no borders, please!..

namibiaA long time ago, someone for the first time drew a line in the sand and indicated that everything their side of the line was theirs. And thus was the first border created. So began the long human history of border disputes, fights and wars.

From determining which part of the vegetable patch was whose, the use of borders grew to define first villages, then cities, and eventually countries and empires. However, one fundamental objection remained unanswered.

How can anyone claim exclusive ownership of even a grain of sand?

Yet drawing lines in the sand, once the urge took hold, grew to building fences, walls and fortifications. Then of course doors, gates and shutters were needed, and catches and locks to keep them closed. And so an open plan world became a closed up, fenced off one.Congo border

Then the world was no longer our world. Instead this corner was his, and that corner hers. Personal patches were rapidly staked out and claimed. Soon it became clear there were not enough patches to go round. Then the bullies came into their own.

Now that everything was up for grabs, the use of force became inevitable. Soon neighbourhood bullies recruited armies and became warlords. In many different parts of the planet small fiefdoms were established, offering protection, and, well, not much else. In return for their spared lives, the have-nots and dispossessed were obliged to work for their protectors, remain within the borders, and be available for any whim that might take their captors fancy. With the benefit of hindsight we call this slavery. For the unfortunate victims, it was just survival.SlaveBarkWildfire

A couple of hundred years before Jesus was born, Delphic priests in Greece listed four freedoms that distinguished liberty from slavery. They were status, personal inviolability, the right to work as one pleased, and the privilege of going wherever one wished.

I’d like to focus on the last one. Migration is integral to human history and the most sophisticated civilizations are always those through which human traffic is the heaviest. Imagine London, Beijing, Mumbai or New York without all the many residents from other countries. The character of each may be regional but without the international contributions they would be provincial and dull.

People have always moved around. In some parts of the world, tribes would traditionally be in different areas at different times of the year. Planting and harvesting, hunting and gathering, celebrations, and burials, each took place in specific appropriate locations. A good example of this is North America. Before Europeans moved in, there were no frontiers, no travel documents, and no police. America proudly and correctly states it is a land of immigrants, but in the last 50 years it has become increasingly difficult for non-Americans to get in.

mexico-border

Today, attempts to control immigration everywhere are tighter than ever. To what end? The ‘war on terrorism’ is a favourite excuse. The truth is terrorists are several jumps ahead of immigration officials and come and go as they please. And arent our border controls one of the central factors that incite such extreme behaviour? The message we are sending out is ‘We have got much more than you, and you cant have any of it.’

It doesnt work. All borders were a mistake in the first place, and the mess we are in now is a direct result of perpetuating and compounding this very basic wrong. Why cant we just do away with them?

brazil-paraguay-border

We can. But the ‘greedy bastards’ dont want to. So an ill-informed public is persuaded that immigrants bring overcrowding, street crime, religious fundamentalism, and benefit fraud to our shores. They are also taking our jobs and undermining our way of life. Many of the ills of our pampered society are summarily dumped at the feet of hapless foreign nationals.

I, for one, would be proud to live in an area that has no border controls, a place where people are treated with equal respect, notwithstanding race, wealth or creed. Yes, we would have to settle for less. We would have to share what there is with our brothers and sisters. Do we have any choice? How much longer can our societies continue to deny the four freedoms mentioned earlier to millions of people worldwide?

Its time to open the gates, and re-train immigration authorities everywhere to be orientation counsellors.

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