Border crossings

“Imagine there’s no countries…” John Lennon sang those words from my heart. Why do we have countries? Specifically, why do we have borders between countries? Who are we protecting, and from whom? What are we demarcating? Those little pieces of paper called visas — what purpose do they serve?

Most of our entries into countries have been via air. In general, there is not much to distinguish them. A long line, followed by a bored official. The one place where the wait was enlivened by speculation about a sign was Manila. What could a wang-wang zone be?IMG_0576

We’ve made a few border crossings over land. From Thailand to Myanmar, and back. From South Africa to Swaziland, and back. That one was made memorable by a large jar of condoms, available for you to help yourself as you came into the country.

IMG_2008 copy

The last border crossing of note was from Costa Rica to Nicaragua, and back. It was a confusing crossing. Instead of one station, you had to make your way through half a dozen, presenting papers and paying fees at each one. There were soldiers with machine guns on the Nicaraguan side. As we went through, we looked back at the Cuban migrants, who have been stuck at this border for months. Why can’t they pass through?

Why do we have to divide up this world into small sections? Imagine what a world without borders would look like.

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2 Responses to Border crossings

  1. swamimalathi says:

    Interesting variations! Perhaps border officials are less hassled in countries with smaller volumes of visitors. When I visited Uruguay, the border officials were particularly pleasant, showing off their knowledge of “namaste” and welcoming with a smile.

    The other half of borders is nationalism – the expectation of fierce loyalty to country, to the exclusion of other circles of belonging – loyalty to language, race, region, religion and even extended family are all derided while loyalty to country is exalted, obviously because it strengthens those in power.

    Circles of belonging are good – if we remember that we belong to many circles, and that we are members of outer circles as well as inner circles. Problems arise when we link our identity too strongly to one circle to the exclusion of others.


  2. kathaykathay says:

    I know! Every time I have to apply for a visa, I ask this question in my head, and the only answer I have is “because politicians are stupid people”. It would have been so much nicer if we could simply travel to any country without having to bother about these stupid stamps in our passports! And it is even more unfair that for some people, this is actually true, at least for a majority of nations of the world:-(


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