Every time Zeynep has to go through an immigration control, she needs to think in advance and decide what she is. Is she Turkish or is she Italian? You see, it's not a simple question with a simple answer. The answer depends very much on where she is going or where she is getting out from. Which passport does she take out, the Italian or the Turkish? She is the same person, but her welcome to the place is contingent on the passport she shows the “authorities”.
Going to Beirut she kept reminding herself that she needed to get her Turkish passport. That's the precious one that doesn't require a visa to Lebanon.
Then she said “Oh, I'll be needing the Italian too.” On the way back, to enter Italy. She might have just used her Italian ID for that but she got her passport anyway. Just in case.
And good thing she did. She had not thought she'd be needing the Italian passport to exit Italy as well. You see, nowadays there are these machine readable passports. You show it to a machine and walk through the immigration control, it's a breeze. Otherwise, there's a long queue. More than that, it's not important one is leaving the country, the immigration checks one's entrance stamp into the country. To see if they have been there legally. One need proof of that.
Zeynep cannot help but think... Why does she have to think about which of her identities suit the country she'll be dealing with and present one or the other accordingly? Even though she is definitely not cheating, she feels it's hypocrisy; the political structure of the world is forcing her into a double identity.
You may be the same person. But it's not who you are, it's the papers you carry that are respected.
Ekaterina is born from an Italian father and a Russian mother... What is her citizenship? Or let's take a moment to analyse ourselves and answer the question “Which citizenship should she have?” I suppose the reasonable answer would be “Both.” If citizenship/nationality is an identity, Ekaterina carries both.
What is the reality on the ground? If she was born in Russia, she could be both. But she was born in Italy. Mistake or unfortunate circumstances of the parents. Now, Ekaterina can keep double citizenship only until the age of 18, after which she has to make a decision. Choose one.
The logic is Russian has to be your primary citizenship in order for you to have double citizenship. A child born somewhere else than Russia is not considered primarily Russian.
This feels so much like a capricious wife. It's like the government saying "I would have accepted you taking a second wife, but I won't accept to be the second wife myself. I have to be your first wife. Since you married someone else first, you have to get divorced if you want to marry me!"
Whichever Ekaterina chooses at 18, she is always going to be a Russian and an Italian, she is always and forever going to be an Italian and a Russian.: Whatever the “authorities” deem her to be. They won't be changing her genes, they won't be changing her mother and father tongues, they won't be changing her intertwined culture and way of seeing the world whatever it may be. No authority in the world will be doing any of these things because these attributes are default for every single one of us, there's nothing to be done about it. Yet, authorities dictate us who we are.
You may add to this international family another factor. The parents have chosen to live in a third country, let's say Turkey. So Ekaterina grows up learning Turkish. Which nationality does she identify with? To what degree?
Basically, this should be a question that only Ekaterina can answer. Why do politicians decide and cauterize people with their categorizations?
Why should people be put in certain boxes according to their nationalities?
Nisha was adopted at the age of three to Italian parents. She grew up leading a standard/normal Italian life. Then came one day. The day she got engaged. Her fiance wanted to go to India to visit the place where his beloved came from. They did their work, arranged their trip. Now it was time to go to the Indian Embassy to get their visas.
This is actually where the story starts. Because the Indian Embassy realized that Nisha's name was not erased from their registry when she was adopted. So according to them, Nisha was Indian. You may ask “So what?” If she is Indian, it should make things simpler. She can go to India without a visa then, right?
Wrong. Indians need an Indian passport to enter India. (The former British MP, mayor of London and Foreign Secretary, and now the PM Boris Johnson, who is also American because he was born in the US has had a similar episode, being denied entry to the US because he did not have a US passport. He was not allowed to use his British passport, needed the US one.)
“Eh okay, she gets one then,” you say. Things are not so easy. The Indian passport takes three weeks to be issued, the papers needed to go to India, be approved and come back.
Nisha and her fiance have already made their travel arrangements, thinking that it takes a day for an Indian visa to be issued. This is an unexpected obstacle. Nisha is cornered.
“Isn't there another option? A way around this?” she probes.
Yes, actually there is a way. “But you have to denounce your Indian nationality,” says the responsible at the Indian Embassy. “Then, you apply as an Italian, we can give you your visa tomorrow and you can go.”
Thus Nisha became a total Italian even though her genetic heritage and personal history says she is Indian. At least of Indian origin.
But whatever the papers say, they are true.
You do not dare to object! Or do you?
At least POTUS- the President of “the greatest country on earth” claims some Americans are not really Americans and they should go back to their countries.
There are many more of Zeynep, Ekaterina and Nisha. They do not feel a particular kinship to the Turkish or the Italians, or the Russians. They are globalites. Their kinship to others lie on different qualities more relevant like people's characters, ideas and ideals, their amicability. These are the things that matter, who cares about someone's nationality?
Well, some do of course. Sure, homeland is important. Sure, national identity is important. We all have ties to the land where we grew up, where our language is spoken, where our “culture” has been formed. Isaac Asimov has boiled it down in “I. Asimov”:
“I am all for cultural diversity and would be willing to see each recognizable group value its cultural heritage. I am a New York patriot, for instance, and if I lived in Los Angeles, I would love to get together with other New York expatriates and sing "Give My Regards to Broadway."
This sort of thing, however, should remain cultural and benign. I'm against it if it means that each group despises others and lusts to wipe them out. I'm against arming each little self-defined group with weapons with which to enforce its own prides and prejudices.”
It's interesting to see how fractured groups of people are in reality, yet how they claim to be united. Some claim “America first.” They claim “Italians first.” But which America, which Italians? The United States should be renamed the Divided States. The United Kingdom should be the Divided Kingdom. There are fault lines all over the world. Italians are divided within themselves too. The division in Italy is between north and south. Or let's take Sicily. There is Catania and Palermo. Where do our loyalties lie? To the bigger identity or the smaller? Will we exclude our fiance who is from Frascati because we are from Velletri? Where do you draw that line?
Perhaps it's best to make it humorous like the “America First - The Netherlands Second” viral video. Yet, nobody really needs to be first apart from our immediate family and circle of friends. The rest are all people we do not know. People whom we may like or not like. Independent of our being “compatriots.”
Zeynep, Ekaterina and Nisha may be a minority at the moment, but their numbers are increasing. In the globalized world, where people are moving and mixing at an unstoppable rate, it's impossible to keep their numbers small. As globalization takes over some more, identities will keep blurring. Nationality will lose its significance if it is not already losing it. We hopefully will transcend this political structure and will start seeing each other not as nationals of a place but as people. We will move more towards Asimov's depiction.
In his piece “The demise of the nation state” in the Guardian, Rana Gupta writes: “After decades of globalisation, our political system has become obsolete – and spasms of resurgent nationalism are a sign of its irreversible decline.”
The demise of the nation-state might not be imminent, but it is inevitable. Our task is to get the best of our culture, traditions and identity to enrich our experience, preserve our diversity. Yet, embrace the commonality of all humanity.
By the way... We don't need to worry about not having enough. As Gandhi said, “The world has enough for everyone's need but not enough for everyone's greed.” So let's concentrate on scraping away our greed instead of trying to destroy those we deem the “other.” Let's concentrate on “Live and let live.”
In the “Overpopulation – The Human Explosion Explained” video it says “No matter what your motivation is, whether you dream of a world where all people live in freedom and wealth, or you just want fewer refugees coming into your country, the simple truth is that it's beneficial to you personally if people on the other side of the globe can live a good life.” And it is very true. So it's “needs” first. Needs of every single person on earth. Second, we get to the greed.
It is a common feeling in the US and European countries which receive a lot of immigration: People feel they cannot possibly let everyone in; otherwise, their country will be destroyed. It is an understandable feeling, a reaction to an un-asked for and un-welcome change.
In the meanwhile, our world is being destroyed. We cannot possibly keep on warring and bombing, go on with destruction; yet, we are doing it. We cannot possibly produce so much plastic crap and ruin the environment, killing animals; yet, we are doing it. This is not even an “otherwise” situation , the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) is very real. Contrary to the common perception, the patch is not an island of plastic trash that is visible to the eye; it's mostly tiny pieces, microplastics that cannot be detected with satellite imagery. Yet, we might soon be forming the eighth continent: A trash paradise.
The Pacific Trash Vortex “is an area the size of Texas in the North Pacific in which an estimated six kilos of plastic for every kilo of natural plankton, along with other slow degrading garbage, swirls slowly around like a clock, choked with dead fish, marine mammals, and birds who get snared. Some plastics in the gyre will not break down in the lifetimes of the grandchildren of the people who threw them away,” writes Greenpeace.
The Ocean Cleanup estimates the surface area of the patch to be 1.6 million square kilometers. That is more than 5 times the size of Italy. More than 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic float in the patch, that is 250 pieces per person on the planet. The weight is about 80,000 tonnes. Let alone the billions of euros environmental damage this is causing, let alone the sea animals being entangled in the debris, this plastic soup is toxic and animals feed on it. As the food chain progresses, these toxic chemicals make their way into our bodies. We cannot produce plastic soup and drink it; yet, we are doing it.
The worse thing, GPGP is not the only garbage patch, there are four more. Now there is the North Atlantic Garbage Patch too. Globally, we produce 100 million tons of plastic,
10 % of which ends up in the oceans. “Already, the ocean is filled with about 165 million tons of plastic. That’s 25 times heavier than the Great Pyramid of Giza. By 2050, plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish, predicts a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in partnership with the World Economic Forum,” writes Rebecca Harrington in the Business Insider article “By 2050, the oceans could have more plastic than fish:”
What else we cannot do ? That is what else we are not supposed to be doing? You may say “We cannot keep on breeding. Otherwise, we will over-populate and ruin the world.” In fact, many people say that. However, there are other predictions. “Overpopulation – The Human Explosion Explained” video says that the UN estimates the 12th billionth person will not be born at all. The population growth will come to an end because the more prosperity people have the less children they have and this is now a trend all over the world.
We cannot keep on feeding an economic system that is enriching a few greedy businessmen at the expense of the many have-nots; otherwise, the fabric of our society will collapse. Yet, we are doing it. We cannot go on with nuclear arms; otherwise, we will suffer disasters which will be our end. Yet, we are not changing our ways, not giving up on our power of threat. We cannot keep playing with our nutrition, grow genetically modified food, put all sorts of conservatives, chemicals, artificial colors in every “edible” item; otherwise, we will all grow strange illnesses, lose our health. Yet, we are doing all these.
We cannot keep on advertising, we cannot go on fuelling so much unnecessary consumption; yet we are doing it. We cannot possibly add hundreds of new cruise ships to the oceans every year, but we are doing it. We cannot possibly promote mass-tourism to Antarctica. Otherwise, the last pristine wilderness we have will be destroyed. Of course it's not only Antarctica, the whole world gets its share of the huge carbon gas emissions. We cannot possibly keep adding new planes, new routes every day, and luxury travel every year. Yet, we are doing all these things. Yes, our world will be destroyed if we go on like this. We cannot possibly keep on with the lifestyles we have in the “Western” world, but we are not moving an inch.
Perhaps it is best to accept that so many of the things we know the way we know will be destroyed. But like people back in the day who were worried about where we'd find horses for everybody, or who claimed that horseshit would be filling the roads, and whose worries never realized, perhaps it will be the same for us: Some other alternative will come up one day. There are so many things people a 100 or even 50 years ago did not know about. Technology is developing so rapidly that we can list so many things we did not know even in our lifetimes, even a decade ago.
Mark Twain famously said: “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” And in his “Environmentalism is a Religion” speech he gave in 2003, Michael Crichton says:
“Nobody anywhere will say that the core fears expressed for most of my life have turned out not to be true. As we have moved into the future, these doomsday visions vanished, like a mirage in the desert. They were never there---though they still appear, in the future. As mirages do.”
There are other things, perhaps more important we cannot do and should not. For example, we cannot act on fear. We cannot act on doomsday scenarios, future predictions. Why? Because we make predictions based on our current models and past trends, we predict by extrapolation. Then, we are most often wrong. We are dealing with incredibly complex, evolving systems; we need to be humble, deeply humble when we attempt to make predictions, nobody can predict the future.
Our predictions are expressions of prejudices and fears. “We cannot let everybody in, otherwise we'll be destroyed” is an expression of fear. It is not a fact. And it is important to make that distinction.
Similar fears and speculations were there when the Berlin wall came down. The doomsday scenarios did not play out. Sure, there were difficulties along the road, but they were mostly overcome and the situation stabilized.
It is of course true that no country can totally open its borders in this political environment, such an expectation would be illogical. Even the most ardent proponents of open borders and everybody's right to move around the world freely, do not suggest that. Yet, it is also obvious that this system is illogical as well and is not working anymore. (It is madness to define people by the imaginary line that they were born in, and even more so, to define their radius of movement in the world again by that imaginary line. A state is a non-entity, it's fiction we have created, whereas people are blood and bones; and people are dying in order to protect the “sovereignty” of a non-entity, the state.) So there has to be a new way of solving this problem apart from the dichotomy of either open or close borders.
Imagine there's no countries
In two years time, it will be half a decade since Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote this. He said “It isn't hard to do,” but apparently, for many people, it is. And although it is “one of the 100 most-performed songs of the 20th century” it isn't helping to get the message through.
Countries, borders, visas are all concepts we have created. They have become anachronistic now, they belong to a different age. Insisting on them is illogical. It is time to come up with alternative suggestions on how to set up a new socio-political construct and start discussing them. With globalization, the number of people who do not feel they belong to a certain place are on the rise, our identities change at a fast pace. If we keep on thinking within the paradigms of today, we will be destroying our world soon. So we need to change the way we look at things.
It is beneficial to us that everybody on the planet is well-off. The Earth is our spaceship; we are all in the same boat. Sooner or later, we will all pay for our actions and for the actions of other people. We either sink together or float together. So we establish a moral guide, base our policies not on pure selfishness but on selfish-altruism, on enlightened self-interest. Then we set out from there.
There is a saying in Turkish. Kervan yolda düzülür. “The caravan is set up on the road.” That is, you find out things when you set out on the road and add things you need, find solutions as you go along. Sure, we discuss the possibilities beforehand, discuss options and solutions. We also keep in mind that even with the best case scenario, something unexpected might come up. We find out after the fact and deal with problems when they appear. We don't grow in vitro fears, we face them in vivo. That's the only way to transcend our political construct which is not working anymore.