I do not believe in borders. Which in turn obliges me to believe in the right of free travel. Which in turn implies the right of free movement. As I find it very unjust that that right should be restricted to people having the means and money or certain qualifications, it follows that the said free movement should be for everyone and anyone. Yet, this world has trapped its people within visible and invisible lines. Having done two round-the-world tours on a Turkish passport, I have bumped against those invisible ones many a times. And I've found it very humiliating. Borders and immigration controls are not a God-given basic fact of life. They are against human dignity. As for the visible lines... No, I have not been put behind them. Not yet! But there are so many people out there who are put behind bars for committing the unpardonable “crime” of trying to cross those imaginary lines without certain “papers.” All these detention centers, Identification and Expulsion Centers, Immigration Removal Centres for “illegal” immigrants are a very unnatural feature of life. They are a disgrace on humanity as a whole.
Don't governments tire of trying to control and regulate every little movement of not only their subjects but foreign subjects as well? It's wrong to tell anybody that they cannot cross an imaginary line a group of people with power has drawn up by a bloody war or a politic war called diplomacy, just because they were born somewhere out of that imaginary line. It is WRONG.
You most probably do not think like me. Albeit, there probably are a hundred handfuls of people in the world who think like me or, even if they think, who happen to speak out these things. After all, it is a sure way to have things hurled at your head.
I have to confess. Even I don't think like me! I instinctively don't like it when I hear and see Arabs in İstanbul. Women covered up, men with beards dressed up strangely, going around as a gang. I am a Muslim, at least on paper, I have grown up in a Muslim country. It relieves my homesickness travelling in a country when I hear the azan, the call to prayer. Yet, I still have this reaction. I don't like it when a dark skinned man approaches me in Rome. I shy away. These are so deeply ingrained in me. Our parents used to say “Don't talk to foreigners. Don't go near people you do not know” when we were children. Understandably so. It was to protect us from any harm that could come. As we were vulnerable and did not know the world. Perhaps that teaching never goes undone.
I have travelled all over the world but I may even be called xenophobic if you think about my reactions above. Or perhaps my reaction is only due to the fact that I find them out of place. After all, I enjoyed being among black people all around me when I was in Africa. I was fine with covered women and the same family structure when I travelled to Muslim countries.
Or maybe it's because, when I'm living a settled life, I take on and reflect the norms of society. Even though I do not parrot the words of people who condescend the Arab tourists, the Africans, the Romanians etc. society's general opinion influences the way I react to foreigners. Whereas while travelling, I am
1- in the shoes of the other,
2- on my own to think and feel as myself. I am a migrant. I am aware of the transience of life. I am a traveller in life, passing through life. I don't claim immortality like societies tend to do.
So I may not actually be a xenophobe, but I am a misanthrope. I cannot really bear people. At least the majority of them. I find it difficult to cope with the fact such people like Katie Hopkins -who called migrants “cockroaches”- exist, that there are institutions who publish such things. This is not in any way to criticize a person or a newspaper, it is just to give an example; there are so many similar people, similar institutions that I cannot list all of them here. The problem is not only what they say or their existence, I could cope with that. After all, to me, even hate speech is freedom of speech (even though it would definitely help the world if the idiots shut up!) and I don't consider myself any judge over anybody's right to life. My problem is that they are at a premium, they are welcome in so many people's homes through the media. Makes me despair. How can people not just cut their ties off with such people and institutions? I want to. That's why I have locked myself up in the countryside of Rome.
On the other hand, I may be called a philanthropist because I want to help people. Especially children and women. Probably because I see them as being helpless, as beings that cannot be held responsible for their situation. Migrants, be they economic or not, asylum seekers, or anybody called “illegals”, put behind bars just because they wanted to go someplace are in the same position. I guess it's like what Voltaire -wait, that's a wrong attribution,- as Evelyn Beatrice Hall said: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.” I may not like people coming over and “invading” the place I live, but I will defend to the death their right to travel and live anywhere in this world. However adversely it may affect me. People may not have proper “papers” but they have a right to exist without being hassled for such things on this earth by having been born on it. Anybody and everybody does. Therefore, I'd say think about it once again. Even if not, you read what I say and keep it in one corner of your mind. Even if it's at the very back corner of your mind.
I realize this is about the sovereignty of a state. I don't believe in states either. (So you may say I'm pretty consistent!) There are state rights these days, not human rights. (States have a right to dictate who can come in and do what and for how long in their territory. People do not have a right to move as they wish even without doing anything criminal or harming anyone.) And instead of asking for them to be abolished, people are living in a hypnotized state of believing in states. I have a difficult time understanding why and how people see a country as their home. I see my home as my home. The place I dwell in, the roof I sleep under. As for the outer boundary, my home is the Earth. Why should I place a stricter boundary on it?
If my country was a home, it would follow that the Turkish is my family. Now... I have nothing against being Turkish. Indeed, I'm quite happy to be Turkish. I take pride from my language from my culture. -As do most people from anywhere around the world I suppose.- But I do not consider myself as "truthful and hard-working" as said in the national oath we were made to memorize and recite every morning at elementary school. I don't think ALL Turks are exquisite and superior beings. I guess nobody thinks so either. There may be many people among other nationalities whom I find myself much closer to, whom I think are much better than many Turkish. Thus, when viewed from this aspect, I don't see being Turkish as anything special. In this context, nationality does not mean much to me, humanity does. I'd rather call those people my family. I have a natural family I was born into. I'd like to have the right to choose my greater family.
In December 1914, while witnessing World War I, Einstein said “In living through this 'great epoch,' it is difficult to reconcile oneself to the fact that one belongs to that mad, degenerate species that boasts of its free will. How I wish that somewhere there existed an island for those who are wise and of good will! In such a place even I should be an ardent patriot!”
A century later, looking at the state of the world, I feel exactly the same!
I personally do not expect to see a freer and fairer, a more anarchic (that is with less rules and regulations) and more peaceful (at least with less pain and suffering) future. I only want to know that I did all I could to leave a better world to the coming generations, that I took a step in that direction. And for that, I would like to raise awareness on the fact that the global political system ruling this world does not respect the dignity of the people it is supposed to work for.
This system needs to change. Policing and control of people's movements needs to disappear from the face of the earth. Has to. I don't know how, but has to. It has to be done. Somehow. Even if we don't get to see it, the brain of the next generation needs to be washed in a different way so that we can leave them a different life. Dreaming of a more just and peaceful world should not be labelled as “Utopia” and fudged. “Yes, if we want, we can achieve it. If enough people want it, why not? Of course it will happen.” That's what needs to be said. Because if you don't start with the word, the action can never take place. First, the idea needs to flourish in the minds. What's done instead? The seeds of people who want to sow them are killed right at the beginning by saying “These are not realistic. This can only be in utopia.” The seeds are not even given the slightest chance to come into leaf. Even if you do not sow seeds yourself, please, at least give a chance to those who try to.
A different kind of life is possible. I'm sure it is. If only we stopped being the cats which were brought up in only a vertical line world as kittens and cannot recognize the horizontal lines when they grow up.* Borders and nation-states are our vertical lines. Please, let's not raise the next generation being blind to horizontal lines. Let's let them know lines that are perpendicular to the vertical line they were brought up with exist. Let's let them know horizontal lines DO exist.
Even though the contemporary political world order has turned it into this... The Earth is not a place to be parceled into countries and forbidden to people who themselves, their parents or spouses have not been born there or let in on conditions; it is a land as a whole, to be lived and traveled on for some time and then buried under.
* In 1964, two psychologists, Colin Blakemore and G.F. Cooper did an experiment with newborn kittens. They fitted one kitten with a goggle having only vertical lines, the other with a goggle having only horizontal lines. After being exposed to such lines for five months, the kittens could not see and move in a world where there were lines perpendicular to the line they were exposed to. The horizontal line goggle wearing kitten bumped into the legs of chairs. There are many other similar experiments and experiences in human lives. showing that.. what we perceive as reality, the only reality, is nothing but a result of what we were exposed to as infants. What's more, in our case, the experimenters haven't even removed the goggles they put on us when we were children; we've been going around with the same goggles of borders all our lives. It's time to take them off!