Something there is that doesn’t love a wall

Jun
11
2010
by
Lynne McTaggart
/
41
Comments

Green Valley, Nevada, one of the US’s burgeoning number of ‘master-planned’ and gated communities, with a population of 60,000 – the size of many middle-sized towns – is one of the world’s fastest growing types of neighborhoods, constructed with the primacy of the individual specifically in mind.
Walls of extremely precise design and construction have been firmly placed between dwellings, at the end of backyards, between sections of the community — including the wholly enclosed school and local stores — and particularly between the community and the outside world. Bans are in place prohibiting residents from altering the walls in any regard, even those on their property.
High-end properties also rest behind a gated entrance with a security guard, and no one is admitted without a security check. Stores, parks, sidewalks, playgrounds, open spaces, even the local school also rest within its walled center, serving their exclusive community.
Presently, some eight million Americans live behind walls and gates in gated communities, with eight of every 10 new urban building projects established to be gated. One half million of the country’s gated communities reside in California alone; some 40 per cent of new homes in California are built behind gates or some sort of security device.
Gated world
Nevertheless, this trend, particularly in the West and South and in suburbs outside large urban sprawls, is not unique to America. 
Gated communities are now popular in such diverse areas as China, South Africa, where land developers first wall off an area, then fill it in with roads and houses; the Middle East, such the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, where armored vehicles patrol to protect Westerners with interests in oil; and the United Kingdom, where much of London urban renewal in the Docklands is occurring behind bars.
Even the less developed parts of the world, such Mexico and the rest of Central and South America, find the idea of walled towns and neighborhoods compelling; Nordelta in Argentina, the largest ‘barrio privado’ in the country, even offers its residents their own exclusive hospital.
Marginal effects
Although residents cite crime and security as the main reason for living behind a gate, research into the effect of gated communities shows that they have a marginal effect at keeping crime at bay.
The best two studies, carried out by the police in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, comparing the rates of all manner of crime before and after a neighborhood had closed off its streets, found no significant difference in violent or personal crimes.  Auto theft, burglary and other types of crimes at first drastically fell, but returned to similar levels after a short time.
The second study, examining the crime rates of several closed neighborhoods with that of Fort Lauderdale as a whole found no real difference in deterring crime. Although crimes against the person are permanently affected, incidence of burglary or car theft drop in the first year and then rise to the levels outside.
Green Valley was built specifically to deter crime and outsiders.  Nevertheless, recent crimes include serial rape, domestic murder, various robberies, a drug problem in the schools and chlorine-gas pollution from a neighboring industrial plant – in short, all the problems of ordinary, ungated suburbs.
In fact, even the most elaborate security in gated communities does not appear to have worked as well as simple Neighborhood Watch schemes, which have been shown to decrease robberies and burglaries by 24 and 33 per cent respectively, according to a study by Florida International University.
Shutting out strangers
Although the residents may feel safer than they actually are, the real point of a gated community is to shelter its inhabitants from outsiders. In the case of the more exclusive, high-end communities, the residents can already afford to live in ungated areas of negligible crime. 
As Edward J. Blakely and Mary Gail Snyder note, in their book Fortress America:  Gated Communities in the United States, ‘ traffic equals strangers, strangers are bad and bad means crime.’
The other point of a gated community is the keen desire for upward mobility and status; as the authors note, ‘They feed on aspirations for exclusion and the desire to differentiate. . . . Their motivation for gates is a desire to project an image, protect current investment, and control housing values.’ 
As a builder noted to Blakeley during his 1994-5 study, what buyers want is a home that ‘makes a clear statement about themselves and their lifestyles.’ Consequently, the most recently built communities create especially elaborate entrances, its own exclusive country club – a finger in the eye to anyone else outside its walls. 
Law unto itself
A gated community is very like a country that has seceded from the union – supplying its own services and security, answerable to very little outside its wall, encouraging its inhabitants to abdicate any
civic duties involving anything on the outside. 

What many people actually seek, behind a locked gate, is what is fast disappearing in our modern landscape – a romantic view of neighborhood – that place where our kids can play safely in the streets, where we know the parks and schools are safe, where neighbors wave over the garden fence and come together in common purpose. 
Nevertheless, not only is there no evidence that gated communities create a better neighborhood or more ‘social capital’ – the sociological term for community spirit and togetherness — the gate itself in fact prevents social capital from flourishing precisely because it encourages an in-group and ‘out-group’.
I was speaking with a translator I had once in the Middle East, a young woman called ‘Nour’.  When she was growing up, she says, the residential areas outside the country were grouped into small villages.  The villagers tend to live in 200-year old buildings of rough concrete and blockwork, passed down from many generations, and deliberately left unpainted.
The idea is to avoid ostentation precisely so that you do not ‘break your neighbors’ hearts’, she told me, by making them feel envious or bad about themselves:  the beauty of your house is created within  — in the warmth you have inside. 
Unfortunately, this custom is given way to creeping westernization, and new homes are now built with showy exteriors.
In his classic poem Mending Wall, Robert Frost wrote: 
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall’. . .
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know 
What I was walling in or walling out.

Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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41 comments on “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”

  1. I remember many years ago, going to a beautiful campground on the Gulf of Mexico. As evening approached a gentleman approached with a key, stating this key is to unlock the gate after dark, in case you decide to go out and come back later. It is to keep "those others out". I have pondered this for years, watching gated communities increase all the while. My concern then was that I was not so sure I wanted to be inside the locked gate with those who were inside with me. I still do not want to be locked inside with those others, knowing that they may be worse than what "lurks" outside. Community is an effort that many are unwilling to work towards. Your friend Noor understands how community can be built, whether it be by her village ways of similar housing or simply by open acceptance of "the other" without fear of negative impact on our own family/self.

  2. A friend of mine visited Turkey once and met a local man on a bus who invited him home for dinner. He was taken to one of these crumbling concrete buildings and was a little aprehensive about going in. Once the local man took him into his home, which had been in his family for generations, he was shocked at the beauty and opulence that was housed within.
    I believe this is a great metaphor for who we are as people. The walls we build in our communities are simply outward extensions of what we are like internally (as within, so without) We are walling off each other and focusing on superficial external beauty rather than cultivating our inner gifts. Let us now open up our doors and gates, and knock down our walls to allow others to enter and so that we may all share in each others internal beauty.

  3. Whether or not crime rates fall matters little. Perception is the key.
    On the other point about Noor and her community: what about self expression within and without?
    If you're neighbor feels bad about your house looking better than theirs well maybe there needs to be some digging done to get to the root of that problem.

  4. I live in Ft Lauderdale and find it interesting that the police would choose to do a study on gated communities in a city that only has two manned gated communities per city ordinances!
    The back story on the study is that several communities wanted to become gated, but couldn't because of the by-laws, so they opted for unmanned bar gates which have pressure pads which make the gates go up when you drive up to them. Since everybody knows this, they are wholly ignored and therefore contibute to the statistics mentioned.

  5. Spending the summers of the 40ies and 5oies at lake cottages, open fields, free space between dwellings, spacious. Now each house fenced in declaring, "this is mine, stay away" Not so much fear as territory proud. Cutting and slicing a once gracious landscape into little isolated squares.

  6. Thank you for the post Lynne! Beautiful reminder to take a look at the different walls we come in contact with either built literally or figuratively.
    Recently I was in Dallas Tx at a Whole Foods and was planning on putting a flyer on their community board. I was shocked when the customer service manager said if he allowed me to put something up he would have to let everyone. Precisely the point of community! It's inclusive!
    It was hard for me not to build a wall with the manager because their policy was not in favor of community. It was so nice to come home to Portland Oregon where Whole Foods and even neighborhoods have community boards. He graciously took my flyer and put it in the break room for the employees. It's a start.
    I'm still pondering the concept of community and inclusivity since this seems to be the second time I've experienced these topics recently.
    Thanks for the additional nudge to think about these things.

  7. Beautiful insight as usual, Lynne.
    We want to keep "the other" out just to find out ,perhaps, that it's us out there, the parts we don't recognize.

  8. 'Reminds me of Dean Ornish's research with heart disease where he discussed the unconscious process of protecting ourselves from further emotional pain by creating figurative walls (emotional defenses) around our heart. "But it's a double-edged sword, for the same wall that protects us can also isolate us." This isolation can lead to heart disease. Because our natural state is oneness and interconnectedness, you have to wonder about the unintended unhealthy consequences.
    Thanks for the stimulating post, Dean

  9. The bad news:
    Many of the people you describe in your article have gone from living in tract homes to tents. While this link focuses primarily on California's present housing woes, I believe this must be the case elsewhere as well:
    http://turbulence.org.uk/turbulence-5/california/
    The good news:
    Intentional Communities (Co-Housing), which seems to be the polar opposite of mainstream tract homes, are also rising in popularity:
    http://www.ic.org/
    I think that the choices people are making in their housing arrangements are based upon whether the individuals have a fear based mentality (keep people out), or feel safe (with a desire to connect with other people, rather than distance themselves) within the confines of a community. I believe our present economy will change the hearts & minds of many, hopefully in a way that is more "life affirming" for individuals & their families. Only time will tell.

  10. Interesting! It reminded me that I don't even like to visit people who live in gated communities! We only fence our garden to keep the deer from eating the veggies...
    Here's to vanishing walls inner and outer...

  11. Thank you for that article, Lynne.
    I didn't realize that the trend was so
    immense!
    It reminded me of I this song I wrote back in 1987
    BORDERS, BARRIERS, BOUNDARIES
    © Frank Swift 1987
    Astronauts and Cosmonauts went out in space and saw
    A lovely jewel suspended there, that filled their souls with awe
    A shining gem that warmed their hearts with its majesty and grace
    As they traveled through the darkness in the silent night of space
    They saw one world, one tiny globe, one precious place called "home"
    A place that nurtured every life and love they'd ever known
    And they longed to bring the vision home for all of us to see
    That there is no division, just one home, one family
    Borders, barriers, boundaries, are made in our minds to keep us apart
    Borders, barriers, boundaries, can't be seen from in space,
    Can't be found in the heart
    Astronauts and Cosmonauts were far away from home The farthest any one of us had ever dared to roam
    We waited for their safe return and cheered their bravery
    Did we listen? Did we learn? They solved a mystery
    They overcame the gravity that holds us to the earth And set us free so we could see an answer for rebirth The mystery of inner space, in outer space they found
    That inner space in all of us, where truth and love abound
    Borders, barriers, boundaries, made in our minds to divide, to control
    Borders, barriers, boundaries, they keep us blind from seeing the whole
    Borders, barriers, boundaries, made in our minds to keep us apart
    Borders, barriers, boundaries, can't be seen from in space, can't be found in the heart

  12. Thank You Frank Swift for the beautiful song! Let´s not build any more barriers; even to read about those gated communities makes me feel bad... but of course it all starts in our minds and in the end there´s nothing to fear, but our thoughts!

  13. I just did a bit of research on the gated communities in South Africa where I lived many years. The white people in towns gate themselves off but there is a graveyard for the 2000 white farmers who were brutally murdered and it continues. My former colleague was murdered just for being a journalist. Then I went next door to the pub in my small village in the Czech Republic. The barmaid had all the money on the counter. Thanks be for now that I live in a small old communist village where there is no such thing as a gated community. My garden gate does not close. Life in gated communities like South Africa is abnormal but it is understandable. It is my gratitude experience of today to appreciate there is no crime at all in my village and no fear. I intend that it will remain so.

  14. Until we recognise that we are all one and decide to come from a viewpoint of unconditional love and acceptance, we will continue to live in fear.

  15. Lynne,
    Walls are a part of our history (possibly an unfortunate part) and feature prominently in many parts of the world.
    The Great Wall of China, began in 771 BC according to one website, can be seen from space and represents a massive effort of finance and engineering. It was built to protect…
    Hadrian’s wall still cuts across northern Scotland, leaving a reminder of the rebellious nature of the locals.
    Built by the Emperor Hadrian starting in 122AD, (according too another website) Rome manned this wall for centuries, to keep the highland barbarians at bay. It was built to reflect…
    However, when Rome finally abandoned the territory around 400AD, the barbarians quickly overran the wall.
    Who was right in this conflict? I’m sure both sides felt justified in their actions, just like residents of a gated community feel justified in having a wall versus the criminals who feel justified in taking from those who have.
    So a wall is only as good as those who are willing to maintain its integrity!
    The interesting thing about walls is they serve two purposes:
    1. Provide a protective barrier
    2. Provide a sense of safety
    These might be empty promises according to some social studies, but is it so bad to want to feel safe in a world ravaged by crime and uncertainty?
    Write On!

  16. The inside of our house is what we see, you cannot see the outside from the inside. Why worry about having an externally attractive house just for the benefit of others? Or to make yourself look superior?

  17. Nan says..."Open acceptance of “the other” without fear of negative impact on our own family/self "- good advice indeed for both sides of the story, yes? Nature always finds homeostasis - we as humans love to think we have something to do with this 'balancing'...

  18. I'm just a simple Canadian who taught for a few wonderful years in the Czech Republic during the '90s, and it was great to hear from Alexander that in this way at least nothing has changed there, in what I still consider my "other home"! And here in small town Canada many of us don't lock our doors or cars - a friend of mine used to leave his cottage open over winter, saying, "Hell - somebody might need it!"
    No, thank you; when we trust people we are occasionally disappointed, but I think I can live with that - it certainly would seem to beat the alternative!
    Ian

  19. From another point of view you could say we are building other walls through social media. While I am hardly one of those who think social media is evil, none-the-less, most people do not know their neighbors. It is sad that we are getting away from building our communities and the social interaction that involves.

  20. Who ever said that the ability to afford being 'caged' in this walls is synonym of good heart, good caracter, among other good traits? Criminality is in the human nature and there is nothing to do with their bank account. They still will kill the wifes and husbands to cash in the insurance, among other atrocities.They still will ignore their children because they're too busy running they're own lives and barely have time to do it. Yes, is not the rule, but it will be enough so the difference between gated and non-gated communities becomes irrelevant after a certain time. Like the post says, focus on cleaning up the inside and the outside will be a reflection. I liked what Mary said. "We want to keep “the other” out just to find out ,perhaps, that it’s us out there, the parts we don’t recognize". We just don't want to recognize them, we want to push them away, ignore their needs. Only we find out that it is useless to close our eyes in the mirror. The reflection still going to be there when we open the eyes. Namaste.

  21. Wonderful article, Lynne. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Different style of moat and drawbridge; same fear.

  22. I've lived in and helped create cohousing communities which, while also intentional, are almost opposite in attitude. Taking down walls between homes and people creates deeper connections, feeling of bonding and safety, and community spirit. Cohousing maintains the value of privacy in that one's home is private retreat space, shared only at the resident's option. Seems like the best of both worlds.

  23. I see quite a bit of glass half empty here. There are many very good reasons for fences and walls. People who have vegetable gardens in some locals would have little left for dinner without them. we also put up walls and fences so our animals don't wander or get hit by cars and if we have pools we need fences and locked gates to satisfy insurance requirements.
    Another reason is to create a beautiful environment to live in. I found the story of people living in cement block bunkers quite depressing. Does anyone really think that catering to the worst in our neighbors characters, envy, is a good thing? Support for envy between people and between nations has caused enough murders and wars. Lets instead support the idea that all people are powerful beings and are capable of creating beauty and wealth for themselves. When we learn that we create our own reality the glass in not just half full, it is overflowing.

  24. The fact that so many gated communities are being built shows how fear has entered our harts and minds.
    Is there a possibilitiy that inside those walls cime developes after a while because the inhabitants bring it with them?
    I think that wherever we live we should embrace ourselves first to be able to embrace our fellow humans. Although I will confess that getting older I feel more vulnarable. Nevertheless I will not live behind self chosen walls.

  25. Should you sit upon a cloud you would not see
    the boundary line between one country and another, nor the boundary stone between a farm and a farm.
    It is a pity you cannot sit upon a cloud!
    -Khalil Gibran!

  26. Walls--many reasons for them--may be largely an indicator of the loss of social cohesion. I am thinking of some pro reasons for walls:
    - to gain some privacy in the shrinking yard space allowed by developers
    - keep animals out
    - to establish some personal identity because our work does not match our pupose in life
    - some control of "something"
    But walls are also an attempt to regain the power to shape a community--probably a sign that people realize they did not "grow up together" as American's once did. And, because our larger social vision for every citizen (once protected by our Constitution) now is in jeopardy.
    People try to wall out the psychically felt war of "too rich" and "too poor". While some people may be "image protectors" that might indicate character immaturity others may seek to protect the value of their life's investment (a sad necessity). Protection itself is not bad.
    The walls mirror that our socio-economics have created lines of division and large sections of our population have suffered material losses.
    It is signifies the lack of personal power to change our communities into friendlier space so individual groups protect themselves from the community (the suffering parts too hard to live with).
    I do believe we have personal power to shape our future. But let's not be in denial that others have power to affect our life outcomes as well. Otherwise, we can just blame all pain and shortages as "individual" lack of power and disregard socially caused evils and responsibilities and how individuals use social power and responsibilities for themselves at the expense of others. I do not believe American troops created the war they fight. Life is not a simple "me" interaction alone apart from "you."
    It is good to discuss the walls--because they certainly are a sign of illness when a social family must divide itself from an "underclass of members". The "why" we build a wall is important.

  27. There seems to be a lot of Eastern U.S. Bias in this post. In the East you guys have never had fences inbetween backyards. In the West, we've always had fences. I grew up in CA, with fences, and somehow my family new all the neighbors, we all helped eachother with home repair projects, I played at the park nearby without adult supervision, and walked to my friends' houses by myself. No one was worried about outsiders, they just want privacy, because our homes are very close together here. Sheesh.

  28. GROWING ROCKS, MAKE GOOD WALLS
    There’s something I know about walls. Like so many things, they aren’t what they seem. In fact, most have no meaning at all.
    Winter comes and takes its turn to work the soil. Water, snow, ice, and water again seep, awakening the largest of rocks. Cold and lethargic they bump smaller rocks
    out of their way as they seek to rise.
    In early spring, their crop is the first to appear like gray, hard cabbages, signaling farmers to their annual rock harvest: “No time to sleep. We’re ready to be picked.”
    First comes the dog, then tractor, pulling a flatbed sled. Spring after spring it starts and stops, picking up those rocks. Take them to the barn or down to the swamp? No. The boundaries of the field are the closest rock-drop.
    On more dull winter days, rocks form walls so in spring the plow can plow, tiller till, seeds sow for later crops. Harvest comes, animals and people continue to eat.
    Basic walls are not as they seem. Neither evil nor good, they are simple and innocent things, just trying to get out of our way, to leave us alone ,-and be left alone.

  29. There are many stories of locked doors and Native Americans of the old west. The roving warriors did not kill nor burn out the families who left their doors unlocked. They burned out and kill those who locked their doors.

  30. I believe by a beautiful grace , some walls are built for a devotion of a reverance to a higher place. Having those walls of giving one on one attention to what made nations and countries, the forest and mountains, is of the most beautiful that is. Thankfulness for your thoughtfulness.

  31. All my life I have lived in houses that we never locked. Back door is always open so dog can run in and out all day. Never been robbed in busy town or in remote bush. In Africa we lived through the Mau Mau ( Kenya) and all our neighbours were attacked because they kept guns locked inside. We had no guns and open doors and never were attacked. Never locked my car except twice in 30 years - once at my mother's insistence, and BOTH times I had the car broken into - otherwise never... Gated communities send out a hostile vibe that will invite rresponse in kind... Love the Intention Experiment Book Lynne, splendid work.

  32. Great Post!... imho gated communities are the extension of what countries do. Borders, immigration officers, all do the same thing, trying to "keep out" those we look as "different" or "not worthy". Countires built up walls: China, Germany, Israel, even the US in the Mexican border.
    The false sense of security this walls give, always worked well for those in power.
    As someone mentioned, a community is something you have to work for. Rising walls is just the answer for lazy people!

  33. Martha Graham, a wonderful dancer, said,"This was the first wall,"and crossed her arms in front of her body.

  34. Here's one more perspective to add to all of those above... walls in the physical world do indeed arise from the walls we create in consciousness with our beliefs. Humanity's evolution towards an Enlightened Planetary Civilization® comes largely as a result of integrating the beliefs that separate us as individuals. I suspect one could look at the history of civilizations and find a correspondence between growth as "walls" are deconstructed, and decay as they are built.

  35. Urgent:
    - re The healing of cancer.
    --- "Intention of the Week" -- Vivien Russell --
    Cancer can often be caused by spiritual frustration.
    It must be addressed on three fronts : ---
    1 The happiness/disappointments in the life of the sufferer.
    2 The opportunities for / frustrations of their spirit's purpose, with appreciation for karma.
    3 The intention of the 'healer'.
    Without due consideration of the first two points, above, the healing will be tempory!
    With love -- J

  36. As a student of architecture, it always amazes me how un inspiring our build invironment has become. We have no shortage of technology to make creating curves in the design, yet we continue to build boxes to live in.
    I would like to see an" intential community" that had in its mandate to provide artists and sculptors an opportunity to express themselves.
    See:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100615/ap_on_re_as/as_kyrgyzstan;_ylt=ArHqPaDvbkaL.M7sFnBukBtvaA8F;_ylu=X3oDMTJlcm9yZGx1BGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTAwNjE1L2FzX2t5cmd5enN0YW4EY3BvcwMxBHBvcwMxBHNlYwN5bl90b3Bfc3RvcnkEc2xrA3V6YmVrd29tYW5yYQ--

  37. This is not about "gated" communities, but an interesting event told to me by a friend who lives in a house built to the standards of traditional Vedic Architecture (Sthapatya Veda) in accord with natural law. There home is built in an open community east of San Diego. Southern California is known for seasonal wild fires. This happened a few years ago, the fire was coming fast, consuming everything in it's path, and when it got to the perimeter of their house (marked by a small), insubstantial, wooden fence). At that point, the fire took a sharp turn around their home, leaving it untouched, while other houses in their community were burned to the ground. This sort of phenomena would be interesting to study.

  38. Oil spill in Gelf of Mexico, barriers, cancer and the mind.
    It is difficult to not imagine the onrushing tons of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico even while I write and not be appalled at the consequences for all of earth. It is hardly bearable to watch the birds. Apart from BP, there are of course the millions who use oil in their cars everyday. Years ago, I used to stand on a hill and view the tiny vehicles moving at great linear speed wondering where they were going and why. Each driver boxed in a metal machine, cut off from nature, deaf and blind to all that he is part of. People live in „gated“ communities or barriers for protection but the cutting off is much much more. Transport using oil has, more than anything else created a barrier between man and earth. Cancer cells likewise become deaf and blind to signalling that regulates growth which in the embryo is necessary but in adult cells unregulated leads to uncontrolled proliferation. That is about it. The cancer cell loses the ability to communicate-like the drivers of cars with nature. There is one further aspect and it is the mind.
    The mind creates all of this. This is especially true for the disease we know as cancer. I listened to a puja broadcast recently where a healer was interviewed about disease as possession and attachment of the mind. You have to believe in cancer to „have“ it, even if in most cases this is unconscious. If a person abandons the mind concept of disease and aligns himself with the conscious divine energy within, which only knows balance and health he or she is able to heal. This is the experience of this healer. So really when we use a mind concept in the fashion phrase „gated community“, we have to consider the mind itself is the prime gate or barrier. Uncontrolled proliferation of oil, isnt it?

Why wait any longer when you’ve already been waiting your entire life?

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