Borders 2.0 – The lines don’t run where we say they do September 12, 2008Posted by David Gillespie in philosophy, work/life.
This is the second post in my series on the A to Z of 2.0.
In the couple weeks since I wrote America 2.0 a lot has changed. Not necessarily in terms of what I wrote, but the landscape in which those events now play out. I’m not interested in getting into debates around party lines, particularly lines that exist in a country I am not a resident or national of. What I will say though is for Borders 2.0 to be a reality, America 2.0 needs to occur.
The piece I wrote got me thinking a lot about why I wrote it, what my motivations were. Why does a 20-something Australian feel compelled to wax lyrical about the American dream, and do so without the irony that has mired it for fourty years and made it a mockery, an idea that stokes visions of a million Americans waving flags in a stadium, all shouting “USA!” as if the people supporting the other guy were somehow running with another country’s agenda. In fairness, those scenes played out at both the Republican and Democratic conventions, the simple memory of it makes me feel ill.
I talked a lot about America 2.0 with friends who read it, and it lead naturally into a discussion about what it was to be Australian. Our last Prime Minister had created a citizenship test, an utterly ludicrous idea, as if you could distill the makings of a nation into a series of multiple choice questions and then decide who was fit to call it home. I’m embarrassed to even acknowledge it exists.
On a long drive with a friend one day, he said himself he didn’t know what it was to be Australian, despite having lived here all his life. There weren’t tangible things he could grasp that would seem to make sense, so he couldn’t identify with that ideal, even though on paper there was no barrier to it.
In a 2.0 environment, what does it mean to be of any nationality? When every day I communicate with more people in other countries than I do in my own, we’re moving to a place where a national identity is increasingly fragmented, without a country of origin. By the very nature of the medium, issues and ideas are shared and not curtailed by geography or demography. Anyone who wants in on an issue can take part in the debate, and shape it. Where are you from is a matter of curiosity, not an attempt to validate a point of view.
Communication by devices with no notion of national divides is an interesting one. I grew up in Hong Kong and never really saw the distinction between me and the kids from other countries, my younger brother took it further: he couldn’t see the colour of another’s skin, instead telling Mum his best friend had curly hair, not that he was a young black boy from America.
And that is how it should be.
What does that make the reality of our world into? Away from nationalism and a geo-local focus, when the connections I have with the other side of the world are as strong as the ones I have with my physical neighbour? A philosopher has more in common with a philosopher on the other side of the world than he does with a street sweeper outside his house; what does that mean?
For me, it comes back to a simple mantra readers of this site have heard me say a hundred times: open beats closed. By choosing to define a sense of identity not from a place of birth but by a set of ideals, we opt in to what matters personally.
Open beats closed doesn’t mean open borders beat closed borders. It means borders as lines on a map cease to exist; the lines are the ones between the haves and have-nots.
In this century we will do more to advance the notion of humanity than anything before us if we can finally grasp a notion treated with as much cynicism as the American dream: the human race. In this race the direct correlation with nationalism would be to promote a rich-get-richer agenda which is wildly off the mark. In this race we recognise the problems facing a farmer in a field in Bangladesh contending with rising flood waters is our problem. Is my problem. Is your problem. And something must be done about it.
Borders 2.0 is about recognising where the lines actually fall, because they don’t run where we say they do. I am affected by Barack Obama becoming the US president just as I am affected by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. I am affected by when and where we recognise the lines falling and what we collectively choose to do about it.
We can’t draw the lines that comprise Borders 2.0, but they do exist. We have an opportunity though to ensure they don’t remain, and it is one of the few things in this world it is worth all of us working on, all the time.