    17 May 2019

    We struggle our minds trying to find a solution to this, always more frequent, division of the world.
    We don’t understand that with walls we apparently solve problems; it is like when it is a bad day and we don’t want to see the sunlight so we close the window pretending not to see that there is the sun outside; so raising up barriers, we pretend not to see the problem, to hear a deafening alarm bell.

    We should transform these fears in switches to turn on a light in our minds. Difference is not something to be worried by, but something that can only enrich all of us. By stopping building physical barriers we should start not to build mental borders.
    Once we learn to integrate one another, mix more than one culture together, then we can say that we have made a step towards the solution.

    Reply to this comment
  • IIS.PNG aware_earth | Napoleone Colajanni
    20 May 2019

    Hi Olivia,
    It's difficult to reduce the fear we feel towards those people who are different from us, very often we are conditioned by the color of their skin or by their religion, so we close ourselves creating physucal andalso psychological barriers. To reduce fear, change must start from us, we must change our closed mind, because the color of the skin can't change,but our minds can: we must be open to other cultures and don't be afraid to meet other people. I am aware of how difficult is changing a mentality roted in our society, but we must be stronger in order to live in a word full of tollerance and friendship

    Reply to this comment
  • Morley-Newlands-logo-250x250.jpg prodigious_guineapig | Morley Newlands Academy | United Kingdom
    24 May 2019

    It is a bad idea that Donald built a world

    Reply to this comment
  • swedish school.JPG outgoing_dragonfruit | Skellefteå
    29 May 2019

    I hate the construction of the wall that separates the United States and Mexico.

    Reply to this comment

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