Barbed wire is one of the most important inventions of modern times.
I discovered this by accident. It struck me while watching television how often barbed wire appeared in news reports about crisis zones. You couldn’t escape it: there it was, in every war and every demonstration. Wherever migrants or suspected terrorists surfaced, they were held behind barbed wire.
When I decided to examine the history of barbed wire in more detail, I found out that’s how it’s been since the beginning. Barbed wire has always been used to separate living beings, first animals and later people. It’s what tamed the Wild West. It then entered the world stage with a grisly role in World War I. It came to symbolize totalitarianism, thanks to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. And today, it serves as an instrument of economic apartheid, by separating human beings into those who may enter and those stuck outside.
For my book on the history of barbed wire,More on my book here (in Dutch only)I travelled to the U.S., Bangladesh, South Africa, Belgium, Spain, and Morocco. I also cycled through my own country of the Netherlands and found that barbed wire is never far away. We just don’t notice it anymore. We’re as conditioned as cows; we look right through it.
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