BordersThursday, Dec 11, 2014 · 900 words · approx 5 mins to read
I’ve been thinking about how to write this blog post for over a year now. I still don’t know how to write it, so please bear with me. It’ll be messy and incoherent. In my head, what I’m about to write has at many times been an extended essay on money, but I still don’t know enough about what money actually is in larger terms to speak about it properly. So you’re stuck with me opining on geographical borders instead. Hopefully it’s clear that I’m not really talking about just geographical borders, but they’re the concrete example of the concept I have in my head that’s easiest for me to try and reason about, because we’re all affected by them in the same way.
The country I live in, the UK, happens to be affected by them in a reasonably special way right now (or maybe not so special, I’m just conditioned not to care about other countries), since we’re an island nation and who exactly is allowed to cross the border and join us on our water-locked rock is a hot topic of political conversation just now, since we’re in the run up to a General Election next year. If you’re not familiar with UK politics, it’s the event where we’ll elect a completely new government.
Living on Earth and as a human being, you have no choice where you’re born. It happens, and I guess in the common case you’re registered with the government of your country (or at least the government of your parents, which is a separate kettle of fish I won’t really touch on, but it matters) as a new human being. You’re given a nationality you didn’t choose, by virtue of geography, and as a grown up human you’ll probably acquire a passport or national ID of some kind and be reasonably free to move around the Earth as you see fit, now that someone somewhere knows who you are. Right?
No! And certainly not without your nationality hanging around with you, completely arbitrarily. Both things bother me immensely. You can change your nationality, but not without very hard work in almost all cases, and not without an ingrained sense that you did so following you around for the rest of your life, even though you had no choice over the root nationality given to you at birth. You’d never truly forget.
That nationality you have, even if you don’t identify with it or want it at all, will also stop you from being able to travel easily to other countries around the World. To go back to my own example: through no choice of my own bar being a British national, I have to apply for permission to visit a great many countries around the world. Countries that will probably (and have!) let me in, but some countries that probably won’t, too.
It feels incredibly constraining that I can’t just get up and visit or live wherever I like, no matter where that is, without is being very difficult or potentially impossible in some cases, just because I wasn’t born there. Worse than feeling incredibly constraining, in many cases the barriers feel incredibly arbitrary, and driven by fear. And fear of what? Another human being?
Stopping any human being from being able to easily migrate anywhere they want seems completely wrong to me, even though I notionally grok the reasons why the barriers are in place. I even empathise with them in many cases. But it still seems wrong. Europe, with all of its cultural diversity, different languages, different economies, different monies, figured it out. Why not everywhere else? That land doesn’t belong to you, really. It belongs to us all.
We cling to this notion of belonging to where we were born for no reason other than probably thinking it’s really scary over there, or we want to have power and dominion over what we have here, wherever here or there may be. The same threads of nationalistic self-interest are woven all over the Earth, and we buy into it, cemented by something we had absolutely no control over.
I struggle to think of any large thing governing human beings that’s more arbitrary and completely strangling than geographical borders, except possibly money.
I’m led back to thinking about how it’s dealt with here. The slow creep away from Europe, the rhetoric that funny coloured or funny speaking people are streaming into the UK in their millions to take our jobs and ruin our culture. How fucking hypocritical can we possibly get. Underpinned by that ever-present spectre of money, that it’s somehow in our financial best interest to pull back from Europe and close the border, and keep the funny coloured and funny speaking different people away from our money, when nothing could be further from the truth.
There’s no solid way to rationalise it, and I can’t even easily leave. Worse still, I’m not guaranteed that my chosen destination would even want me, for the same reasons people in the UK don’t want other human beings to come here.
All because we drew lines around some land from time to time. What a horrible, progress-halting mess.