The Absurdity and Reality of Nationality and National Borders: A Brief Personal History

I am a tri-national … But what does this really … really … mean?

I was born in a place within the borders of a landmass that we refer to as a „country“. I don’t remember this of course. Or if I do, I’m not conscious of the fact. To the east and west of this land there is ocean. To the north, there is a rugged jagged coastline that converges into icepacks. To the south, the continent spreads for thousands of kilometres. Hundreds of years ago, people drew a straight line on a map representing this landmass and called it a border between two „countries“. To the north-west, there is another border to an area of land that was in fact purchased by the country that lies below the aforementioned straight line, from yet another country. These are not borders, of course. They are simply straight lines on a map that represents one mass of land. Yet, they are borders.

I grew up in a place within the borders of a country. I do remember much of this. The story of this “country” is however somewhat confusing.
You see, it’s a country within an island, incorporating other countries, within a “country” that includes bits of another island too, as well as many smaller islands that are sort of part of the country (the second-mentioned country) and sort of not.
Confused? Don’t worry. Many other people are too.

This country (the second-mentioned country) likes to proclaim the benefits of independence, which is somewhat confusing because for hundreds of years, its rulers forced other “countries” to be dependent upon them. It is also strange in that the concept of independence contradicts the nature of our world. Within the borders of the second-mentioned country, which incidentally carries the description „United“ within its name, is yet another country that wishes to proclaim independence from it. So perhaps this country will, in the not too distant future, no longer be a “country”.
Still confused? Don’t worry. You are not alone.

Let’s continue … This second-mentioned country also likes to speak of „protecting its borders“. It is completely surrounded by the sea apart from one section on a different island that has an open border to the next country – a border which was a jagged line drawn on a map about 100 years ago. More confused? Don’t worry. Perhaps you too have a different understanding of the meaning of “protecting” … or even a different definition of “border”.

My ancestors originate from another place, in fact, a number of places within borders that have changed so frequently during the past couple of hundred years that to speak of them being in a „country“ begs the Question, „Which one?“ The last time these lines that we name borders, were redrawn on a map was only 30 years ago.

There is no family history – as far as I’m aware – relating to life within the borders of the country of my birth or where I grew up. I am a national of both these countries.

*     *     *

I am just one individual in a world of 7.5 billion people.
Many millions of others are also able to relate personal histories that transcend the constructs of national borders.

Life forces us to accept the practicalities of national borders, passports and visas – artificial structures designed to simultaneously promote and hinder interactions among people.
As a human being whose parents became refugees while fleeing persecution, I have never been able to understand what could possibly be … positive or generative or progressive … about dividing the natural world into artificial segments that restrict movement.

How can fragmentation of a natural whole lead to anything other than conflict?

National borders, the idea of countries, are the product of hundreds, even thousands of years of power games by power-mongers.
They are real, yet abstract.

There has to be a better way to peace …
… a borderless world … perhaps …

I am a tri-national … But what does this really … really … mean?
I would also be entitled to claim “nationality” of two additional “countries” … But what does this really … really … mean?

*     *     *

Written at intervals over a few years. Published today, 1st January 2021 in “honour” of the “United” Kingdom leaving the European Union, claiming to regain its “independence”.

I took this photograph while sitting on a rock at Kanyakumari, the southernmost point of a “country” we call India, beyond which, apart from a few small islands, there is only Ocean … until the ice packs of Antarctica.