Immediately after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, critic Shuichi Kato wrote, “one thing crossed freely from West to East” even when the barrier blocked the traffic of people and anyone trying to climb over it risked being shot to death.

It was the television radio wave, according to Kato.

Western TV programs that escaped regulators must have inculcated among East Germans a collective longing for the wealthy lifestyle of their peers on the other side of the wall.

Kato also pointed out that Western capital was already flowing into East, and the information and money combined set the stage for the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Nov. 9 marks the 30th anniversary of that historic event.

Images of Berliners smashing the wall were aired around the world, and the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991.

It was definitely an intoxicating era that signaled the end of the Cold War in a peaceful world, giving us cause to believe in the spread of freedom and democracy.

But looking around the world today, I cannot help feeling let down.

As globalization progressed in the wake of the collapse of socialism, information and money flowed freely in all directions.

In the early years of social media, there were high hopes that these interactive technologies would nurture democracy by giving voice to every user who had an opinion to share.

But we know today of social media’s divisive nature. Critics say many sites have deteriorated into “echo chambers” where only the opinions of like-minded people are shared and amplified.

It appeared as if economic globalization would lower national boundaries. Instead, nationalism ran rampant among people who felt they were being left out of the trend. Their sentiments have served as “fuel” for politicians pursuing only the narrow interests of their own countries.

Richard von Weizsacker (1920-2015), who served as president of Germany before and after the Berlin Wall fell, once ascribed “cruelty” or “inhumanity” to the structure, noting it had to be taken down some day.

That should also apply to the divisiveness and xenophobia in the human heart.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 9

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.